How to Become a Biostatistician
Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary
Just about every aspect of modern society is becoming increasingly reliant on gathering and analyzing data, and for good reason. The ability to spot and study big-picture informational trends helps solve problems and improve results everywhere from marketing to inventory management. However, there’s arguably no better use for statistics than helping people and communities become healthier! Thanks to the work of data experts like biostatisticians, our collective understanding of public health continues to improve, as does our ability to prevent and treat all types of health conditions.
If you’re an analytically minded person who loves the idea of answering important questions about how to make our world a healthier place, becoming a biostatistician could be the best public health career for you. It’s tough to beat a job where you can use your problem-solving skills to make a positive difference in people’s lives, and earn a great living at the same time. In fact, we recently featured biostatisticians on our list of the highest-paying public health jobs in 2021.
This career guide will teach you everything you need to know about becoming a biostatistician, including the educational requirements, necessary certifications, and some of the daily responsibilities you can expect on the job. You may also be pleasantly surprised at how long it takes to become a biostatistician—it’s a career that’s achievable in less time than you might think!
Not sure if becoming a biostatistician is the right career path for you? Click here to see our full list of the highest-paying public health jobs.
What is a Biostatistician?
Biostatisticians are math and statistics experts who gather data on medicine, public health, and other related fields like biology and immunology. Biostatisticians design, conduct, and oversee critical data-collection efforts, and use statistical methods to improve organizational procedures, inform public health policy decisions, and facilitate advances in medical technology.
Biostatistician: Job Description
What Does a Biostatistician Do?
Biostatisticians have different responsibilities depending on their specific role, but in general, they’re responsible for collecting and analyzing health data to enable better-informed decision-making for the organization that employs them. That may mean designing research studies or clinical trials, analyzing hospital patient data, or interpreting data gathered from outside sources to deliver meaningful conclusions (with the numbers to back them up). In addition, Biostatisticians frequently prepare reports that distill their findings into a more easily digestible format and sometimes write proposals to secure grants or other funding for future research.
Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of biostatisticians include:
- Designing research studies or clinical trials to address specific topics
- Developing effective and ethical data-collection methodologies
- Ensuring sufficient sample sizes and overseeing the overall quality of data
- Analyzing and interpreting data to form conclusions
- Reporting their findings to companies, government organizations, or academic colleagues
- Writing proposals or grant applications to secure necessary funding
You’ll definitely need solid math skills to become a biostatistician, as crunching numbers will be one of the main focuses of your job. Attention to detail is also paramount for biostatisticians, who must work with precision and vigilance to ensure they’re drawing accurate conclusions from the data they gather. Writing and communication skills are also important for a career as a biostatistician. Nobody will expect you to become an award-winning poet, however, the ability to clearly communicate your conclusions (and their potential implications) will make you a valuable contributor to any project.
Where Do Biostatisticians Work?
Biostatisticians perform vital analytical work for many different types of organizations, from pharmaceutical and medical manufacturers to hospital systems and government health organizations. As a biostatistician, you can expect to spend the bulk of your time in an office setting, though some roles will also spend time in laboratory or clinical environments. Most biostatisticians tend to work full-time, 40-hour workweeks, and business hours usually are fairly standard. Work-related travel is usually rare, so if you prefer to put your head down and get your work done, becoming a biostatistician could be a great fit!
Biostatistician Schooling & Certification
How Long Does It Take to Become a Biostatistician?
What Degree Do You Need to Be a Biostatistician?
Biostatisticians must have an advanced knowledge of mathematical and statistical methods, which means earning at least a bachelor’s degree is mandatory for this career field. While traditional bachelor’s degree programs require a full four years in school, some accelerated degree programs can be completed in just two and a half years. Some biostatisticians earn their bachelor’s degrees in math, science, or statistics, but that’s not necessarily the only path to a career as a biostatistician. Healthcare-focused programs or even degrees in other subjects like social sciences or humanities can also prepare you for a career in biostatistics, especially if you plan to pursue a postsecondary degree.
The highest-paid biostatisticians also frequently earn a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, which involves advanced training in biostatistics and several other aspects of public health. Many master’s degree programs require another two to three years in school, but just like your bachelor’s degree, you can finish your MPH degree much faster with an accelerated degree program. Some MPH programs can even be completed entirely online in as few as 63 weeks!
