Case study

Biostatistician — Emma

After doing a Masters degree in medical statistics, Emma moved into a role as a biostatistician. Find out her top tips for breaking into a career in this field

How did you get your job?

I did a BSc in mathematics with an industrial placement at the University of Greenwich, followed by the MSc Medical Statistics at the London School of Tropical Medicine.

I then worked for a small contract research organisation (CRO) for two years before getting my current job as a biostatistician at PAREXEL, a global provider of biopharmaceutical services, via LinkedIn.

How relevant is your degree?

My degree is very relevant to my job. Most pharmaceutical companies and CROs require at least an MSc in statistics to work as a statistician.

I chose to specialise in medical statistics as I knew I wanted to work in the pharmaceutical industry after completing my industrial placement year, so this gave me specialist training in statistics used in this industry.

What's a typical day like?

At PAREXEL, we conduct clinical trials on behalf of our clients in order to advance the approval process for a range of new drugs. I'm the lead biostatistician on two clinical studies and a typical working day involves overseeing the biostatistics and programming activities on these studies, attending meetings and sending emails to other team members and to pharmaceutical clients.

As I work in a multifunctional team, not everyone is familiar with statistics, so part of my job is to coach others and to interpret the results of any statistical analyses in a way that is understandable to colleagues without any statistics knowledge.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy knowing that the work I'm doing will hopefully one day make a difference in someone's life by helping get a drug to market.

What are the challenges?

A client can request complex statistical analyses to be performed that I may not yet have experience with. This means I have to do research and look into methodologies so I can deliver the required information to the client.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

I hope to be a senior statistician, leading more clinical studies. I also wish to be seen as a statistical expert, so I can provide input into more complex statistical issues.

Any advice for others thinking of becoming a statistician?

  • Do a placement year or summer placement. Before my placement I had no idea what I wanted to do after my BSc. My placement year opened my eyes to an industry I hadn't heard of before and inspired me to pursue it further.
  • Get on LinkedIn and build your network. I put a lot of effort into keeping my profile up to date and building my professional network by attending events. This allowed recruiters to find me and makes job searching a lot easier.
  • Join an industry society. I've been a member of both the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) and Statisticians in the Pharmaceutical Industry (PSI) since I was a student, and they've been great additions to my CV. It shows you're interested in being an active member of the wider statistics community.

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