Biostatistician

Statistics are important for providing predictions and trustworthy analysis of data. In healthcare, biological data is analyzed by statisticians to answer questions about medicine, biology, and public health. Biostatisticians’ findings are then used to make data-driven decisions at all levels of healthcare, including pharmaceuticals, patient care, insurance, and clinical trials.

The primary premise of the work of a biostatistician is to turn data into knowledge. They use mathematical principles, statistical analysis, and specialty software to examine large data sets. Sometimes biostatisticians will even be involved in designing the data collection process, but they will often simply be analyzing data collected through other means. 

Working in this field requires an understanding of science, math, and statistics. Because this field often deals with human data, many professionals also have education and training in psychology and public health. Proper education is critical. According to O*Net (2022), 58 percent of biostatisticians have earned a master’s degree, while 29 percent have earned a PhD. 

Overall, the field of statistics and mathematics is a growing and lucrative career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) estimates a 33 percent increase in jobs for mathematicians and statisticians between 2020 and 2030. This is more than four times the national average growth for all jobs at 8 percent. On average, professionals in statistics and mathematics earn $99,450 per year. 

Keep reading to learn what it takes to get started in this field, including top programs, certification requirements, and typical job duties.

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Biostatistician Specializations & Degree Types

A career as a biostatistician requires a high-level understanding of math, statistics, and healthcare. While some of these skills can be obtained on the job, most professionals in this field complete at least a master’s degree in biostatistics, math, or a related field. Professionals who have already completed a master’s in a related field can complete a post-graduate certificate in biostatistics to give them additional specialized training in biostatistics. 

While most students will earn a master’s of science in biostatistics, many programs offer a master’s of public health in biostatistics. There are numerous on-campus or online biostatistician degrees across the country. Those looking to work in research at a higher level will need to complete a PhD in biostatistics.  

Admissions Requirements for Biostatistician Programs

Admissions to biostatistics master’s degrees vary based on the program, but most have the same general requirements. Candidates must have already earned a bachelor’s degree in biostatistics, math, statistics, biology, public health, or a related field. 

In addition to a degree, candidates are often expected to have completed extensive prerequisite coursework in math and statistics. Sometimes, the math prerequisites are very specific such as at least one semester of linear algebra. 

Other requirements for applicants can include letters of recommendation, a minimum GPA, a statement of purpose, a current resume, and work experience. The most competitive programs may require candidates to attend a virtual or in-person interview.  

Biostatistician Program Accreditation

When choosing a biostatistics program, one important consideration is the degree’s accreditation status. The two primary types of accreditation are programmatic and institutional. Programmatic accreditation is specific to a major or degree. There are no programmatic accrediting agencies for biostatistician programs at this time. However, if a student is completing a public health biostatistics degree, the program could be accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).

Institutional accreditation is through one of the regional accrediting agencies recognized by the Department of Education. They are:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

On-Campus Biostatistician Degree Programs

Duke University – School of Medicine

The Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics at Duke university’s School of Medicine offers a master’s degree in biostatistics. This two-year degree provides a strong foundation in human biology and statistical principles. 

Because this program is housed in the School of Medicine, students will have the unique opportunity to gain exposure to cutting-edge research and the newest techniques in biostatistical analysis. The three primary components of this program are analysis, biology, and communication to adequately prepare students for work in this field. 

While students for this program can come from various backgrounds, most students have a strong understanding of biology, math, and science. This program is tailored to students who are looking to further their careers, work in healthcare, and have a passion for improving health. 

  • Location: Durham, NC 
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $36,023 per year

Harvard College – T.H. Chan School of Public Health

The T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard College offers several degree options in biostatistics, including a doctorate. The PhD program can prepare students to work at the forefront of either the practice or research of biostatistics. All students in this program will work alongside faculty who are leaders in this field. 

Projects completed will include using large bio datasets to perform complex analyses to make discoveries in health trends. These discoveries, in turn, can have real-world effects on population health and wellbeing.  

The curriculum is rigorous and covers innovative probabilistic and statistical theory, leadership skills, using modern statistical and computational methods to analyze data, collaborating techniques, and how to teach biostatistics effectively. Admission to this program is highly competitive. However, once admitted, all students receive full funding for the five years it takes to complete their degree.  

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Duration: Five years
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: All students receive full funding

New York University – School of Global Public Health

Students have the option of completing either a master’s of science or a master’s of public health in biostatistics at the New York University School of Global Public Health. Both degree programs take two years to complete. The master’s of science has a greater focus on epidemiology, while the master’s of public health requires students to have a well-rounded education in public health policy along with biostatistics. 

