Who is a biostatistician?

Biostatisticians are scientists who use statistics to analyze biological data. Their work helps academic researchers and companies within the biological sciences to understand the results of ongoing research, how that data can be interpreted, and how that data can be applied. Based on the work of biostatisticians, researchers may also gain better insights into designing meaningful studies.

Biostatisticians are needed more than ever because of the massive amount of data being produced in the biological, medical, and health sciences thanks to technologies like next-generation sequencing and spatial biology.

Where do biostatisticians work?

Biostatisticians work in varied settings. This might include:

  • governmental agencies such as the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • global entities like the World Health Organization (WHO)
  • medical research or academic institutions
  • biotechnology companies
  • pharmaceutical/biopharmaceutical companies
  • clinical research organizations
  • hospitals

What does a biostatistician do?

While the work of a biostatistician might look different depending on the role, here are some of the tasks you can expect to perform in this role.

  • Prepare statistical analysis plans and execute them.
  • Document analyses, create summaries, and present results in written and verbal form to requestors.
  • Write statistical text for study reports and clinical publications. This might include preparing the methods sections and analysis plans incorporation in abstracts, manuscripts, and grants.
  • Write code using various tools including (and not limited to) SAS, S-plus code, R or Python.
  • Collaborate with other programmers, the principal investigator, and internal/external representatives that support clinical trials/or research projects.
  • Represent the functional group in project team meetings and contribute constructively to project discussions.
  • Contribute to the thought process of endpoint selection and study design.
  • Calculate sample sizes, power calculations, and interim stopping guidelines, with guidance.
  • Provide review and approval of data collection tools, data correction criteria and procedures, identification of critical data fields, and endpoint collection documents.
  • Collaborate closely with investigators, sponsors, and other trial leadership to ensure that trial/project results and conclusions are presented accurately and without bias.
  • Adhere to standard operating procedures of the functional department as they apply to documentation and validation of clinical research statistics.
  • Understand the clinical drug and/or device development process.
  • Senior-level biostatisticians working in academia, and government may design, develop and obtain funding for research projects.

If you work in clinical research or in the pharmaceutical industry, it will be important for you to understand the clinical and drug development process. You will also need to understand and remain abreast of guidelines from the FDA, ICH, EMEA, or other regulatory agencies as they apply to statistics and programming.

Educational qualifications for biostatisticians

Most roles in biostatistics require that you have a master’s degree or a doctoral degree in biostatistics. However, if you have a master’s/doctoral degree in biology, biomedicine, health science, or public health, and you have a good grasp on tools like SAS, R, Tableau, and Python, I’d say it’s worth a shot applying for roles in biostatistics.

Biostatistician average salary

As of this writing in October 2023, the average salary for an entry-level biostatistician in the United States is between $65,000 and $110,000 (salary.com). This is definitely a large range and will vary depending on the city or state you live in.

Biostatistician job growth

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment for mathematicians and statisticians (biostatisticians are considered a subset of this occupation category) is expected to grow by 30% between now and 2032. This level of growth is considered faster than the average growth for all occupations.

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