Biostatistician - Job Description, Duties, Education, Skills, Salary, & Growth

Biostatistician


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Job Description

Biostatistics is a science that is very closely associated to the healthcare services provided by public health professionals. Biostatistics are crucial to using data to create insights as to why common illnesses, healthcare concerns, and other wellness issues are popping up amongst the general public. In addition, Biostatistics help the healthcare industry come up with more effective solutions, faster treatment methods, more affordable treatment costs, and more through the use of big data analytics.

Biostatistics involves applied statistical theory and mathematical principles in public health and related fields. The healthcare industry is currently experiencing a massive influx of new technology that will shape how healthcare is provided throughout the next several decades. Part of improving upon the healthcare process is through the use of big data and insights derived from that data. Biostatistician’s help analyze the numbers, crunch the math, and come up with trends and insights as to what things cause health issues and disease.

The essential work of a public health Biostatistician is to use mathematical and scientific methods to unveil the cause of diseases and injuries.

In addition to this, a public health Biostatistician is also required to use his or her skills to identify health trends within communities. Identifying and sharing these health trends based on the data is critical to finding corrective measures that can be taken to improve the overall health and wellness of the community.

Biostatisticians work with a variety of living creatures. In the healthcare industry, they largely work with humans — they can also work with animals and plants in other industries. Sometimes, there is an overlap between the statistics they gather and analyze if there is a suspected health condition that is affecting multiple individuals or creatures.

For instance, if individuals are experiencing a health concern based on the water they are drinking, the Biostatistician might find an overlap with an increase in the number of animals that are getting sick. By tracking the source to the drinking water that both species use, they can identify healthcare concerns. All of this is made possible through the use of statistics and big data.

Biostatisticians are responsible for designing and developing research-based experiments that help collect data for them to analyze. They then analyze the data to come up with conclusions and present the summary of those findings to other healthcare or non-healthcare related individuals who can help improve the overall wellness of a community.

Biostatisticians are crucial to the healthcare industry moving forward because they help connect the dots between interpreting data and applying that data in the healthcare industry. Collecting big data is great, but it is useless if you don’t interpret it and draw logical conclusions based on extensive research.

This public health career path suits individuals who have expertise in studying diverse information, forecasting scenarios and drawing conclusions based on statistical data.

To get a better understanding about what it is that a Biostatistician does, you might have heard common statements like, “Those who smoke are more likely to get cancer.” That statement is backed up by research that Biostatisticians conduct to draw those conclusions. For instance, here is one example of a report based on the connection of cancer and smoking, which states that smoking will cause roughly 80 to 90 percent of all lung cancer.

Biostatisticians will evaluate current health trends, ailments, concerns, and more to evaluate whether or not there are connections between them. In addition, Biostatisticians will then do a deep dive into evaluating what the cause is between the connections and present conclusions about what steps should be taken to reduce the exposure to those healthcare ailments and more.

As a Biostatistician, your role will largely revolve around creating conclusions similar to this through the use of in-depth research, analysis, and research presentation.

Biostatisticians are also responsible for determining various risk factors for healthcare concerns. Most of this largely revolves around whether or not there are potential conclusions that can be made based upon the data that has been collected and the accuracy rate.

There are always going to be potential conclusions that can be made, but the question about whether or not they are true conclusions is something that Biostatisticians have to analyze. In the research realm, one important thing to realize is that correlation does not always equal causation. Because of this, Biostatisticians have to ensure that the conclusions they come up with are based on hard evidence and can be proven multiple times if the same processes were followed.

Biostatisticians will also help guide other healthcare professionals to determine the potential effects and outcomes of new healthcare policies, initiatives, and legislation.

The important thing to note about Biostatisticians is that their work is ongoing. Once they review, analyze, and present the research based on the conclusions they’ve come up with, their work doesn’t stop. In fact, Biostatisticians will consistently monitor and evaluate the data as it comes in to determine whether or not their initial conclusions remain accurate, and come up with additional conclusions based on the consistency of their initial findings.

If you’re passionate about collecting data, analyzing, interpreting, and then presenting conclusions based on the data then you should consider a career as a Biostatistician.

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Responsibilities

Biostatisticians apply their mastery of mathematics to the health care field by analyzing and interpreting large quantities of data, including test results, genetic data, and the proliferation of diseases. Some work with population data to uncover the results of public health hazards such as a toxic chemical spill.

Other responsibilities include analyzing the effects of new drugs, the risk factors for various illnesses, planning health care interventions and explaining biological phenomena.

Biostatisticians use math and data analytics to help identify various public health or wellness concerns. Biostatisticians will evaluate trends in both large numbers and small numbers to identify potential trends or conclusions before they develop into larger community health concerns or issues.

