What is Biostatistics?

BiostatisticsDoes the field of biostatistics sound as confusing and inaccessible as rocket science? Many students are intimidated by this subject, but biostatistics is actually easy to learn and apply. If you’re considering a career in public health, you owe it to yourself to learn more about this lucrative and rewarding field of study.

Biostatistics as a Career

Although most public health jobs require a master’s degree, few provide high salaries. Public health students who earn degrees in health education, community outreach, or socio-behavioral health can expect to earn less than $50,000 a year for most of their career. Biostatistics is the exception with a median annual wage of more than $75,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Compensation is higher than other concentrations for two reasons. First, many biostatisticians work for private companies which pay more than the non-profit organizations and government agencies that typically hire public health professionals. Second, biostaticians work behind the scenes to improve community health, and this hands-off approach does not appeal to most public health students.

Biostatistics for Students

Earning a Master of Public Health in biostatistics requires hard work and long hours of studying, but it’s not impossible. You can earn this degree in just one year of full-time study or two years of part-time classes, and many schools of public health offer online degrees. Even better, you are not limited to studying just one concentration. If you have varied interests in public health, you can easily pursue dual concentrations. A biostats major is most commonly combined with epidemiology, which gives you additional quantitative skills, but you could also study health policy, global health, or environmental health. No matter what you choose, your expansive skillset will make you an attractive candidate for many positions.

Master’s of Science in Biostatistics (MS) versus Master’s in Public Health (MPH)

When studying biostats, you can choose from two different degree programs. A Master of Science in Biostatistics concentrates on mathematical skills and research analysis; this degree is a great choice if you know you want to work in academia or for a pharmaceutical company. However, a Master’s in Public Health in Biostatistics offers a broad base of public health knowledge and is perfect if you want to pursue a career with a non-profit agency or in the government. If you can’t decide which route to pursue, that’s not a problem; big employers like hospitals and research labs are open to either degree. The biggest difference between the two degrees is the final project: a MS will require a research-oriented practicum, perhaps with a thesis, while a MPH will allow an internship with a public health agency. If you are like most biostats students and working while earning your degree, you may struggle to find time to complete an in-person internship. A research project, which allows you to analyze data on your own schedule, might be a better fit for your needs.

Related Resource: Specialize A Health Science Degree

Biostatistics is a dynamic and growing field, and many organizations are beginning to invest in biostatisticians. Once you receive your degree, you could find yourself working with physicians to analyze clinical data, designing a research study to test a new drug, or investigating disease outbreaks in low-income communities. One thing’s for sure,  you’ll never be bored with a degree in biostatistics.