Biostatistics PhD: Requirements & Careers

Jun 25, 2019

Explore the degree requirements for a PhD in Biostatistics. Find out what types of jobs are available for these degree holders as well as salary and job outlooks for these positions.

Biostatistics is the analysis of biology-related data in order to help answer questions related to disease and public health. Those interested in a PhD in this area can find opportunities in academia, research, and statistics. Learn more about the requirements of this type of degree program, and see the responsibilities of these careers.

Biostatistics PhD Program Requirements

A PhD in Biostatistics program consists of graduate-level study in biology, statistics, epidemiology, and health services research, and it can usually be completed in four years. Students must also complete the required amount of electives and take a research ethics class. Additional requirements for this degree include a candidacy exam and, once all the coursework is finished, a comprehensive exam. PhD students must also conduct thesis research and complete a dissertation. The PhD is awarded upon completion of the final oral exam.

Career Options and Salaries for a PhD in Biostatistics

Job Title Median Salary Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Biostatistician $75,691** 34% (for all statisticians)
Statistician $87,780* 34%
Data Scientist $95,948** 34% (for all statisticians)
Associate Research Scientist $63,787** 2% (for all survey researchers)
Professor $82,550 (for postsecondary biological science teachers)* 15% (for postsecondary biological science teachers)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2018), ** (June 2019)

Descriptions of Careers in Biostatistics


A biostatistician works in the healthcare industry. He or she designs surveys and experiments to determine the effectiveness of drugs and identifies the source of illnesses within a population. This involves analyzing data and creating statistical models. Studying multivariate methods of analysis in a degree program prepares new biostatisticians for the job.


A typical statistician identifies trends in existing data and develops new collection methods for new data. For example, a statistician employed in research and development would analyze consumer data to develop a better product. Statisticians can work in a number of different fields that need analysis. A doctoral-level topic to study for this job is categorical information analysis.

Data Scientist

A PhD-level topic, such as mining genomic data, is useful for data scientists since it provides knowledge about finding data, specifically genetic data, which can be used to develop new drugs or find the cause of illnesses. One of the duties of a data scientist is interpreting data and reporting conclusions. He or she may help determine the cause of contamination in the water supply from water analysis data or help design computer systems.

Associate Research Scientist

Another career available to recent graduates of a PhD program in biostatistics is an associate research scientist. One of the duties of an associate research scientist is inventing and designing new solutions to existing problems. Studying statistical genetics will lead to information about the genetic precursors that cause disease, and this information can be used by an associate research scientist to recommend new drug targets.


Teaching at the collegiate level is possible with a PhD in Biostatistics. A professor may teach biostatistics, statistics, or epidemiology. Also, high schools may employ those with a doctorate to teach science or math classes. Studying research ethics will lead to information about ethical issues that must be taken into consideration when conducting research, and this type of training, along with the oral presentation/dissertation defense, prepares new professors for a career in teaching.

Studying and meeting research goals in a PhD program in biostatistics takes about four years, and careers in statistics, teaching, and research are all options for graduates.

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