Biostatisticians will also use the research they’ve conducted to present the conclusions they have come up with to help improve the decision making process as it pertains to health initiatives, medical treatments, pharmaceutical drugs, and general public wellness decision-making.

Another responsibility for Biostatisticians is that they design experimental healthcare treatments and methods to determine whether or not the new process would be more effective in improving healthcare wellness. After designing the experimental healthcare treatments, Biostatisticians are also responsible for evaluating whether or not their potential new healthcare solutions, methods, treatments, technology, or pharmaceutical drugs will improve upon the negative trends they have gathered.

Biostatisticians will also analyze the various factors that could potentially contribute to the conclusions derived in the research report. The conclusions essentially focus on certain disorders, diseases, or other healthcare risks that could be a result of the way they live their life or the wellness choices they make.

Another responsibility for Biostatisticians is to write various research proposals or grant proposals to request funding for the research proposals they have to collect new data. Unfortunately, healthcare research can be extremely expensive and the research often requires participants for the researchers to help collect data. If you’ve ever heard the television commercials or radio commercials that incentivize or try to recruit individuals who are willing to participate in research trials or pharmaceutical trials, often times those are conducted in conjunction or by Biostatisticians.

These research trials and proposals are used to eliminate some of the other outlying things that can affect the results. In other words, they are trying to set up a control group to evaluate whether or not their research proposal or idea is going to improve the overall health and wellness of the test group.

For example, if a research test is being conducted to determine how much exercising can improve the strength of the heart, and certain people within the study group aren’t doing the exact same thing, it can be difficult to determine the actual benefits or drawbacks associated with the thing they are testing. Biostatisticians are in charge of monitoring and managing these research groups once they receive the appropriate grant or research funds.

To effectively manage these research methods, Biostatisticians will also be in charge of healthcare subordinates who help them oversee and manage the research and data collection process. Biostatisticians have to ensure that their subordinates that are directly under their supervision are also following the proper procedures and protocols to ensure the data and research doesn’t get corrupted, and they are coming up with sound conclusions.

Biostatisticians are also tasked with educating healthcare professionals, non-healthcare professionals, and the general public. Biostatisticians are responsible for educating healthcare professionals about the current trends they are noticing within the general public, and how healthcare professionals can educate their patients about steps they can take to reduce their risks to contracting illnesses, diseases, or ailments.

The dissemination of the information to healthcare professionals is largely more technical because healthcare professionals have a better understanding of the underlying causes associated with the research analysis.

Biostatisticians are also responsible for educating non-healthcare professionals which might include government legislators, healthcare administrators, educators, and more. The information passed to these non-healthcare related professionals are largely to help guide them along to understand what the data means.

These professionals are the ones usually tasked with creating new healthcare laws or initiatives. Biostatisticians can largely impact the future of the healthcare industry and the overall wellness of a particular community based on the research they present to these decision-makers and how well they disseminate the information to them and break it down for them to understand.

Another responsibility for Biostatisticians is that they must stay up to date on continuing education credits. These continuing education credits are required to ensure that they maintain an up-to-date knowledge of the current practices within their role, within the industry, and are able to educate both healthcare professionals and patients about the real statistics associated with the healthcare industry and healthy lifestyle choices based on real data.

The next responsibility of Biostatisticians is to monitor and evaluate research projects that they are assigned to. One of the responsibilities of Biostatisticians is that they are able to accurately use and reflect upon data gathered once the research assignment is completed. In some cases, they are also required to monitor and evaluate the research projects while they are being conducted.

This is to ensure that the data isn’t being corrupted by something throughout the course of the research process. The caveat to this is that there might be drawn conclusions which aren’t indicative of the final result, and Biostatisticians need to be careful when doing this.

As Biostaticians begin reviewing the data that they’ve been assigned to, their main goal is to research the effect of various treatments. They will evaluate whether or not there are certain trends, certain side effects that affect large numbers of people, what sped up or slowed down recovery time, and more.

Biostatisticians are also responsible for using cutting-edge technology and software designed to analyze the data in a quick and efficient manner to help alleviate some of the pressure that Biostatisticians have when they review the data. In addition, this technology and analytical software will identify things that might have been missed in the manual review or analysis.

The technology and software will help evaluate the effectiveness of the medical treatment, prescription, pharmaceutical drug, or equipment to combat certain illnesses, conditions, or medical ailments.

In addition, Biostatisticians are responsible for analyzing the genetic makeup data to determine whether or not there are potential connections to diseases or medical issues based on genetic structure. Identifying the medical issues related to genetic structure and genetic makeup will help determine whether or not disease rates and medical concerns are based on DNA and the rate of contracting those issues based on the genetic makeup.

