How to Become a Biostatistician
Biostatistics combines the medical field with math, statistics, and science. Biostatisticians apply the priniciples of statistics to medical and public health research. Studies regarding new or experimental treatments, or links between various lifestyles and diseases, for example, are typically based on data that is calculated by biostatisticians.
Biostatisticians design studies, gather data and analyze it. Designing studies entail determining sample size, figuring out how best to collect data accurately, and how to measure it. Sometimes they take rough data collected from other studies and "clean it up" to make it useful by editing out potentially erroneous information.
According to Indeed.com, the average salary for biostatisticians is $90,000 per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect salary data on biostatisticians specifically, but it does cite the average salary for statisticians in general, at $72,830 per year.
Typical Work Week and Work Hours
Biostatisticians work a fairly typical schedule of traditional office hours, 40 hours per week. Nights and weekends would be minimal if any. However, if a project is overdue or if something goes wrong with a particular study, there may be some overtime required in order to meet specific deadlines for studies and media releases, etc.
Qualifications and Educational Requirements
Biostatisticians must have a strong foundation in science in mathematics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, biostatisticians must have at least a bachelor's degree in statistics, biostatistics, or mathematics. However, most jobs require a master's degree or doctorate level degree.
Other qualifications include problem-solving, adaptability, and communication skills, both written and oral, for communicating results to the team. Additionally, biostatisticians must work well as part of a team, as they are often coordinating with healthcare researchers and other medical professionals throughout the study.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for statisticians is average, with about 14% growth. However, the growth may be slightly higher for biostatisticians due to the increase in demand for healthcare services. According to the BLS, there are about 25,000 statisticians employed nationwide, and about 3,500 new ones will be added through the year 2020.
What's to Like
Biostatistics is a great field for people who are interested in a health career but do not want to necessarily work directly with patients or provide treatment to them. However, this career allows you to be a part of the healthcare industry and impact the health and well-being of many others, without having to treat patients as a healthcare provider. Additionally, it's a great career for people who like variety, because you'll always be working on different studies as some end, and new ones begin. Also, the salary is very competitive as well.
What's Not to Like
While the growth projected is strong, it's not exceptional, especially for a healthcare career. With only 3,500 jobs projected to be added through 2020, the field of biostatistics is relatively small. Additionally, crunching numbers and data for a living can be tedious at times, especially when something goes wrong with a study or with research data. That's when the aforementioned adaptability and flexibility traits become very important for biostatisticians.
Where Biostatisticians Work
Many biostatisticians are employed by medical device manufacturers or pharmaceutical companies. Research companies, public health organizations, and government organizations may also employ biostatisticians. Biostatisticians would most often be working in an office setting.