Chrystia Freeland, Managing Editor, Financial Times, speaking on CNN "Your Money" 11/29/2009: I have a new area to throw into the mix which you might all sigh about but I was talking to some senior Silicon Valley executives and they said that they most wanted their kids to grow up to be was - hold your breath - statisticians. They think that is where the jobs of the future will be. Because one of the things that technology has done is allowed us to collect vast amounts of data in almost every business. The people who are able to in a sophisticated and practical way analyze that data are going to have terrific jobs.

That's what you learn in our program: how to analyze data in a sophisticated and practical way.

What is Biostatistics?

In the popular press, Statistics as a profession is often associated with the collection of myriad obscure numerical facts. Actually, Statistics is a collection of ways to think about, measure, and understand our world. Statistics as a profession involves many tasks:

  1. Framing of questions to be answered by collecting data.
  2. Summarizing the current state of knowledge. (ie What do you know, and how well do you know it?)
  3. Design of how relevant data might be collected.
  4. Summarization of data.
  5. Analysis of data.
  6. Drawing of conclusions from data.
  7. Presentation of conclusions.

There are considerable challenges and opportunities for creativity in all of these tasks. Biostatistics is statistics with emphasis on problems from Public Health, Public Policy, Medicine, and Biology.

With a background as a Biostatistician, students are prepared to work

  1. With scientists and doctors, helping to advance scientific and medical knowledge;
  2. Helping businesses compete in the marketplace by developing and marketing new products, and by tracking consumer trends, attitudes and purchases; and
  3. Helping government in developing and enforcing laws, tracking economic and governmental activity, regulating business, monitoring health, and collecting information.

Statisticians work in every part of business, government and science. Because there is a lack of Statisticians and statistically trained people in most areas, many fields have invented or reinvented statistical methodologies or developed sub-fields of statistical trained people. Examples include:

  1. Econometrics (Economics),
  2. Psychometrics (Psychology),
  3. Education (Educational statistics),
  4. Actuarial science (Insurance),
  5. Geostatistics (Geology),
  6. Quality control (Business),
  7. Neural nets, machine learning, fuzzy logic, support vector machines, data mining, artificial intelligence and Bayesian networks (Computer Science and Engineering),
  8. Biostatistics (Public Health), and
  9. Forest Biometrics (Forestry).

Other disciplines or professions where substantial knowledge of statistics can give an employee a significant competitive advantage are

  1. marketing,
  2. finance,
  3. accounting,
  4. product development,
  5. polling,
  6. medicine,
  7. law,
  8. public health,
  9. public policy,
  10. business,
  11. politics,
  12. engineering and
  13. journalism.

Numerous industries and specialties have heavy concentrations of Statisticians and statistically trained people.

  1. Internet companies,
  2. Business forecasting,
  3. Polling,
  4. Quality control,
  5. Pharmaceutical firms,
  6. Biotech companies,
  7. Health services,
  8. Epidemiology,
  9. Actuarial science,
  10. Biotechnology and
  11. Marketing

are examples of some disciplines with concentrations of Statisticians and where lots of Statistical analysis takes place. Governmental organizations like:

  1. The Census Bureau,
  2. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS),
  3. The Food and Drug Administration,
  4. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and
  5. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),

are a few of the places where many Statisticians are employed.

The job of Statistician routinely rates as one of the best jobs according to several widely distributed job rankings. The rankings often rate Actuary and Statistician as number one and two. Some of the possible reasons for this may be because

  1. Statistics does not involve heavy lifting.
  2. It is indoors (out of the weather).
  3. Statistics pays well.
  4. Statistical skills can still be used in alternate professions, should your current industry/company/job be down-sized.
  5. It is a rewarding profession for those who are mathematically able and interested in research.
  6. And most important: it involves using your head and your creativity. Your job need not become boring.

The undergraduate majors of people getting MS degrees in Biostatistics or Statistics is amazingly broad. Popular undergraduate majors include but are not limited to Education, Biology, Biochemistry, Psychology, Chemistry, Physics, Business, Mathematics, Economics, Journalism, Engineering and Sociology.

Perhaps not everyone can become a Statistician. The Masters program in Biostatistics at UCLA, for example, has prerequisites of two years of college level mathematics. UCLA courses Math 31AB, 32AB, 33AB satisfy these requirements. Additionally, computing experience of some sort and background such as provided by an elementary statistics course is very helpful. Although not required for admission, experience working on research projects is definitely helpful to Statisticians and is encouraged for people interested in our field.

More information on the Biostatistics program at UCLA can be gotten from our web site UCLA Biostatistics Home Page

Written by Robert Weiss UCLA Department of Biostatistics

Admissions information about Biostatistics. For more information about the UCLA Biostatistics Graduate program, please send email to us at

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