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 start this career.

[Featured Image]:  Two biostatisticians, one male and one female, wearing white uniforms and eye protectors, are analysing 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 hospitalisation from COVID-19 after vaccination is about 5 in 100,000.” [1].

Amid the pandemic, India's healthcare sector is expected to reach 50 USD billion by 2025 [2]. Biostatisticians are in demand, mainly due to the booming pharmaceutical industry [3]. 

Biostatisticians do important work. What makes them unique is the complexity of the problems they’re solving, such as COVID-19. There is an urgency to conduct rigorous analyses promptly to save more lives. While most biostatistician jobs require a bachelor’s degree in statistics or mathematics, 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 use maths and statistics to collect and analyse biology and public health data. Biostatisticians are critical to advancing ground-breaking 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, this could be a good choice.

As a highly trained and educated biostatistician, you would analyse data and determine factors that impact human, animal, and ecology health and overall well-being. You and a team of researchers would use this information to 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 detailed results from a big-picture perspective.

Where does a biostatistician work? 

Biostatisticians can work in various settings on different types of research studies. Besides clinical settings, they can also work in government or non-profit organisations, academia, technology, or business organisations. 

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 earn an above-average salary. According to PayScale, the average base salary for biostatisticians in India was ₹4,87,957 as of March 2024 [4].

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 duties of a biostatistician include:

  • Developing methodologies for collecting data

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

  • Collecting and analysing large data sets

  • Interpreting results and disseminating findings with papers and presentations

  • Preparing and writing up reports that advise public health, education, or environmental policy

How to become a biostatistician 

Biostatisticians are highly educated and trained in their fields, meaning 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, and some jobs require at least a master’s degree or 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 becoming a biostatistician, a bachelor’s degree in a quantitative course, such as mathematics or statistics, can 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 in programming and data software management skills, can help you land a junior-level position as a biostatistician.

2. Gain the skills needed

Biostatisticians need technical and workplace skills to succeed. The specific skills and experience required may vary depending on the type of organisation you aim to work for, so look at actual job descriptions to understand what you’ll need to learn.

Technical skills:

  • Programming languages, such as R, Python, C or C++, JavaScript, MATLAB, and SQL

  • 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 curious and intellectual individuals who like to investigate a problem from beginning to end. They are logical, using systematic data collection methods 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). 

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

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 Specialisation from the best school for public health, Johns Hopkins University [7].

This Specialisation is for public health and healthcare professionals, researchers, data analysts, and social workers who need biostatistics concept primers. 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 March 21, 2024.

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