Who is a Biostatistician?
Today, with the rapid amount of medical data available through hospitals, insurance companies, and other medical institutions, the need for skilled interpreters has become imperative. The biostatisticians are individuals with strong computing and mathematics knowledge, who are capable of making logical deductions and decisions based on various numerical data.
Biostatisticians generally work on healthcare-related jobs in public as well as private sector. This may include performing research for government agencies or setting up of statistical parameters for new studies by pharmaceutical companies. As a biostatistician, you will have the opportunity to work in any of the following settings:
- Research companies
- Public health organizations
- Government organizations
- Medical device manufacturers
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Colleges and Universities
- Medical research organizations
- Agricultural/forestry consulting companies
- Public/Private healthcare organizations
- Healthcare advocacy organizations
- Self-employed (1), (2), (7), (4)
As a biostatistician, you may require performing the following tasks:
- Protocols input, randomization schedule, and database activities
- Working with project teams for deciding on suitable study design as well as statistical methodologies
- Responsible for protocol review
- Assisting in the development of:
o Randomization schedule
o Sample size
o Power calculation
- Responsible for ensuring that information for statistical analyses is correct
- Assisting in the implementation of protocol methodology and statistical analysis plans
- Responsible for the accurate and timely statistical input into reports and decisions
- Responsible for the development of alternate strategy for analysis when changes required
- Responsible for computer programs that are accurate, efficient and well documented
- Demonstrating strong understanding of statistical concepts and methodologies
- Assisting in the development of the Statistical Methods section
- Responsible for the accuracy of:
o Statistical tables
o Data listings
o Report text
- Identifying and correcting the flaws in interpretation of results, inconsistencies in presentations or inference
- Ensuring accuracy of the report text and the consistency between summary tables in the body of reports and the corresponding statistical tables and listings
- Responsible for statistical methods
- Working in collaboration with peers for development of quality protocols, CRF, schema, and reports within the set deadlines
- Providing correct answers to regular questions from clients
- Communicating the basic clinical principles and acting according to those principles
- Communicating the basic concepts of statistics to other scientists and nonscientists
- Communicating to supervisor or manager all important issues in a timely manner.
- Mentoring non-statistical colleagues with regards to basic statistical methodologies and departmental functions. (3)
How to Become a Biostatistician?
The biostatisticians need to be strong in academics and emotionally stable, as they are required to complete short and long-term tasks. They should have an interest in biology and statistics, and should have an aptitude for mathematics.
The biostatistician must have the patience needed to start and finish lengthy and detailed tasks, as well as have the communication skills to ensure your findings are properly communicated to those who require the information.
Biostatisticians need to work closely with professional experts in other areas of biology, so they must be comfortable working in such an environment and sharing their opinions and working with others who may see it from a different point of view.
To become a biostatistician in an entry-level job, like a research assistant, you will need to have a minimum of bachelor's degree in mathematics, statistics or a closely related subject. You will also need to ensure that you gain knowledge in your specific field of interest. For example, a biostatistician who works in medicine must have a basic understanding of medicine, and a biostatistician who works in agriculture must have a basic understanding of agriculture.
In order to qualify for a job with a greater level of responsibility, such as a lead researcher, you will need a master's or a doctoral degree in biostatistics or a closely related field. The more education you pursue in this field, the better. Those with doctoral degrees in biostatistics will usually qualify for the positions that offer the most independence, the highest pay, and the most responsibility.
Internships and fellowships are ideal ways to gain practical experience in a particular field while you're still a student. There are many government agencies, businesses, and industries that offer graduate students internships and fellowships that often cover tuition, research expenses, and financial compensation. (4)
In the United States:
Generally, a bachelor's degree is enough for a career in the field of biostatistics; though the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that advance work would require a Master of Science (M.S.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Biostatistics, Mathematics, or Statistics. Aspiring biostatisticians attending schools that are not offering an undergraduate degree in biostatistics could consider completing a bachelor's program in statistics or applied mathematics. Programs can include coursework in the development of population samples, in computer modeling, and data analysis.
M.S. and Ph.D. curricula generally offer more specific and advanced courses including the design and completion of a biomedical study. Students may be required to outline their methods and present their study findings. (2)
Most of the universities offer education in biostatistics at postgraduate level. These research based programs are usually of 3 years duration. Generally, the qualification required for such courses would be an undergraduate program in the related fields of biostatics, for example a B.Sc. Statistics or B.Sc. Mathematics with Statistics. Students are selected through entrance examination. Besides, most institutes conduct their own tests followed by a personal interview. (5)
The continuous growth of the pharmaceutical field will lead to a large demand for biostatisticians. As per the BLS, the statistician jobs as a whole are expected to have a growth of 27% between 2012 and 2022. According to PayScale.com, biostatisticians made a median wage of $78,162 in September 2014. Most workers earned salaries between $53,228 and $126,214 a year.
In the US, a biostatistician with only one year of working experience could make between $46,000 and $76,000. A biostatistician who has five to nine years of experience could earn approximately $69,000 to $99,000 and those with more than ten years of experience usually earn as much as $117,000 per annum.
In India, the starting salary for a biostatistician can range from Rs. 7000/- to Rs. 12,000/- per month depending on the type of job and the organization one works for. Statisticians with experience can expect a salary in the range of Rs. 10,000/- to 40, 000/- per month. (2), (6), (5)