As a result of advanced technology and an aging population, public health is rapidly transforming. By 2030, all of the baby boom generation — estimated at 73 million people today — will be over age 65, and in need of more advanced care. Also, the emergence of big data places special emphasis on trained, highly educated professionals to leverage analytics and advanced technology to promote healthy outcomes.
If you have a background in statistics and would like to pursue a career in public health, or earn an advanced degree that offers a foundation for becoming a biostatistician, an online Master of Public Health program can be paramount in your preparation.
Read on to learn how biostatistics impact public health, and how an MPH degree can help provide the skills you need to solve modern health challenges.
What Does a Biostatistician Do?
What biostatisticians do is aggregate data related to certain populations. They then analyze that data and synthesize it into meaningful insights. Much of this research and study involves identifying current public health challenges and the health outcomes driven by environmental and behavioral factors.
In addition, biostatisticians also perform the following:
- Analyze data trends to make predictions
- Collaborate with physicians and scientists to design research studies
- Examine clinical data and surveys through applied statistics
- Serve as biostatistical consultants
- Publish original research to academic journals
Biostatisticians are also critical thinkers who, as a best practice, question their data collection methodology for accuracy and efficiency. In doing so, they ask the following central questions:
- How was this data collected?
- Are there covert factors that could influence or skew the results of an analysis?
- Is there vital data missing, and why?
When applied to public health, biostatisticians must understand how data, research and policy intersect to promote better health for our community and world.
Biostatistician Roles and Responsibilities
While biostatistician roles and responsibilities vary depending on where they work, in general, organizations look to them to perform the following:
- Write statistical methodology and oversee implementation
- Train clinical staff
- Develop means of representing results to key stakeholders
- Offer guidance on key initiatives based on statistical insight
This last point is critical: Much of a biostatistician’s job focuses not just on synthesizing information, but presenting it clearly to stakeholders of different backgrounds. This communication may include fellow researchers or span internal or external projects, with a target audience of those without scientific or health care education. The ability to be an excellent, versatile and accessible communicator is critical.
Depending on their educational or professional backgrounds, biostatisticians may specialize in a certain area of study, such as pharmacy, life science, health science or agriculture. For example, some biostatisticians may have an epidemiological focus, while others might be most concerned with how genes impact certain health outcomes.
How to Become a Biostatistician
Questions about how to become a biostatistician are understandable, as individuals follow a number of paths to enter the profession. While some higher education institutions offer degrees in biostatistics, most biostatisticians have earned degrees in a related field such as statistics, mathematics, public health, biology or medicine.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most statistician positions require a master’s degree, although some entry-level positions may be open to individuals with bachelor’s degrees.
Becoming a biostatistician also involves developing skills in areas such as research analysis, clinical research and data modeling. Acquiring knowledge of statistical analysis software, regulatory guidelines and statistical analysis plans also is helpful in entering the field.
Although having a certification is not always required for a career as a biostatistician, individuals who are interested in clinical work can consider obtaining certifications such as the certified clinical research associate (CRA) designation from the Association of Clinical Research Professionals or the certified clinical research professional (CCRP) certification from the Society of Clinical Research Associates.
Biostatistics play a central role in the shaping of public policy, public health and biotech. It’s also a rewarding career path. According to the compensation website PayScale, as of May 2021 the median annual biostatistician salary was around $77,000; senior biostatisticians’ median annual salaries were about $110,000.
Biostatistician Career Outlook
The career outlook for biostatisticians is promising. The BLS projects 35% job growth for statisticians (including biostatisticians) between 2019 and 2029, which far exceeds the 4% projected job growth for all occupations combined. For biostatisticians, that growth is driven by increasing public health needs. This is according to Dr. Wei Yang, Professor and Associate Dean of the School of Public Health at University of Nevada, Reno and executive director of the Nevada Center for Surveys, Evaluation and Statistics.
“The value is the training,” said Yang. “We need people to work in public health. One of public health’s jobs is to let people know what public health is. I think this is one of our biggest challenges. We need to have public understanding and we need policymakers who understand.”
Where Do Biostatisticians Work?
Knowing where biostatisticians work can help drive a decision to choose it as a career. One of the most popular career choices for biostatisticians is to work in the public sector. State and federal organizations such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services employ biostatisticians in crucial roles, examining population health trends and making policy recommendations to improve outcomes.
In the private sector, biostatisticians may be employed by corporations to help run clinical divisions, track the prevalence of certain ailments and measure the efficacy of treatment options as they relate to a new product. Independent lobbying groups also may turn to biostatisticians to provide research to support key assertions or design a study on a particular medical phenomenon.
Overall, the public and private sectors need more biostatisticians to create prevention models, which is a competency that can be learned through an online MPH degree.
“Public health is at the core of the preventive movement,” says Dr. Yang. “There is a national need for people working in public health on the most efficient way to be more preventive.”
Embarking on a Fulfilling Role in Public Health
When working in public health, biostatisticians play a key role in improving health outcomes in the population at large. These professionals research solutions and provide data-driven prevention strategies to treat populations.
If you have an interest in pursuing a role in public health, you may choose to explore University of Nevada, Reno’s online Master of Public Health program. Learn how it can help you achieve your professional ambitions.
Discover your role in public health today.