The medical science and healthcare landscape is changing rapidly. In some cases, fundamental shifts in status quo, available technology, and emerging needs are requiring wholesale adjustments to how the medical field operates.

Biostatistics is an example of an emergent practice area that wouldn’t have existed in its current form even ten years ago but is quickly becoming an important and developing field that contributes handily to other branches of medicine. And better yet – it’s probably an area of medical practice you’ve never heard of.

What is Biostatistics?

Let’s start with the basics – what does biostatistics refer to, anyway? Simply speaking, biostatistics refers to the capture and study of biological or health data, especially that which is collected from large groups of people or over time. Biostatistics and its use can be instrumental for a variety of public health, medical research, and scientific analysis applications.

How Does Biostatistics Fit into the Greater Field of Medical Science?

Biostatistical use and research can aid a number of medical and public health initiatives or purposes. Here are a few examples:

Biostatistics Can Help Evaluate Initiatives and Programs for Effectiveness

By collecting surveys, monitoring long-term impacts and outcomes, or doing qualitative analyses of individuals who have taken part in said initiative or program, health care professionals or policymakers can evaluate a program’s efficacy. This helps save resources, ensure better outcomes for patients and participants, and more.

Biostatistics Can Help Control Outbreaks of Infectious Diseases

As was (and still is) witnessed in attempts to curb the spread of COVID-19, one example of employing biostatistics is through the use of strategies like contact tracing and observing quarantine protocols based on analysis of trends and real-time data. Biostatistics has been applied to managing a number of large-scale diseases such as instances of Ebola.

Biostatistics Can Make Data More Quickly and Efficiently Available for Further Medical Research

When biostatistics and digital platforms are used strategically to disseminate information and collaborate amongst different research bodies and facilities, time is saved, less duplicate work is performed, and better outcomes are created.

Biostatistics Can Make public health policies more relevant and aid localities in serving their populations

Data can be utilized to help pinpoint gaps in available care, or to identify what demographics are statistically not availing of care in a given coverage area. This can help policymakers or public health officials create interventions to decrease care inequalities.

And these are just a few ways biostatistics can be applied. Biostatistics, and the prevalence of health-related data that can be obtained today, can make it possible to answer questions that weren’t historically possible to answer. Its scope is nearly limitless.

Reasons for Considering a Biostatistics Career

If you are thinking about pursuing a career in healthcare or medical sciences, perhaps the idea of entering the area of biostatistics has piqued your interest. Here are a few broad-stroke characteristics or natural strengths that might lend themselves well to choosing biostatistics as your professional direction:

You Find Your Strength in Number

It follows logically that someone entering the realm of biostatistics will likely be dealing with a fair amount of figures. You should anticipate working with statistical data, creating formulas and algorithms, and using spreadsheets and other analytical software regularly. If you have natural aptitudes in the math and science arenas, chances are you’ll fit right in when studying biostatistics.

You Enjoy Looking for Patterns in Data

A huge part of a biostatistics career is interpreting data intelligently and intelligibly. This is imperative to accomplish the central goal of biostatistics – turning medical and health data into usable insights. Similar to that of a business analyst or statistician, a biostatistics professional is responsible for helping decision-makers make sense of what can be revealed in collected data.

You are Interested in Contributing to Strategy and High-Level Decision-Making

Biostatistics is most often used to affect large-scale changes or developments in policy, protocol, large-scale initiatives, and more. Though individual applications can be highly diverse, a commonality amongst many of these applications is the fact that big decisions and strategic thinking will be at play. If this excites you, biostatistics could be a good fit.

You are Solutions-Oriented

Biostatisticians live to create solutions to confounding problems. To be effective in biostatistics, you need to have natural creativity that can help you parse the data in ways others might not have thought of before. Your responsibility will be to take the insights you find through your analysis and turn them into innovative solutions. Biostatisticians are adept at creative problem-solving.

Next Steps for Pursuing Biostatistics

If pursuing a career in biostatistics is something you’re interested in, here are a few steps to keep in mind and help quicken your entry into what could be an incredibly rewarding career.

Consider Obtaining a Master’s Degree

Earning a Master’s degree in Biostatistics or similar can help you in a few ways. It can connect you with strategic contacts and professionals in the sector that can help you network, write recommendations, and link you with job opportunities.

A Master’s degree in biostatistics can be earned from a number of reputable sources and can sometimes be completed through an online program, often reducing its overall cost and limiting its strain on your lifestyle or current role. Having a Master’s degree can increase your earning power as well as make you eligible for higher-level positions.

Speak with Biostatisticians to Learn More About the Role

One of the best ways to vet whether you’d be interested in a career route is to speak with people who are already in the jobs you’re considering pursuing. Don’t know any biostatisticians? Sending a few emails to contacts you can drum up with a Google search can often yield surprising connections and helpful conversations.

Hearing first-hand accounts of what the job entails can often reveal details you’ll never hear from an admissions counselor or a job coach. These can be invaluable pieces of advice that can steer you confidently into the job (or out of it if it’s not a fit).

Don’t Skip Opportunities to be Well-Rounded

It will never hurt you to be aware of adjacent job types, fields of study, and types of professionals. Having a more comprehensive idea of the public health and health policy ecosystem can help you both in your role as a biostatistician and potentially down the road as you further your career and earn greater responsibilities and oversight. One opportunity to learn these things is during your schooling. Another is your first year or two on the job. Never skip an opportunity to increase your awareness of how the various pieces of the medical and healthcare landscape fit together.

Biostatistics is an exciting new field that is growing rapidly in application and scope. There has never been a better time to learn about its reach and, if interested, pursue it as a career.

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Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education. She implements her wellness and education knowledge into every aspect of her life, including her position as a yoga instructor and raising her two children. When she's not watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practising yoga and reading a good book on the beach.

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