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MPH vs MS/MA/PhD in Biostatistics, Clinical Research


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I'm considering a career in biostats but I don't really know what the different possible jobs are and/or what degree would be apporpriate. My BS degree is in chemistry and I have a fair amount of research experience--not as much math experience as I'm sure would be ideal, but I'm not bad at or afraid of it. I'm currently a clinical research coordinator. I'd like to stay in the clinical research field but I'd really like to get into the data analysis side -- something that actually uses my brain and isn't purely administrative paperwork. Hence biostats seems like a good fit. I've done a little bit of statistics in the form of databases and SQL, and I took one biological statistics class in college (class of 2011 so not too long ago). I got A's in Calculus 1,2 and 3, but did not take differential equations or linear algebra.


I like the idea of an MPH because it is still health focused and could be better for someone like me without a super heavy math background. It's also very nice that there are a handful of purely online MPH programs that I could do while still working full time. But can I actually get a biostatistician job with that kind of background? Or do any sort of data analysis for clinical trials? I don't think I'm really interested in being a public health administrator, I'd really prefer to keep doing research of some kind. If I do go the MPH route, does it matter if I do a program that has an explicit emphasis on biostats, or would it be OK as long as I took classes in biostats? What about an epidemiology emphasis?


Financially it doesn't seem worth it for me to quit my job and go into debt to get a masters -- so an MA/MS in biostats is out. But there are some online MS in stats programs I'm considering, does anybody have any experience with those? I would need a couple pre-reqs, and it would probably be more rigorous, but I'd be glad to start using my brain again (seriously my current job is 100% paperwork, no thinking required).


Or there's always the option to jump into a PhD (not right away but in a year or two once I've taken the prereqs and confirmed that's what I want), which would be fully funded and prepare me for the highest level of careers. But It's such a long commitment, and doesn't seem to pay significantly more than the masters level jobs I've seen. Would a PhD be worth it if I don't want a faculty position in academia and I don't necessarily care about ascending to the tippy-top? Don't get me wrong, I definitely want to be able to move up to a senior level position, just not necessarily a director position.



I hope all of this made sense, I really appreciate any input/advice anyone might have. Thanks for reading this!


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Someone just showed me there are a couple 1-year Master of Applied Statistics online programs -- that sounds great to me for obvious reasons, but would that be of any use in obtaining a biostats job?


Thanks again!

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  • 1 month later...

Hi sarabeth,


I will be starting (if all goes well!) an MS in Epi/Biostats programs this summer, I got interested in this field for very similar reasons - i was working as a research study coordinator and wanted to get more on the data analysis side rather than just doing administrative-type work. I'm fairly new to this so I can't answer a lot of your questions, but I do know that with the degree I'll be getting I will be able to do work as a stats analyst. When I was researching schools, I also found that MPH programs with a concentration in Biostats would provide a very similar training to the type I'd be getting and with similar career options. But, maybe others can better speak to how true this is or not.


Mainly, though, what i wanted to suggest is that with your background, and depending on how much flexibility you have, you could probably find a job as a clinic research coordinator at a university where you could get tuition reimburesment as a staff member for your MS. Depending on where you work now, the pay at a university might be less but the upside is that you get a good chunk of your Masters's degree paid for. That's how I was able to cover the pre-req classes that i took to be able to apply to this program. I also had the option to do this program part-time while I worked full-time, but unfortunately for me, the grant on the study I was on ended and I also decided that I'd rather finish the MS sooner rather than later so I opted to do the degree full-time. I know it's easier said than done, but just wanted to let you know that you have options if you still want to consider an MS or MPH while working full-time and not go the online route.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think there is difference between biostatistician and data analyst. One probably does not need to be a biostatistician to get into the data analysis side. Of course, that's my personal thought.

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