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This article has information about what a master’s in biostatistics is, which is usually a speciality chosen in a Master of Public Health (MPH) program. It discusses why you may want to earn a degree in biostatistics, and the common topics and learning outcomes involved. There also is a review of an online MPH program with a speciality in biostatistics.

What Is a Master’s in Biostatistics?

A master’s in biostatistics, or an MPH with a specialty in biostatistics, focuses on the branch of statistics that is responsible for interpreting scientific data that is generated in public health, biology and other health sciences. In the area of public health, people show a great deal of variation in their response to environmental conditions.

The variation can be due to a variety of factors, and biostatistics is concerned with understanding the reasons for these variations. A degree in biostatistics will teach the student the skills to understand the difference between correlation and causation, and to make inferences from the population samples that they were drawn from.

Biostatistics is a very important public health discipline that applies statistical theory to real world health problems, as well as designing and conducting biomedical experiments and clinical trials.

The curriculum in a biostatistics program usually will cover probability, statistical theory and biostatistical fundamentals in the first year. In the second year, materials often cover epidemiology and survival analysis.

The courses in a master’s program in biostatistics will be various depending upon the program, but common topic areas are:

  • Analysis of mortality and morbidity data
  • Competing risks
  • Survival analysis
  • Design and evaluation of studies of human populations
  • Biological assay and quantal response
  • Statistical methods in clinical trials
  • Epidemic theory
  • Stochastic processes
  • Mathematical modeling
  • Exploratory data analysis
  • Probability theory
  • Statistical inference
  • sampling techniques, multivariate computer methods
  • Nonparametric analysis and computational biology

Why Earn a Master’s Degree in Biostatistics?

Many professionals interested in the sciences and public health in particular find biostatistics to be a very rewarding career for many reasons. There are many exciting job opportunities in biostatistics in academia, government and industry.

Some of the most common places that biostatisticians work today is the pharmaceutical industry, chemical industry, medical research centers, public health schools, medical schools, and government agencies. Some of the government entities that biostatisticians work for in the US are the CDC, NIH, and the National Center for Health Statistics.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) confirms that there will be a strong increase in jobs for statistics generally in the coming years. Employment for all statisticians is estimated to grow by an impressive 34% by 2024, which is much faster than average.

Growth in the statistics field is expected as the increase in technology leads to more use of statistical analysis to make better decisions in business, healthcare and public policy. Also, a major increase in data from the Internet will provide professionals with new areas for analysis.

In particular, BLS notes that statisticians will be needed in the pharmaceutical industry. As the US population is aging, pharmaceutical companies will come up with new drugs and medical technologies. Biostatisticians are required to conduct clinical trials and research that is needed for companies to get approval for their products from FDA.

Statisticians and biostatisticians also will be needed in research and development in life science and physical sciences, as well as engineering fields.

Fortune magazine in 2016 ranked a master’s degree in biostatistics as #1 in the list of best graduate degrees for jobs for that year. It based its ranking upon long term outlook for job growth, median salaries and job satisfaction. More than 85% of degree holders stated that they were highly satisfied with their choice. It is anticipated that this profession will continue to be highly ranked, as the demand for jobs is not expected to decrease in the next 10  years.

Salary potential for professionals with this master’s degree is also excellent. BLS states that the median wage for all statisticians in 2016 was $80,500. The top 10% earned more than $130,000 per year. Median salaries for statisticians will vary depending upon the industry, however:

  • Federal government: $100,750
  • Scientific research and development services: $87,500
  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting: $79,710
  • Finance and insurance: $79290
  • Colleges and universities: $71,070

More students and professionals also are becoming more aware of public health as a career. There is more focus on preventative medicine today to reduce health care costs. Governments and healthcare systems understand that costs can be reduced and public health improved if there is a greater focus on preventative medicine.

A 2008 survey of undergraduate and graduate schools of the American Association of Colleges and Universities found that more colleges were providing programs, majors or minors in public health. About 50% of the colleges that offer public health at the graduate level also offer them at the undergraduate level.

This suggests that the public health field will continue to grow in the coming years, making it an excellent career choice for professionals interested in biostatistics.

Online Master’s Degree in Biostatistics Option

Drexel University offers a Master of Science in Biostatistics that will prepare you to make immediate contributions to biomedical research and public health as soon as you graduate. Students will gain a complete understanding of biostatistical methods, computational skills, and the ability to apply that knowledge to research that is focused on critical public health problems.

This two year program will prepare students to handle quantitative and computational aspects of public health research projects, which can range from study design to data collection and management. You also will develop analysis plans, conduct analyses and report findings in writing and orally.

This program is taught by nationally and internationally recognized faculty, and class sizes are small. This provides students with plenty of individual attention from committed faculty.

The curriculum in this MS program has courses in statistical theory and methods, computing, data management, epidemiology, and other public health topics.

In the second year, there are two practicum experiences where the student works on a real government, academic or industry public health project. This research project involves applying biostatistical analysis to a major public health problem.

Courses include:

  • Linear Statistical Models
  • General Linear Models
  • Survival Data Analysis
  • Statistical Computing
  • Statistical Inference
  • Longitudinal Data Analysis
  • Data Analysis Project

To be considered for admission, students must have a bachelor’s degree in a field such as mathematics, mathematics, or computer science. Other possible bachelor’s degrees include biology, chemistry or environmental health. Your undergraduate courses should include two semesters of calculus and one semester of linear algebra. It is recommended that the student be familiar with a programming language or a statistics package.

Summary

The field of biostatistics is seeing strong growth, as is the entire field of public health. Professionals who are interested in applying advanced statistical principles to public health and helping to improve health outcomes for populations could find that this is an excellent career path.

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Sady Brown
Written by Sady Brown
Sady Brown is Editorial Strategist for Nogre.com