Is a PhD in Biostatistics Worth It?

Jul 23, 2018

On the way to obtaining a PhD in biostatistics, students will be introduced to information related to probability and measure theory, analysis of correlated and longitudinal data, categorical data analysis and survival analysis. Courses like these, along with their experience within the laboratory and in the classroom as teachers, give them the opportunity to better prepare for careers as researchers and academics. We'll take a look at five such jobs that are available for those with a PhD in biostatistics.

PhD in Biostatistics Jobs/Salary

Those who go into a PhD program in Biostatistics will learn to use quantitative methods to develop an innovative statistical methodology or adapt existing methods to solve both simple and complex health problems. They will be able to communicate their findings in a way that even those with limited knowledge of statistics will understand and they will be able to determine the best ways to address public health issues. But the rigorous training, both theoretical and hands-on in nature also make it possible for recent graduates to join the workforce in various fields.

Job Title Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Mathematicians and Statisticians $84,760 33%
Survey Researchers $54,270 2%
Postsecondary Mathematical Science Teachers $70,910 9%
Biostatisticians $84,060 15%
Senior Research Scientists (Biotechnology) $101,099 (2018)** NA

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale

PhD in Biostatistics Careers

Mathematicians and Statisticians

Mathematicians and statisticians work to establish new rules within the field of mathematics along with creating new concepts and theories in the field of geometry and mathematics. They use their educational background in statistical and mathematical principles to develop theories and techniques that will then be used to solve problems in areas such as science, healthcare, business, and engineering. Individuals who take this job will also be tasked with collecting data through the use of opinion polls, surveys, or experiments. By earning their PhD, recent graduates will have the skills necessary to generate complex mathematical and statistical models, something that those seeking such positions must be able to do effectively.

Survey Researchers

Survey researchers use their knowledge of data collection methods to make surveys aimed at answering important questions for businesses or organizations which aid in making more sound decisions. They study a given area to determine which groups of people their surveys will target and select the best method for collecting data from these same groups. In addition, they create focus groups to ensure that the questions being asked in their surveys are easy to understand and give them the answers that they seek. Upon collecting this data, they then use statistical techniques and software to interpret the data and present it to their employers, so those who obtained a PhD in biostatistics may find that their academic training is a good preparation for such tasks.

Postsecondary Mathematical Science Teachers

Postsecondary mathematical science teachers spend the majority of their time teaching and lecturing students on statistics, mathematical concepts, actuarial science, and the application of standard mathematical techniques in the area of problem-solving. They evaluate and grade students' coursework and work with them to ensure that they understand the material being taught and are on pace to complete the course as expected. Furthermore, they will pick topics for discussion among students and act as a moderator, actively monitoring the situation to make certain that students stay on topic. Postsecondary professors are usually expected to have a graduate degree, preferably a PhD in the field they are teaching, so students who obtain a PhD in biostatistics can have good career prospects when applying to become teachers.


Biostatisticians conduct research and experiments to determine how a person's characteristics might affect the usefulness of a certain treatment or medication. They go about creating study designs and advising scientists and specialists on the ways in which they should conduct their studies, as well as, apply quantitative methods during the analysis of collected data. These individuals also help to determine the best way to deploy resources during the treatment of a population. They figure out the best way to treat individuals and to control the spread of illnesses and diseases, so an extensive and in-depth knowledge in biostatistics through obtaining a PhD is helpful.

Senior Research Scientists (Biotechnology)

Senior research scientists (biotechnology) use their expertise in the field of biology, chemistry, or mathematics to create new products and aid in the understanding of technical concepts within their field of study. They go about creating products which will aid in the preservation of food, further crop growth, or improve food safety. Furthermore, these individuals oversee and manage research projects and present the results of said research to their employers. Individuals who choose this career path tend to have a master's or PhD in a specific scientific field.

PhD in Biostatistics Degree Program Information

Admission into most doctorate programs in biostatistics requires that students have taken the GRE exam and achieved a score of 300 or better and that they have at least three letters of recommendation, along with a statement of purpose. Additionally, while there is no specific undergraduate degree necessary, some schools require that students must have at least one year of calculus and one course in linear algebra to apply, while also having maintained a 3.0 GPA.

It will take prospective students on average five years to complete their graduate program, during which, they will have taken courses in probability, mathematical statistics, hypothesis testing, generalized linear models and applications and concepts and methods in epidemiology. Students will learn how to conduct independent research within a laboratory and will be able to teach biostatistics and bioinformatics to medical professionals, public health officials, and other scientists and students upon graduation. Those who wish to obtain such a degree won't have to worry about tuition cost either as most graduate programs provide students with health benefits and tuition coverage through traineeships, fellowships, stipends, and teaching and research assistantships.

With a strong background in mathematics and science, those with a PhD in biostatistics have a lot of options in terms of employment. They are able to continue on in academia, as well as, use their experience and skills gained in their laboratory work to land a job at public or private firms as a researcher.

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