While reviewing the data, Biostatisticians are also responsible for evaluating potential population metrics which can indicate how fast medical issues spread, the percentage of the population affected, and more. This data is crucial to decision makers when they are evaluating whether or not new legislation needs to be set in place to reduce the risk for the general population.

In addition, Biostatisticians are responsible for evaluating whether or not geographic location plays a role in certain illnesses. They would ask questions like, “Do higher altitudes play an increased role in the susceptibility rate of this particular illness?” They answer these questions by looking at the data they’ve gathered and draw conclusions that are backed up with sufficient evidence.

Biostatisticians are also responsible for coming up with potential research ideas and proposing them to decision makers who will give the go-ahead on whether or not to conduct the study. These studies largely come from other insights that Biostatisticians might have seen when reviewing other research and have determined that a deeper-dive should be conducted.

Once they gather all of this data, the next thing that Biostatisticians are responsible for is to present their findings to relevant parties. These relevant parties might be the legislators we highlighted above, healthcare administrators, or doctors and physicians.

These findings are usually obtained from evaluating the data, and then using math to determine what the lifestyle choices might be responsible for the underlying health issue.

Biostatisticians are also responsible for designing, developing, and monitoring clinical trials to formulate new treatment methods that are based on the data gathered from their other research proposals and evidence.

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Common Activities On The Job

For those who are interested in potentially becoming a Biostatistician, a glimpse at what a normal day and a normal routine will help you evaluate whether or not becoming a Biostatistician sounds like a good career move. Some of the most common activities that Biostatisticians perform on a daily basis are listed below with a little bit of detail for each one:

Analyze Healthcare Issues and Concerns

One of the most important activities on the job for Biostatisticians is to analyze healthcare issues and medical concerns. This involves reviewing the data that is gathered by the healthcare organization, through clinical studies, and more. This activity will involve the combination of math and science to evaluate potential concerns for the general population.

Develop and Interpret Medical Data

Using the data evaluation techniques we’ve highlighted above, Biostatisticians will spend a large part of their day interpreting the medical data they’ve gathered or collected. This activity will largely involve evaluating which data is important and which is inconsequential. A lot of false conclusions can be made based on irrelevant data that might seem important, but in reality, it only distracts from the accurate conclusion.

Biostatisticians will become adept at evaluating the data each day and drawing accurate conclusions.

Assess the Risks of Medical Treatments Using Statistics

Another common activity for Biostatisticians is to assess the risks of medical treatments based on the statistics and findings they have. As we’ve mentioned earlier, this will largely depend on whether or not individuals are predisposed to a negative outcome based on their genetic makeup and lifestyle choices.

Assess the Benefits of Medical Treatments Using Statistics

Biostatisticians will also spend a large part of their evaluating the benefits of medical treatments based on the statistics they are reviewing. This part of the day will be focused on evaluating whether or not medical treatments will help save money, produce higher efficiency rates, and more.

Develop New Studies

Biostatisticians will also spend some time evaluating whether or not new studies should be developed that focus on potential insights from the data they are reviewing at the time. Often times, these new study ideas will arise when they are looking through data to find one thing, and then realize that there are other potential correlations that aren’t being evaluated at the same time.

Research Potential Healthcare Solutions and Treatments

If a research proposal or study has already been granted, then Biostatisticians will help assist medical and healthcare researchers through the use of the data they are gathering to help them draw conclusions based on their research efforts.

Present Findings

Biostatisticians will also spend a large chunk of their day presenting their findings to relevant professionals or researchers to assist them in any way they can. A lot of the presentation will focus around making it easy to understand through charts, graphs, and effective communication.

Educate Healthcare Professionals and Patients

Biostatisticians will also spend a large chunk of their day educating other healthcare professionals and patients. Unfortunately, some of the data that Biostatisticians review on a daily basis can be overwhelming to the average viewer, and Biostatisticians are responsible for helping them understand what the data means, how it can be used, and its importance.

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Skills

It is fundamental to have a mastery of mathematics if you intend to become a biostatistician. Small mistakes in the numbers can lead to big mistakes in real life, so the most successful are those that pay attention to detail and are meticulous in their methods.

Some of the other common skills that a Biostatistician will need and use on a daily basis include:

  • Math
  • Statistical Analysis
  • Problem Solving
  • Adaptability
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Critical Thinking
  • Computer Proficiency

Knowledge and an understanding of modern databases, analytics, and some programming skills with languages like R, Ruby, Python, and more.

To download the R statistical analysis software, click here.

