What Does a Career in Biostatistics Actually Look Like?

Biostatistician, Rafael Irizarry of Simply Statistics, was sent on a mission to recruit people for a graduate program, and “found that several [people] did not know about the existence of Departments of Biostatistics and most of the rest thought biostatistics was the study of clinical trials.”

So what is biostatistics then? Here are a few takeaways from the article:

What does a biostatistician do?

  •  With the need for data intensive research in so many disciplines, biostatistics is one way statistics has been adapted for a specific purpose. Biostatistics involves the development and application of statistical techniques to scientific research in health-related fields, such as genetics, genomics, and neuroscience (just to name a few).

What type of job does a biostatistician hold?

  • The most common path for a biostatistician is academia, industry or government. However, the majority of biostatistics departments prepare their students so that their education can be widely applied. Indeed, many biostatistics graduates end up in high tech. See for example this Hilary Parker profile.

How do you prepare for a masters or PhD in biostatistics?

  • The key to choosing the right continuing degree is all in the preparation. Irizarry suggests participating in a summer program to see if biostatistics is the right path. Research experience is a good way to find out where the passion lies for a career. There are multiple courses, such as introduction to statistics, introduction to statistical computing, and introduction to biostatistics, that introduce students to different programs used in biostatistics, as well as statistics in general.

For those who love math and science, there’s no need to have to choose one or the other. Biostatistics is a prime example of how the field of statistics is filled with a plethora of endless opportunities.

For more information about biostatistics, check out the article ‘Biostatistics: It’s not what you think it is.’

Here are a few additional biostatistics resources:

  • See biostatisticians talk about their careers and take a quiz to find out if biostatistics is for you.
  • See how biostatistics PhD Alyssa Frazee of Stripe addresses whether she is a statistician or data scientist in this YouTube Video.
  • See this humorous video by the UNC School of Public Health on demand for their biostatistics faculty and students, “Where are the Biostatisticians.”
  • See the lists of universities granting biostatistics graduate degrees.




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