Biostatistics training outside of school
September 6, 2012 8:40 AM   Subscribe

What after bio-statistics software experience is most attractive to future employers?

I have a Ph.D. in immunology with 15 years of research experience in academia and industry. My current position is as a Senior Scientist in microbiology for a private company. The shift to micro from immune wasn’t difficult, as it is more my experience in study design, data analysis and biotechnology that are useful in this position. The job is a contract (temporary) position. I have just passed my one year mark, so I have one more year guaranteed with this company. I am hopeful that they will offer me a permanent position but it’s highly dependent on the contracts awarded, if any, this year(we do government work mainly). The city I live in has very little in the way of positions available to someone with my background other than at one university in town. I have no desire to go back to the university mainly because the positions pay significantly less than what I am earning now and would likely earn as a project manager at another company. The challenge I face is the my background is rather specialized, and unfortunately I never took the time to learn much about biostatistics. I managed to learn enough statistics to get by and have published several field-based studies, but I never formally learned the more cutting edge statistical software and analysis that would make me more appealing as an analyst. My question is, what statistical software should I learn that would be most attractive to a future prospective employer (insurance industry, for example) who has an interest in hiring someone with a research background and able to perform intermediate statistics. I have experience with StatView, which is now obsolete. I would like to train myself through online courses and not attend a college course. I am guessing SAS, but I really don’t have a clue.
posted by waving to Education (5 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
SAS - absolutely hands down. It's an industry standard.

Many biotech parent companies actually use homegrown systems, so it would be ridiculously helpful to have a strong knowledge of different platforms - Oracle, Medidata, etc.
posted by floweredfish at 8:45 AM on September 6, 2012


In addition to a huge wealth of resources that you'll find on University web pages with a bit of Googling, Stata offers pretty good crash courses that last ~2-3 days, and are quite effective (or so I hear from colleagues; I haven't been to one, since I got Stata training in methods courses).

Here's a pretty good resource for learning about Stata.

You should also use the above link to learn about R, which is also very attractive to employers that expect employees to do lots of number crunching.
posted by BrandonW at 8:48 AM on September 6, 2012

I'm not sure where you're looking to work--you talk about academia and then biology but subsequently mention insurance.

If you're looking to work in the insurance industry, I can tell you that some of the actuaries I know use a combination of R and Excel.

The best way to get a handle on what the insurance industry uses is to determine what aspect of the insurance industry you're looking to work for (it's a vast industry) and set up informational meetings with people who work in that area and ask them what statistics packages they use.
posted by dfriedman at 8:49 AM on September 6, 2012

I've used SPSS, Stata and R for epidemiology/biostatistics and by far and away the easiest & fastest to use for me was Stata. I was able to get a decent grip on it after a week or so of self-teaching. As much as I hate it, Excel would probably be the most transferable out of research, though, such as in the financial industry, judging from my friends in the consulting/banking sectors.
posted by pikeandshield at 9:04 AM on September 6, 2012

Response by poster: This was super helpful, thanks so much.
posted by waving at 10:28 AM on September 6, 2012

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