A program that focuses on the application of descriptive and inferential statistics to biomedical research and clinical, public health, and industrial issues related to human populations. Includes instruction in mathematical statistics, modeling, clinical trials methodology, disease and survival analysis, longitudinal analysis, missing data analysis, spatial analysis, computer tomography, biostatistics consulting, and applications to such topics as genetics, oncology, pharmacokinetics, physiology, neurobiology, and biophysics.
Careers in biostatistics focus on collecting and interpreting data about biological subjects.
Data can be confusing, misleading, or flat out wrong; when that data is about something like a disease, interpreting it correctly can be a matter of life and death. Biostaticians are masters of pattern recognition, using all available information to determine the probability of a certain outcome. They develop predictive models that help us to plan for the future, making projections based on data that has been carefully collected - or working to fix data that has been improperly harvested. They are entrusted with reducing bias in data collection and analysis to ensure a scientifically valid outcome.
Biostatisticians are often found working alongside epidemiologists to track the potential spread of a disease, or with pharmaceutical developers to ensure a trial has an adequate and representative sample population. Using techniques such as randomization or allocation concealment, they designate control groups, select data points, and organize results in ways that are easy to interpret.
Work in biostatistics may include...
- Organizing and analyzing health data from various sources
- Designing experiments, trials, and surveys
- Forecasting possible outcomes
- Working to avoid statistical bias
- Determining averages and eliminating outliers
- Providing recommendations based on research
Biostatisticians are an important part of the public health sector, and it's not uncommon to find them in local government positions, making sense of death statistics and incident reports. They may also work as consultants for hospitals or cities, or as researchers in private, government, or university labs. Highly educated biostatisticians often teach the subject at the undergraduate level or beyond. Pharmaceutical and tech companies look for candidates with knowledge of biostatistics to manage huge amounts of biodata, which is a necessary step for clinical trial completion and product development. Candidates who possess the necessary skills, such as SAS programming, are in high demand and are generally well compensated.
Developing the skills to perform biostatistics takes time and education, which is why most workers in the field start their journey in a four-year undergraduate program. It's important to build a strong mathematical foundation and gain some lab experience. For some, studying history or policy may help to provide context for the applications of biostatistical data in the real world. A Bachelor's degree in biostatistics or a related field is a valuable advantage in the modern workforce, but won't net a recent graduate a research position, since most Bachelor's programs provide more of an overview than an intensive journey into the field. Those who wish to explore the world of biostatistics further tend to seek out Master's and PhD programs, which can take a number of years to complete and provide a deeper understanding of the discipline's more pressing questions.
Biostatistics is a science of decision and data-driven design that helps us make sense of the world and see things in a more unbiased way. If you're committed to achieving truth and clarity in the sciences, it might be a very fulfilling career.
For more information, please follow the links below:
- The American Statistical Association is the world’s largest community of statisticians, supporting excellence in the development, application, and dissemination of statistical science.
- The International Society for Clinical Biostatistics is promotes better understanding of biostatistics by the general public and stimulates research on the biostatistical principles and methodology used in clinical research.
- The National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems is the national nonprofit organization representing the state vital records and public health statistics offices in the United States.
- The International Statistical Institute is a non-profit, non-government organization that supports and promote the understanding, development and good practice of statistics worldwide.