If you’re wondering what you can do with a master’s in biostatistics – one of the highest-paying master’s degrees – then you have likely encountered the field of public health as one option to pursue. It’s true that public health is one of the major areas of focus in biostatistics. The work of using quantitative methods to glean information from biological data is valuable for making breakthroughs that could reduce public health risks and help predict and even prevent disease epidemics. However, biostatisticians also work in other areas, like clinical healthcare research, environmental health and agriculture. Biostatisticians may find work in any area pertaining to biological research.
Clinical Healthcare Applications of Biostatistics
Biostatistics is generally classified as a healthcare job by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Public health represents only one part of the health-related applications of biostatistics. You could also work in a clinical research capacity, which may be more fulfilling if you’re passionate about improving medical capabilities or quality of care.
Many biostatisticians, for example, design and conduct studies of the efficacy and safety of pharmaceutical treatments and other types of medical interventions. This work contributes to the development, approval and use of new treatments in clinical practice.
Biostatisticians conducting clinical health research may also seek to understand the causes of and risk factors for different diseases. It is difficult in the real world to prove with 100 percent certainty that any one factor is certain to cause disease, illness or another outcome. Biostatisticians use statistical methodologies to make sound statistical inferences and analyze patterns and trends. These biostatistics applications can be used to understand the expression of genes related to cancer and the environmental exposures that can serve as risk factors for a condition or disease.
The principles and practices of biostatistics can also be utilized to examine healthcare costs and quality. Although these topics may not make changes in the types of interventions that can be used to treat medical conditions, they can make care more affordable – and accessible – and ensure that patients are safer and more satisfied with their care going forward.
The types of research studies a biostatistician may conduct in clinical health-related roles can include observational studies, clinical trials and longitudinal studies.
Biostatistics in Environmental Health and Conservation
IMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain
Human health isn’t the only application of statistical methods to biology. Biological sciences encompass the origin, anatomy, physiology, behavior and changes in all forms of living things, including plants and animals. As such, some biostatisticians work in fields like ecology and environmental health.
The field of environmental health focuses on how environmental factors affect human health. In that way, environmental health is connected to public health because these factors contribute to public health concerns like exposure to pollution and pesticides. Biostatisticians may also approach the field from an ecology or environmental conservation perspective, examining matters like climate change and effects on the environment to facilitate conservation.
Biostatisticians who focus on the environment may work for federal or state government agencies, colleges and universities and private companies and nonprofit organizations that work in the ecology and environmental conservation sector.
Agriculture Applications of Biostatistics
Agriculture is also a part of biology. When you apply the methods of biostatistics to agriculture, you might study topics like how weather patterns affect crop production on farms and the population levels of animals. The use of biostatistics in agriculture can also help quantify matters involving land usage and irrigation, prices of agricultural products for sale, wages of agricultural workers and the production of crops and livestock. Farmers and agricultural managers use the findings of biostatisticians to adjust their farming practices. With the right data and research findings, agricultural managers can make changes to sustainably produce more and waste less.
Agricultural biostatistician jobs may be harder to find than jobs in more traditional health-related roles for biostatisticians and are most likely to become available in federal and state agriculture agencies and private consulting companies.
Unexpected Career Options in Public Health
Don’t be too quick to discount biostatistician career options in public health. Public health is a much broader field than you might think. While many public health initiatives focus on infectious diseases, other public health matters are much more varied. The American Public Health Association concerns itself with matters of gun violence and violence and injury prevention.
If you’re interested in substance abuse and addiction, public health matters like prescription drug overdose, tobacco and substance misuse may be meaningful fields of work in biostatistics. Matters of mental health and suicide also fit under modern classifications of public health. If you’re interested in social and sociological issues, you might enjoy biostatistical research in areas like immigrant health, racism and health and social determinants of health.
Even housing, community design, preparedness and matters of healthy housing are aspects of public health that biostatisticians may research.