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Biostatistician vs. Epidemiologist: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Biostatisticians and epidemiologists are both professionals who use data to improve public health. They may collect data, design studies, analyze data or all of the above. While their goals are similar, these two positions have different focus areas and responsibilities. In this article, we compare and contrast biostatisticians and epidemiologists, and we provide information on what you can do with each degree.

What is a Biostatistician?

Biostatisticians use math and statistics to design experiments, analyze data and solve problems in the life sciences. They work in fields such as public health, epidemiology and clinical research to collect and interpret data that can be used to improve patient care, develop new treatments and prevent disease. Biostatisticians develop study designs, collect and analyze data, and interpret results. They may also develop new statistical methods, software or database systems. Biostatisticians typically have a bachelor’s degree in statistics, math or a related field, and many have a master’s degree or doctorate.

What is an Epidemiologist?

Epidemiologists investigate patterns and causes of human diseases. They collect and analyze data to find the source of outbreaks and develop ways to prevent them. They also develop plans to control and treat infectious diseases. Epidemiologists typically work in government agencies, hospitals, research laboratories or pharmaceutical companies. They may also work in academia, teaching at colleges and universities. Epidemiologists typically have a background in medicine, biology or a related field. They must be able to effectively communicate their findings to other scientists, policy makers and the general public.

Biostatistician vs. Epidemiologist

Here are the main differences between a biostatistician and an epidemiologist.

Job Duties

One of the major differences between these two healthcare professionals is the type of work they perform. Biostatisticians use their expertise to analyze data and develop methods for improving healthcare systems. They may conduct research to identify patterns in certain diseases or conditions and determine how best to treat them.

Epidemiologists investigate disease outbreaks to help control them and prevent further spread. They collect information about patients, such as where they live and what symptoms they have, and pass this information along to biostatisticians for analysis. Together, these professionals can determine the best course of action to take to minimize the impact of an outbreak.

Job Requirements

Biostatisticians and epidemiologists typically need at least a master’s degree to enter the field. Some jobs may require a doctorate degree as well. Epidemiologists often study public health, biology or another related field, while biostatisticians might study mathematics, statistics or computer science. Many professionals in these fields also pursue additional certifications to show employers they have the skills needed to succeed on the job. The American Statistical Association (ASA) offers a Certified Professional Statistician (CPS) credential for those who want to work as biostatisticians. The American College of Epidemiology (ACE) provides certification for epidemiologists as well.

Work Environment

Both biostatisticians and epidemiologists work in a variety of environments, depending on the needs of their employer. For example, an epidemiologist might work for a government agency or healthcare organization to help them identify and address public health concerns. Alternatively, they may also work as consultants for private companies that want to ensure their products are safe for consumers.

In contrast, biostatisticians often work in research laboratories where they can perform experiments and analyze data. They may also work in hospitals or other medical facilities to provide support to doctors and nurses.


Both biostatisticians and epidemiologists use data analysis skills to examine relationships between different factors, such as health outcomes and environmental exposures. They also both develop study designs to collect data that can be used to answer research questions.

Biostatisticians typically use more complex statistical methods to analyze data, while epidemiologists often use simpler methods. Biostatisticians also tend to work with larger data sets than epidemiologists. Both professionals need to have strong critical thinking skills to interpret their findings and communicate them to others.

Epidemiologists typically need to have strong writing skills to prepare reports of their findings, while biostatisticians may not need to write as much. Epidemiologists also need to have strong interpersonal skills to interact with people who participate in their studies.


Biostatisticians can earn an average salary of $107,125 per year, while epidemiologists can earn an average salary of $87,048 per year. Both of these average salaries may vary depending on the size of the company at which you work, location of your job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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