Both programs offer students the opportunity to complete their studies in a full-time or part-time format, depending on what suits their needs. The full-time program takes two years to complete, while part-time students typically take four. Students must complete an in-depth thesis research project to graduate from either program. 

  • Location: New York, NY 
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $1,870 per credit 

Boston University – School of Public Health

In just one year, students can earn a master’s of applied science in biostatistics at the Boston University School of Public Health. Since this is an applied science degree, there is a strong emphasis on hands-on skills that translate directly to the workforce. Students will complete practical training in this field which can include an internship or even employment. At the culmination of the training, students will write a comprehensive research paper on the work they have completed. 

Admission to this program is competitive and students are expected to already have a year of calculus education and one formal course in linear algebra. Other requirements include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, three letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and GRE scores. International students will also need to provide proof of English proficiency. 

  • Location: Boston, MA 
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $1,830 per credit hour

University of Washington – School of Public Health

There are two options for aspiring biostatisticians at the University of Washington School of Public Health. Both options are master’s of sciences in biostatistics degrees, but one degree has a thesis option while the other is a capstone. The capstone route takes 18 months and the thesis track takes 24 to 36 months. Graduates for the thesis track are better suited for work in research, while capstone graduates are ideal candidates for top-level jobs in the biostatistics field.  

Regardless of the path chosen, all students will complete the same core coursework. These include classes in foundations of public health for biostatistics, computational skills for biostatistics, introduction to biomedical data science, and writing and presentation skills for biostatistics. Each year more than 140 students apply to this program and only approximately 50 are admitted, so students should ensure they have the necessary qualifications to be competitive when applying. 

  • Location: Seattle, WA 
  • Duration: 18 to 36 months
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $33,285 per year

Online or Hybrid Biostatistician Degree Program

University of California, San Diego

For professionals who just need biostatistics training, the University of California, San Diego Extension department offers a four-course online certificate in biostatistics. Students who complete this certificate will learn the application of statistical techniques to analyze clinical data. 

Classes must be taken in sequence as they start with general concepts and move to more advanced techniques. If a student has already taken a course at a previous institution, they may transfer the coursework. Alternatively, if a student already has a skill being taught in a course, they can apply for an alternate course to gain more skills. 

The four classes required for this certificate are biostatistics, SAS programming I:

DATA step and PROC fundamentals, biostatistical methods I: linear regression and ANOVA, and biostatistical methods II: logistic regression and survival analysis. The first two classes may be taken concurrently, but the last two must be taken one after another. 

There are no prerequisite education requirements for this certificate, although students are encouraged to have a strong background in math. 

  • Location: San Diego, CA 
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Tuition: $695 to $725 per course

University of Nebraska Medical Center – College of Public Health

The University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health offers three online options for aspiring biostatisticians. They include a master’s of public health, a master’s of science, and a graduate certificate. These programs vary in length but can all be completed through distance learning and at the student’s own pace. The faculty who teach in the online program are the same that teach on-campus, so students are receiving the same high-quality education. Certificates and diplomas will have no mention of online education. 

Graduates of these programs are assisted with job placements in research institutes, for the government, or in related industries. All three tracks require students to complete an SAS programming course, an industry-standard statistical analysis software that adequately prepares them to enter the workforce. 

  • Location: Omaha, NE 
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $597 per credit 

University of Minnesota – School of Public Health

The online certificate in applied biostatistics at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health is designed for professionals who work with large biomedical data sets but haven’t had any formal training. This certificate trains students to analyze the data, draw conclusions, design studies, use statistical software tools, and communicate the findings to colleagues and supervisors. While most of the classes are offered online, there is a one-week on-campus course that all students must complete. 

To apply for this program, applicants must have completed an undergraduate degree and have at least three years of relevant work experience. Most students complete this certificate in one year by taking one class a term, although they can take longer if they need to. All courses must be completed in a maximum of four years. 

  • Location: Minneapolis, MN 
  • Duration: 15 credits, typically completed in two years
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $910 per credit 

University of Louisville – School of Public Health and Information Science

With 100 percent online courses, the master’s of science in biostatistics at the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Science trains students in rigorous statistical analysis methodology without relocating or quitting their jobs. Students will learn how to apply biostatistical methods to various healthcare fields, including dentistry, medicine, and nursing. Graduates can work in insurance, pharmaceutics, government, and research.

In total, students must complete 33 credits to earn this degree. Required courses include probability, biostatistical methods, clinical trials, public health in the U.S., and mathematical statistics. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree program, undergraduate coursework in differential and integral calculus including multi-variable integration, two letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. 

