biostatistics career


The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the statistician job will grow 33% from 2019 to 2029 – one of the top ten fastest growing jobs in the U.S. It is in the top five for highest median salary at $91,160. Add in that you will be working in public health and having a positive impact on society through your work, and a biostatistics career is a very desirable choice.

The Department of Biostatistics at UCLA offers the following “fine qualities” for a biostatistics career:

  • The heavy lifting is intellectual, not physical.
  • It pays well. Starting salaries for a PhD in biostatistics often exceed $100,000 per year.
  • The skills are transferable and attractive to employers.
  • The work is collaborative. To be a successful biostatistician, you must effectively communicate with your collaborators. As a result, biostatistics is unlikely to be outsourced the way expertise in other fields has in recent years.
  • It is rewarding to solve real life problems, using skills that few people have. Statistical models can help cure diseases and improve quality of life.
  • It is intellectually stimulating. You are constantly developing creative ways to solve problems. Your job is changing and evolving with cutting edge science.

Where will you work in your biostatistics career?

  • Pharmaceutical Companies – These firms vary from small to very large national and international companies. Some have both marketing and manufacturing facilities while others concentrate solely on research and development. Many of the larger companies have statistical groups of 20-30 associates.
  • Contract Research Organizations (CROs) – These companies provide research and development services to pharmaceutical companies. They work in tandem to obtain product approval from regulatory authorities world-wide. Statisticians working in CROs tend to have exposure to more therapeutic areas and styles of summarizing data.
  • Regulatory Authorities – Responsible for scrutiny of the statistical content of submissions for regulatory approval of a drug after its development through all stages of clinical trial

What you need to love for a biostatistics career?

  • You love the combination of math and science. You can foresee yourself taking three semesters of calculus, a semester of linear algebra and maybe an introductory course on probability and/or statistics. If you plan on going on for a PhD, courses in real analysis and matrix algebra excite you. For science, biology, epidemiology, ecology or even chemistry add another interesting dimension to your skill set. You recognize that computer coursework emphasizing the study of algorithms and optimization will be useful along with programming skills and statistical packages like SAS, R and Python. In a 2016 study MONEY and Payscale found the #1 most valuable career skill in terms of pay premium in the marketplace was SAS expertise.
  • You love education and see yourself pursuing an advanced degree. Katherine Monti, Principal Statistical Scientist at Rho, Inc., says, “The more demanding the degree, the greater the range of opportunities and, in general, the higher the salary that you can command.” A PhD in Biostatistics along with excellent written and oral communication skills will open many doors of opportunity. A Masters in Biostatistics can progress through the roles of Statistician, Senior Statistician and Principle Statistician but to move onto Manager, Director or even Head of Biostatistics a PhD is often required. Another study by PayScale found the #1 graduate degree in the U.S. is a PhD in Statistics with a median salary of $131,700. What was #2? A Master’s in Biostatistics with $113,400 median salary. They not only top the list due to median salary and job growth but also due to high job satisfaction and low stress ratings.

Interested in talking about a biostatistics career where you can change people’s lives? Contact Smith Hanley Associates‘ Pharmaceutical Recruiter, Nihar Parikh at


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