Biostatistics Careers for Data Scientists

Analytics is becoming critical in all part of our lives. Biostatistics has been a big driver of this analytics demand in the field of pharmaceuticals, biotech, health & medicine.

But, What is Biostatistics? From the Wikipedia definition of Biostatistics:

Biostatistics (or biometry) is the application of statistics to a wide range of topics in biology. The science of biostatistics encompasses the design of biological experiments, especially in medicine, pharmacy, agriculture and fishery; the collection, summarization, and analysis of data from those experiments; and the interpretation of, and inference from, the results. A major branch of this is medical biostatistics,[1] which is exclusively concerned with medicine and health.

From the abstract description of a Biostatistician’s role, here is an example analysis that a Biostatistician would need to do. A more complete list is available on Pansop.

Case Study:

A study was undertaken to evaluate the effect of percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) in patients with one-vessel coronary artery disease. A random sample of one hundred and seven patients with coronary artery disease were given PTCA.  Patients were given exercise tests at baseline and after 6 months of follow-up. Exercise  tests were performed up to maximal effort until symptoms (such as angina) were present.

The “change” in the duration of exercise was calculated. “Change” is defined as the 6 month test minus the baseline test. The mean change was 2.1 minutes and the standard deviation of the changes was 3.1.

(a) What statistical test can be performed to see if there has been a statistically significant change in duration of exercise for this group of patients given PTCA?

(b) Compute a 95% confidence interval for the mean change in exercise duration.

(c) Can we conclude from this study that PTCA is effective in increasing exercise duration? Are there any limitations or weaknesses in this study for answering that question?


The above case study is a very simple & beginners level type of question that one needs to answer. For actual job qualifications we analyzed 408 job postings and found that nearly all of them required a PHD or Masters level degree. Furthermore, we looked at the analytics tools skills required for the job. 75% of the job postings (308 of 408) required SAS.  R, SPSS, Stata & Python come after SAS in terms of the skills required becoming a biostatistician.

Given the interest & educational qualification requirements for Biostatistics, the number of Masters Degrees being given also increased. According to Amstats & the National Center for Education statistics, data shows growth in Biostatistics degrees from 2012 to 2013


Some of the top companies & the number of open job positions (in the brackets) are given below:

  1. Gilead (23)
  2. Planet Pharma (21)
  3. PPD (14)
  4. Premier Research (12)
  5. Genentech (10)
  6. Harvard University (10)
  7. University of South Florida (9)
  8. Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) (9)
  9. Global Pharma Tek, LLC (9)
  10. Quintiles Transnational (8)
  11. PAREXEL International (8)
  12. BioStaff Solutions (8)
  13. Seattle Genetics (8)
  14. DOCS (7)
  15. Regeneron (7)

Intrigued about Biostatistics? Here are some resources to get you started:

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