To learn more about R, check out DataCamp's lessons.

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Working Conditions

There are a number of different positions that are available for public health biostatisticians including those in data management, pharmaceutical and clinical trials, academic institutions and data analysis.

Federal agencies often employ biostatisticians to promote a healthy lifestyle among the citizens of the nation.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, statisticians were employed by the following industries:

 

Federal Government

17%

Finance and insurance 12%
Educational services; state, local, and private 11%
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 9%
Health care and social assistance 8%

If you're passionate and want to learn what it takes to become a Biostatistician or want to learn how to become a Biostatistician, take a look at our comprehensive Biostatistian Career Path which will help guide you along your path to becoming a Biostatistician.

 

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Salary Outlook

Title Company Location Posted
10.11.2019
School of Medicine: Established in 1930, Duke University School of Medicine is the youngest of the nations top medical schools. Ranked tenth among its peers, the School takes pride in being an inclusive community of outstanding learners,...
10.08.2019
School of Medicine: Established in 1930, Duke University School of Medicine is the youngest of the nations top medical schools. Ranked tenth among its peers, the School takes pride in being an inclusive community of outstanding learners,...
10.03.2019
This position will collaborate with investigators to perform statistical analysis and programming for the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute. The Biostatistician will assist with data analysis, result interpretation, as well as providing high...
09.28.2019
School of Medicine: Established in 1930, Duke University School of Medicine is the youngest of the nations top medical schools. Ranked tenth among its peers, the School takes pride in being an inclusive community of outstanding learners,...
10.14.2019
School of Medicine: Established in 1930, Duke University School of Medicine is the youngest of the nations top medical schools. Ranked tenth among its peers, the School takes pride in being an inclusive community of outstanding learners,...
10.18.2019
Provides selected data management and analysis activities for a variety of projects in support of the Department and/or Division. Essential Responsibilities: Assist in the design and management of data storage using Access, Excel and other...
10.18.2019
This role includes key trial statistician responsibilities including statistical design, and conducting analyses and data exploration, and generating key documents such as statistical analysis plans and grant materials. Individual has...
09.30.2019
With little to no direct supervision, provides leadership in biostatistical collaboration, consulting, and education to physicians, scientists and staff working on clinical research or clinical projects. Provides professional statistical support...
10.18.2019
Located in Boston and the surrounding communities and affiliated with Harvard, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute brings together world renowned clinicians, innovative researchers and dedicated professionals, allies in the common mission of conquering...
10.03.2019
This position will lead investigators and staff to perform statistical analysis and programming for WVU Hospitals Heart and Vascular Institute. The Biostatistician will assist with data analysis, result interpretation, as well as providing high...
  1. BIOSTATISTICIAN III Durham, NC Duke Health
    School of Medicine: Established in 1930, Duke University School of Medicine is the youngest of the nations top medical schools. Ranked tenth among its peers, the School takes pride in being an inclusive community of outstanding learners,...
  2. BIOSTATISTICIAN III Durham, NC Duke Health
    School of Medicine: Established in 1930, Duke University School of Medicine is the youngest of the nations top medical schools. Ranked tenth among its peers, the School takes pride in being an inclusive community of outstanding learners,...
  3. Biostatistician -89451 Morgantown, WV WVU Medicine
    This position will collaborate with investigators to perform statistical analysis and programming for the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute. The Biostatistician will assist with data analysis, result interpretation, as well as providing high...
  4. BIOSTATISTICIAN III Durham, NC Duke Health
    School of Medicine: Established in 1930, Duke University School of Medicine is the youngest of the nations top medical schools. Ranked tenth among its peers, the School takes pride in being an inclusive community of outstanding learners,...
  5. BIOSTATISTICIAN II - Molecular Physiology Institute Durham, NC Duke Health
    School of Medicine: Established in 1930, Duke University School of Medicine is the youngest of the nations top medical schools. Ranked tenth among its peers, the School takes pride in being an inclusive community of outstanding learners,...
  6. Biostatistician - I Boston, MA Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
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  7. Lead Biostatistician Boston, MA Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
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  9. PhD Biostatistician, Research Scientist in HIV & Adult Oncology Boston, MA Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
    Located in Boston and the surrounding communities and affiliated with Harvard, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute brings together world renowned clinicians, innovative researchers and dedicated professionals, allies in the common mission of conquering...
  10. Manager, Biostatistics & Research -86547 Morgantown, WV WVU Medicine
    This position will lead investigators and staff to perform statistical analysis and programming for WVU Hospitals Heart and Vascular Institute. The Biostatistician will assist with data analysis, result interpretation, as well as providing high...