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Today, the healthcare industry is being flooded with data from sources such as clinical trials, observational and longitudinal studies, and genomics. This deluge has created unprecedented demand for biostatisticians skilled in the art of informatics, which can be described as: translating the flow of data into meaningful information that can be used to make logical public health decisions. Professionals in this emerging field, also known as "bioinformatics", rely on expertise in such disciplines as computer science, mathematics, probability and statistics, and social and behavioral science to build a sound, statistical foundation for cutting edge medical research that advances improvements in public health.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
For many entry-level positions in the biostatistics and informatics field, a bachelor's degree in biology, statistics, or one with a strong math background often suffice, though the more courses you take in areas related to this career, the better your chances are of finding a job. Where you wish to work in this field will determine the type of degree you earn.
For many clinical, academic, and governmental research positions, a master's degree is the minimum requirement, while those who wish to teach or develop new research methodologies often earn a doctorate degree. Many universities offer interdisciplinary programs that may include study in computer science, engineering, biology, genetics, mathematics and medicine.
Many opportunities in biostatistics and informatics require previous experience working with researchers, analysts, technical staff and end users in health care fields. Fortunately, many fellowship and internship opportunities are available that enable students to gain valuable laboratory skills, research experience, and course credit while working with experienced scientists.
Employers tend to look for experience in the following areas:
No certification or license is required to practice biostatistics and informatics. However, many schools of public health at leading institutions offer online certificate programs, such as the one at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in health informatics and public health informatics. These programs are designed to give current and aspiring health care professionals functional knowledge about informatics principles, methods, and applications.
Systems Analysts write and troubleshoot the software tools used by analysts, researchers, clinics, and hospitals. Some conduct their own research in pharmaceuticals, medical technology, biotechnology, and biology and medical informatics. They also design databases and develop algorithms for processing and analyzing biological information.
A deep understanding of algorithms and data structures, software engineering, and high performance computing is required. The best preparation for this path could be a computer science degree with a focus on bioinformatics and scientific computing, along with a master's in statistics.
These professionals study a blend of applied statistics and biology in order to forecast and analyze clinical trials and research health-related data. Biostatisticians also work with government agencies and legislative offices, using research to influence change at the policy making level.
Most statisticians major in math or biology during their undergraduate years, and then move into a biostatistics degree program in graduate school. The majority of government agency employers require that applicants have a master's degree or higher.
Database administrators manage information for companies by identifying the best ways to organize, store and present data according to user needs. Career opportunities are growing as health care institutions manage increasingly large amounts of data and businesses face security threats from cyber attacks. Most database administrators begin their careers with a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field, although certain positions may require an MBA with an information technology specification.
In addition to strong technical skills and good organizational capabilities, communication skills and the ability to work both in a team environment and independently are essential. Other key attributes include excellent multi-tasking and problem-solving skills and acute attention to detail.
Student interns are given a chance to participate in biomedical research and analysis during this summer program. They are also enrolled in the National Institutes of Health's seminars presented by top researchers.
Eligibility: High school and college students who are at least 16 years old and enrolled in school half-time may apply for this program.
Terms of Service: The minimum time commitment is eight weeks, 40 hours a week, and students work with supervisors upon acceptance to determine start and end dates.
Deadline: March 1
Undergraduate and graduate students are given an opportunity to participate in analyzing projects at the Mayo Clinic under the direction of experienced statisticians and bioinformaticians during this summer internship program.
Eligibility: Open to undergraduates who are rising seniors working toward a statistics or math degree and graduate student pursuing master's or doctorate degrees in statistics or bioinformatics.
Terms of Service: Student internships last a minimum of ten weeks; longer positions may be available. The Mayo Clinic helps interns find temporary housing, sponsors recreational events, and provides interns with an opportunity to make professional and personal connections.
This summer internship program gives undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct their own research in genetics, immuniobiology, cellular biology, and other such interests, while working with groups and mentors.
Eligibility: Third or fourth year undergraduate students studying molecular biology, bioinformatics, or a related field may apply.
Terms of Service: Internships last for 8 to 12 weeks between May and September.
Open to students from high school to grad school and teachers, these internships allow individuals to dive into areas such as bioinformatics, software engineering, and high-throughput genomic sequencing.
Eligibility: All applicants must be eligible to work in the U.S. High school students should be at least 16 years old; undergraduate and graduate students must be enrolled full time and maintain a B average; teachers are required to show proof of employment for the upcoming school year.
Terms of Service: The summer program is full-time, and interns are expected to work 40 hours per week, while the semester program is part-time, and interns should not work more than 20 hours per week for 12 weeks.
Deadline: Semester Program – August 31
Open to underrepresented undergraduate students pursuing careers in genome research, these internships offer a unique opportunity to aid in projects funded by the National Human Genome Institute.
Eligibility: Undergraduate students enrolled in a four-year college or university, who are members of an underrepresented minority group; see site for full list.
Terms of Service: Interns must plan to work 40 hours per week of their 10-week internships