  • Location: Louisville, KY 
  • Duration: Three semesters
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $752 per credit 

University of Florida – College of Public Health and Health Professions and College of Medicine

The online master’s of science in biostatistics at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions and College of Medicine is designed for working professionals or those who already have a bachelor’s degree, but traveling to campus isn’t feasible. This program aims to prepare graduates for a PhD program or for a career in biostatistics. The required 36 credits of coursework focus on a broad-based understanding of biostatistical methods and theories and how to apply those to big data analysis. 

All faculty in this program are fellows of the American Statistical Association and well-recognized researchers in this field. Candidates for this program must apply to both this degree and to the graduate school. 

Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree in biostatistics or a related field, a 3.0 GPA in the last two years of undergraduate, and GRE scores. International applicants will need to submit proof of English proficiency in the form of a TOEFL score. 

  • Location: Gainesville, FL 
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $750 per credit 

How Long Does it Take to Become a Biostatistician?

The time it takes to become a biostatistician varies based on the level of education obtained. Most biostatisticians have at least a master’s degree or higher. These programs can be as short as a year or as long as seven or more. Therefore, it takes at least five years of education post-high school to enter this field, although it can be common for it to take longer.  

How To Become a Biostatistician – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Obtain a GED (Four Years)

A career as a biostatistician starts with graduating from high school or earning a GED. Students should focus on psychology, math, and science classes to help prepare them for additional studies. College level or advanced placement classes can also be advantageous regardless of the subject matter as they can help prepare students for the rigors of college coursework. 

Step 2: Complete a Bachelors’ Degree (Four Years)

A bachelor’s degree is the next step in a career as a biostatistician. Students can choose from several majors, including statistics, biostatistics, math, biology, epidemiology, or public health. This career requires a high-level understanding of math and statistics, so regardless of the major chosen, students should ensure to take significant coursework in both areas. 

Step 3: Obtain an Advanced Degree (One to Seven Years)

While an advanced degree is not required, most biostatisticians have earned a master’s degree or higher. Most aspiring biostatisticians complete a master’s of science or master’s of public health in biostatistics. Often advanced degrees will include internships so students can learn hands-on how to work in this field. 

Step 4: Gain Work Experience (Timeline Varies)

Once the necessary education has been completed, it is time to find work as a biostatistician. Often professionals may need to start in entry-level roles such as research associates or data analysts to gather enough experience to take on more senior roles.

What Do Biostatisticians Do?

Biostatisticians work anywhere where data is used to answer healthcare, medicine, or public health questions. This can include hospitals, research centers, government agencies, insurance, and pharmaceutical corporations. Typical day to day duties include:

  • Designing statistical studies to perform on biological data 
  • Analyzing study results
  • Making determinations about the study results
  • Communicating results in writing or through presentations to applicable parties
  • Determining new ways to gather data to answer questions that have arisen in previous studies
  • Using statistical analysis software
  • Collaborating with other researchers
  • Writing research proposal to help secure funding 

Biostatistician Certifications & Licensure

There are no certifications or state licensing requirements for biostatisticians. However, professionals in this field can join the American Statistical Association, a professional association for statisticians. Members can apply for a review to obtain a voluntary professional credential called PStat. To be eligible for this designation, candidates must have:

  • An advanced degree in statistics or a related field
  • Five years of work experience in statistics
  • Professional competence demonstrated by work samples and a letter of support
  • Strong communication skills
  • Evidence of professional development
  • Two additional letters of support. 

How Much Do Biostatisticians Make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2021) does not track salary data specific to biostatisticians but it does for statisticians. The 31,370 professionals working under this general classification earn an average of $99,450 per year. The percentiles for wages are:

  • 10th percentile: $49,350
  • 25th percentile: $70,120
  • 50th percentile (median): $95,570
  • 75th percentile: $125,800
  • 90th percentile: $157,300

Biostatisticians Career Alternatives

Here are a few alternatives to a career as a biostatistician. 

Become a Health Data Analyst

Health data analysts analyze health-related data to draw conclusions and insights to provide senior staff with information to make data-driven decisions. Professionals in this field are often responsible for collecting and aggregating the data and analyzing it. They must be strong communicators as they have to present their findings through written reports or presentations. 

  • Typical Education: Bachelor’s degree 
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)

Become a Health Information Manager

Healthcare produces vast amounts of data, and organizations must ensure that it is secure, accurate, and accessible. Health information managers work for hospitals, insurance companies, government agencies, and clinics to help them maintain and access their data. 

  • Typical Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)

Become a Healthcare Risk Manager

While risk is an inherent part of providing healthcare services, administrators strive to reduce their exposure where they can. To help with this, they hire skilled healthcare risk managers who implement, monitor, and evaluate risk mitigation strategies within their organization. 

  • Typical Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Hospital Association
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson

Writer

Kimmy is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.

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