Like any other long-term goal, becoming a biostatistician can be broken down into a series of smaller steps, which can keep you on track and make the final outcome feel much more attainable.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to the education, experience, and certifications you’ll need to become a biostatistician:
1. Enroll in a Healthcare-Focused Bachelor’s Degree Program
The first step in your biostatistician training is enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program from an accredited college or university. For a future career as a biostatistician, you may want to consider a B.S. program focused on math or statistics, or on health-related fields like a Bachelor of Science in Health & Wellness or a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration. Earning your bachelor’s degree will certainly be a challenge at times, but with dedication and hard work, just about anyone can make it happen. For example, to enroll in any of the healthcare bachelor’s degree programs at Brookline College, all you’ll need is a high school diploma or GED, plus a passing score on a Scholastic Level Exam and a computer literacy exam.
2. Earn Your Bachelor of Science Degree
The best biostatisticians combine advanced statistical knowledge with a well-rounded understanding of human health issues. That means earning a healthcare-focused bachelor’s degree can give you a significant head start over other degree programs as you work toward a career as a biostatistician.
Like any bachelor’s degree program, you should expect to study a number of general-education subjects like math, literature, statistics, psychology, and communications. While math and statistics courses may seem the most relevant for future biostatisticians, there’s a reason all these classes are part of any bachelor’s degree program. They’ll make you a more well-rounded person and professional and help you discover new interests and talents.
Of course, there’s more to becoming a biostatistician than just crunching numbers. You’ll also need plenty of contextual knowledge about human health and behavior, as well as how healthcare facilities and programs work in the real world. Any bachelor’s degree program with a concentration in healthcare will likely include courses in everything from kinesiology to psychology to courses focused on health education and healthcare administration. Other classes will teach you leadership and management principles and how to use data and statistics in the context of public health issues. All these skills are vital for biostatisticians, who must be effective communicators and strategists as well as competent researchers and data analysts.
3. Earn Your Master of Public Health (MPH) Degree
While earning a bachelor’s degree will make it possible to land some entry-level public health jobs, earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree is how you’ll really stand out as a biostatistician. This is because most MPH programs include advanced training in biostatistics and help you polish the leadership, analytical, and communication skills you’ll need to fulfill your career potential.
In addition to helping you master biostatistics, your public health master’s program will include courses covering subjects like epidemiology and environmental and occupational health. You’ll also take classes that dive deeper into measuring clinical effectiveness and how to analyze and improve public health systems and policies.
At the end of your MPH program, you’ll need to complete a capstone course where you’ll apply the statistical methods you’ve learned to some aspect of public health. This capstone will demonstrate your ability to interpret data and draw meaningful conclusions that will stand up to scrutiny. For future biostatisticians, this should feel like your bread and butter!
How Much Do Biostatisticians Make?
Like all the other top public health careers, biostatistician salaries are highest for those with the most experience and education. According to Salary.com, biostatisticians across the country average an annual salary* of nearly $87,000, which works out to over $41 per hour. Biostatisticians in the top 25% of earners can expect to bring home over $95,000 per year, while salaries in the top 10% can reach into the six-figure range.
Biostatistician Job Outlook
What is the Job Outlook for Biostatisticians?
As collecting and studying data becomes an ever-greater part of public health decision-making, biostatisticians can expect a rosy career outlook in the years ahead. While the BLS doesn’t provide detailed job data specifically for biostatisticians, they estimate that the overall employment of statisticians in general will increase an impressive 33% by the year 2030. That’s over four times higher than the average 8% growth rate for all jobs across all industries, which is encouraging news for anyone considering a career in biostatistics.
Ready to Start Your Career as a Biostatistician?
If you’re seeking a career that rewards problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and also offers an opportunity to make important contributions to health and medicine, becoming a biostatistician could be your calling! You’ll be a crucial player in bringing data-driven insights to the forefront of many different health issues, and you’ll be well-compensated for your talents and hard work.
Ready to start taking steps toward a long and rewarding career as a biostatistician? Click here to learn more about the MPH program at Brookline College, and start the journey toward your new career in public health today!