What Is a Biostatistician? 2024 Career Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Ever wondered what a biostatistician does? Here’s a guide to everything you need to know to get started in this career.

[Featured Image]:  Two biostatisticians, one male and one female, wearing white uniforms and eye protectors, are analyzing data.

Biostatisticians are data collectors and analysts who focus on biology for fields such as medicine, agriculture, and public health. Working at the intersection of health and data science, they are the wizards who produce and verify statistics like: “The risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 after vaccination is about 5 in 100,000.” [1].

Amid the ongoing pandemic, health care occupations are projected to grow 13 percent from 2021 to 2031, and biostatisticians can expect an even higher growth rate of 31 percent [2, 3]. 

Biostatisticians do important work. What makes them unique are the complexities of the problems they’re solving, such as COVID-19. There is an urgency to conduct rigorous analyses in a timely manner in order to save more lives [4]. While most biostatistician jobs require a bachelor’s degree, many look for a master’s degree or higher.

Love working with health data and think it could be for you? Here’s a complete guide to becoming a biostatistician.

What is a biostatistician?

Biostatisticians collect and analyze data for biology and public health purposes using math and statistics. Biostatisticians are critical to advancing groundbreaking research, from medicine to agriculture to public health.

If you’re a data-minded individual interested in a career in medicine or health, but do not want to become a clinical doctor, nurse, or specialist, then this could be a good choice for you.

As a highly trained and educated biostatistician, you would analyze data and determine factors that impact the health and overall well-being of humans, animals, and ecology. Using this information, you and a team of researchers would deliver statistics, predictions, and studies on diseases and other health risks. They gather data at every stage of an experiment or clinical trial, to ensure thorough results from a big-picture perspective.

Where does a biostatistician work? 

Biostatisticians can work in a variety of settings on different types of research studies. 

Besides clinical settings, you can also choose to work in government or nonprofit organizations, in academia, in technology, or in a corporation. Biostatisticians sometimes work for pharmaceutical companies during their clinical studies to determine whether a drug is effective. They might do the same for a medical device company. They may work for a public health-focused non-profit to evaluate programs that inform policy making. In government-related roles, they help shape public health and education policies. 

Biostatistician salary and job outlook

Biostatisticians can expect to make an above-average salary. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, mathematicians and statisticians earn a median annual salary of $96,280 [3]. As mentioned earlier, they can expect 31 percent job growth from now until 2031 [3]. Indeed lists an even higher average salary of $126,004 [5]. 

Read more: Biostatistician Salary: Your 2023 Guide

Biostatistician tasks and responsibilities

Biostatisticians typically work on a team of scientists and researchers to perform analyses, develop plans, and interpret results. 

Some job tasks and responsibilities of a biostatistician include:

  • Develop methodologies for collecting data

  • Designing studies and clinical trials to solve a specific problem or question

  • Collect and analyze large data sets

  • Interpret results and disseminate findings with papers and presentations

  • Prepare and write up reports that advise public health, education, or environmental policy

How to become a biostatistician 

Biostatisticians tend to be highly educated and trained in their fields, meaning that a master’s degree in statistics or public health is often required or recommended. Employers like to see that job candidates have experience with complex statistical analysis.

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree.

It is wise to consider a bachelor’s degree if you aspire to become a biostatistician. Most jobs require a master’s degree, and still, others will require a doctorate. Biostatisticians work with data to produce insights that can affect entire populations, so they must be experts at data analysis. 

If you’re considering the path to becoming a biostatistician, a bachelor’s degree in a quantitative major such as mathematics or statistics will set you up for success. However, don’t fret if you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field such as humanities or social sciences. A master’s in mathematics, statistics, or another data-related field, plus a strong foundation of programming and data software management skills can help you land a junior-level position as a biostatistician.

2. Gain the skills needed.

Both technical and workplace skills are needed for a role as a biostatistician. The specific skills and experience required may vary depending on the type of organization you aim to work for, so make sure to take a look at real job descriptions to understand what you’ll need to learn.

Technical skills:

  • Ability to manage and clean data using data analysis software SAS

  • Strong knowledge of statistical theory, including longitudinal and complex data analysis 

  • Expert experience in a specific area, such as epidemiology or public health

Workplace skills:

  • Ability to multitask or contribute to multiple projects simultaneously

  • Excellent communication and collaboration skills

  • Strong, academic-level writing skills

Biostatisticians are typically inquisitive and intellectual individuals who like to investigate a problem from beginning to end. They are logical, using methodical ways of collecting and analyzing data to inform public health decisions.

3. Go for a master’s degree.

If you’re serious about becoming a biostatistician, you might be interested in pursuing a master’s degree in biostatistics, statistics, mathematics, or public health (with a focus on data and statistics). Approximately 58 percent of biostatisticians have a master’s degree, according to O*Net Online [6].

These days, with bachelor’s degrees being more ubiquitous, having a master’s degree for this type of specialized, technical job can help you stand out from the rest of the applicants. Some jobs even require a master’s degree or higher.

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Biostatistics in Public Health with Coursera

If you’re looking to further your skills in biostatistics, look no further than the Biostatistics in Public Health Specialization from the best school for public health, Johns Hopkins University [7].

This specialization is intended for public health and health care professionals, researchers, data analysts, and social workers who need a primer in the concepts of biostatistics. After taking this course, which requires four months or less, you’ll be prepared to participate as part of a research team.

Article sources


Healthline. “What Is Your Actual Risk of Getting COVID-19 If You’re Vaccinated?, https://www.healthline.com/health-news/what-is-your-actual-risk-of-getting-covid-19-if-youre-vaccinated.” Accessed December 19, 2022.

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