Biostatistics - Choose Your Education Path

A Look at The Education Process


Medicine and healthcare as we know them today could not exist without Biostatisticians. As the name implies – bio -“life,” and statistics – “collecting and analyzing large amount of data,”– Biostatisticians gather and analyze data related to how biological factors like infectious diseases and pathogens impact human health. This can include gathering and analyzing data about:

  • A disease’s lethality and contagiousness
  • A population’s response to active ingredients in a new pharmacological drug
  • Medical research studies and clinical trials
  • The effectiveness of a public health campaign or initiative

As you can expect, biostatisticians play a tremendously important role in public health. Major areas where biostatistics is vitally important within public health include:

  • Epidemiology
  • Nutrition and public well-being programs
  • Environmental health
  • Health services research
  • Development of healthcare policy and management

Careers in biostatistics are wide ranging. Advancing in your job becomes possible with more education and more experience. Getting started in this field typically requires a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field.

Step 1 – Get a Relevant Bachelor’s Degree

Getting your foot in the door in the biostatistics field can start with a bachelor’s degree. You’ll find many different job titles and corresponding relevant undergraduate degrees, and every employer in the government or private sector sets its own education requirements. Here are some examples of job titles and their corresponding bachelor’s degrees:

  • Data manager – Bachelor’s in biostatistics, statistics, epidemiology, mathematics, or public health
  • Data analyst – Bachelor’s focusing on biostatistics, health care policy, data science, statistics, or health care economics
  • Research technician for a program evaluating the immune response to tuberculosis – Bachelor’s in a related science area
  • Cytometry technologist – Bachelor’s in any lab sciences
  • Associate clinical data analyst – Bachelor’s in a data analysis field like biostatistics, statistics, or data science
  • Study coordinator – Bachelor’s in public health or medical research
  • Research technician – Bachelor’s in biochemistry, molecular biology, anatomy and physiology, or pharmacology
  • Clinical research assistant – Bachelor’s in biostatistics, chemistry, biochemical engineering, or pharmaceutical sciences

You’ll find that biostatistician as a job title doesn’t typically show up at the bachelor’s level. But that doesn’t have to stop you from getting a relevant bachelor’s degree and gaining valuable work experience. Having those two strengths on your résumé will make transitioning into a master’s-level program and then landing a job as a biostatistician easier. This route is also good if you already have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field and want to get some real-world work experience in the public health field before committing to a master’s program.

For prospective epidemiologists – There are no national or state licensing processes for becoming an epidemiologist. However there is an optional certification you can earn from the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology (CBIC). To be eligible for this certification you must hold at least an associate’s degree in any field or a three-year RN diploma degree.

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Step 2 – Get a Master’s Degree in Biostatistics or a Closely Related Field

Working as a full-fledged biostatistician usually requires a master’s-level education in biostatistics or a closely related field. The following are some general examples of pairings of career titles with their typically requisite master’s-level education programs:

  • Biostatistician – Master’s in biostatistics or statistics
  • Data analyst with a public health department – Master’s in biostatistics, epidemiology, public health, or health science
  • Data analyst fellow with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Master’s degree in computer science, communications and graphics design, in the social and behavioral sciences, mathematics, or statistics
  • Clinical data analyst – Master’s in biostatistics, epidemiology, information/computer systems, health services, or public health
  • Bioinformatician – Master’s in biostatistics or bioinformatics
  • Junior epidemiologist/analyst with a public health surveillance system – Master’s in biostatistics, public health, epidemiology, health informatics, or statistics
  • Epidemiologist – Master’s in biostatistics, epidemiology, or public health
  • Epidemiologist statistical programmer – Master’s in epidemiology, statistics, biostatistics, public health, or math
  • Senior data manager – Master’s degree in biostatistics, statistics, mathematics, epidemiology, or public health

A master’s degree in biostatistics is an industry standard entry-level requirement if you want to work as a biostatistician. You’ll also find that many jobs in this field require or prefer relevant work experience. You can get this after your undergraduate education, as part of a master’s program’s internship or residency, or even as part of on-the-job training for a biostatistician position.

There’s no required national or state-level certification for biostatisticians. Every employer determines its own education and work experience requirements. You may find that some careers in this field –especially upper-level positions– require, or at least prefer, a doctoral degree.

Advance Your Career and Apply For Senior-Level Positions With a Doctoral Degree

If not an outright requirement for your selected career in biostatistics, earning a doctoral-level education will place you in the best-possible strategic position for career advancement and promotion, especially when combined with relevant work experience.

The following are some examples of job titles in the biostatistics field and their typically associated education requirements:

  • Clinical researcher – MD, PhD, or PharmD
  • Professor of biostatistics – Doctoral degree in biostatistics, data science, applied mathematics, or statistics
  • Senior epidemiologist – Doctoral degree in biostatistics or epidemiology
  • Research associate with a public health department or pharmaceutical company – Doctoral degree in biostatistics or statistics
  • Public health statistician – Doctoral degree in biostatistics or statistics
  • Senior biostatistician – PhD in biostatistics or statistics
  • Epidemiology and information science fellow with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Doctoral degree in fields like computer science, life health sciences, medical sciences, mathematics, or statistics

Work environments in biostatistics

The US Department of Labor tracks biostatisticians as a sub-set of general statisticians. It reports that most (52%) work in the following sectors :
  • 16% work in scientific research and development services
  • 11% work with federal government agencies
  • 9% work with management, scientific, and technical consulting services
  • 7% work in general medical and surgical hospitals
  • 6% work in computer systems design and related services
  • 3% work in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing
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Resources: Professional and government agencies for biostatisticians

  • International Society for Clinical Biostatistics (ISCB)
  • Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology (CBIC)
  • American Public Health Association (APHA)
  • International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE)
  • American College of Epidemiology (ACE)
  • American Society of Preventative Oncology (ASPO)
  • World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Society for Epidemiological Research (SER)
  • American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE)
  • International Epidemiological Association (IEA)
  • CDC index of all state health departments
  • American Statistical Association (ASA)
  • ASA Health Policy Section
  • ASA Mental Health Section
  • ASA Genomes and Genetics Section
  • ASA Epidemiology Section
  • ASA Environment Section
  • ASA Biopharmaceutical Section
  • ASA Biometrics Section