CHOOSING A CAREER / SEP. 30, 2014
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How to Become a Biostatistician in the US

Biostatistics involves the collection, analysis and reporting of health data. Biostatisticians apply their knowledge of statistical principles and formulae to analyze health data and draw conclusions relating to occurrences of illness, effectiveness of treatment and other healthcare topics.

What Does a Biostatistician Do?

Biostatisticians are the interface between medicine and statistics. They are employed in pharmaceutical companies, health care facilities, research companies, government agencies and universities. The scope of their duties tends to vary depending on their place of employment. Nevertheless, some of their duties are to:

  • Identify areas for research then proceed to design and plan for the project
  • Collect health care data such as the number of people affected by a disease, the treatment used and the outcomes
  • Evaluate the data using statistical methods and formulae to highlight the relationships between two or more variable factors
  • Draw conclusions based on their findings
  • Prepare reports that are used to expound on healthcare concerns such as the effectiveness of a new drug, risk factors among a specific demographic and public health issues
  • Write articles, journals and other publications to contribute to the body of knowledge on prevailing healthcare trends

Qualifications

To qualify as a biostatistician, you will need to complete a degree in biostatistics which covers topics such as:

  • Biology
  • Applied mathematics
  • Data analysis
  • Linear regression
  • Randomized clinical trials

Additional qualifications include:

  • Advanced Masters and doctorate degrees to enhance your eligibility and upward mobility in the profession
  • Experience obtained through internships and apprenticeships
  • Working knowledge of biology, medicine and related health sciences
  • Computer proficiency in database management and software applications for analyzing data

Skills

To perform effectively as a biostatistician, you will need the following skills:

  • Critical thinking, analytical, deductive reasoning and problem-solving skills.
  • Ability to work both independently and in a team.
  • Aptitude for math and multidisciplinary knowledge of biology, medicine and related fields.
  • Ability to plan, execute and implement projects on time, within budget and with the greatest attention to detail
  • Excellent communication, research, writing and presentation skills
  • Patience and adaptability to avoid loss of focus due to the tedium of the job.

Salary

The salary of a biostatistician depends on his qualifications, level of experience and employing organization. For example, a biostatistician with a doctorate working in government or for a pharmaceutical company is likely to earn more than one with an undergraduate degree working for a research company. The average per annum salary range is:

Entry Level 

 

$53,492

Mid Career

 

74,017

Senior

 

$90,620

Source: Salary.com

Work Environment

Biostatisticians generally work regular hours unless they are on a deadline relating to a specific project. Their time is split between the field where they gather their data and the office or laboratories where they analyze and interpret it. They also spend a fair amount of time reading and conducting secondary research on medical facts to draw conclusions that are accurate before presenting their information. The job involves working independently and in a multi-disciplinary team. It may also call for travel, especially where data is being collected from a randomized sample group.

Career Prospects

Healthcare reform, rapidly advancing technologies and increased innovation have set the stage for burgeoning career opportunities for biostatisticians. The job outlook between 2010 and 2020 is projected to grow at a rate of 14%, which is above the national average of 8%. You can enhance your chances of landing a job, getting promoted and eventually leading research projects by obtaining your advanced degree qualifications and taking on every opportunity to build on your experience.

If you have an interest in biology, math and medicine but do not want to work as a doctor, becoming a statistician offers a viable alternative. It allows you to combine these interests into a career that makes a vital contribution to the healthcare system.

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