Biostatisticians apply statistics to health related fields. They consult with other researchers to design studies for answering health questions.

They may study how serious a certain disease is, or how effective a treatment method or medicine is. They may provide information about the progress of a disease, and estimate the cost and quality of the health care given to patients. Often, they analyse the information collected by their research, and use this to design health policies and help insurance companies to make good business decisions. A career in biostatistics is challenging and helps to solve the health problems in our country.

In more detail, biostatisticians design surveys to assess health issues, plan or direct research studies related to the life sciences, determine project plans, timelines or technical objectives for the statistical aspects of biological research studies, write program code to analyse data using statistical analysis software, develop or implement data analysis algorithms and apply research or simulation results to extend biological theory or recommend new research projects.  Work is assigned to biostatistical assistants or programmers.  The clinical trials or experiments need to be carefully monitored to ensure that they adhere to established procedures or to verify the quality of the data collected. Data is also collected through surveys or experimentation.  Tables and graphs are prepared to present the clinical data or results, and data bases of biological data designed or maintained.

They prepare articles for publication or presentation at professional conferences, and need to keep up-to-date with current literature, attend meetings and conferences, and consult with colleagues to keep abreast of methodological or conceptual developments in fields such as biostatistics, pharmacology, life sciences and social sciences. Many teach graduate or continuing education courses n biostatistics. They may be required to analyse archival data such as birth, death and disease records during their research.

To summarise, biostatisticians use their knowledge of research methods to help plan, choose and carry out the study needed to answer the questions at hand. They analyse the results of the study and may also use their expertise to design new ways of doing research.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to Study

Degree: Biostatisticians study a BSc degree related to Biostatistics. They usually study at university, as not many universities of technology offer qualifications related to biostatistics. Biostatisticians working in the field are BSc graduates who have majored in Applied Maths, Maths or Statistics. The BSc degree qualifies graduates for entry-level positions and positions doing basic research work at universities and research organisations. UFS offers a course in Biostatistics.

Postgraduate: After completing a BSc degree related to biostatistics, advanced post-graduate study is required before graduates can apply for lecturing jobs at universities or positions in research and administration.


  • market research institutes and companies

  • hospitals and other health care facilities

  • medical research institutes

  • universities

  • Central Statistical Service

  • municipalities, government departments and international organisations

  • fields of veterinary medicine, botany or wildlife research.

  • in research into sports medicine, environmental health, pharmaceuticals, health surveys and genetics

There are many new fields involving biostatistics, such as statistical genetics and medical imaging, creating new job opportunities for biostatisticians.

Further Information

South African Medical Research Council
P O Box 19070
Tygerberg, 7505
Tel: (021) 938-0911 Fax: (021) 938-0200

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation work with a biostatistician

  • make an appointment to speak to a biostatistician about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions