A person considering earning a degree in information science, health informatics, public health or a related field of expertise may wonder, “What is a health data scientist?” A person who works in this profession would collect and analyze information about human health. They would use that information for research, planning and administrative purposes and present it to others in a way that a non-scientist can understand.
Related resource: Top 20 Health Data Science Degrees
What a Health Data Scientist Is
A health data scientist is a professional who collects, organizes and analyzes information about human health with the purpose of solving real-world problems. For example, a health data scientist might be working on a project with a goal of lowering the rate of myocardial infarction in Hispanic males between the ages of 40 and 60 by 20 percent over a 10-year period of time. In order to do this, they need to analyze the risk factors in the target population and track the effectiveness of possible solutions, such as exercise, cholesterol-lowering medications, blood pressure-lowering drugs, eating a healthy diet and reducing stress.
Types of Health Data Scientists
There are several types of health data scientists. Some are classified as epidemiologists. An epidemiologist studies the patterns and causes of human diseases, illnesses, and injuries. A health data scientist could also be classified as a biostatistician. This is a sub-specialty of statistics that involves the analysis of health information. Other health data scientists might be classified as medical scientists if they see patients or personally collect health data.
What a Health Data Scientist Does
Health data scientists spend a lot of their time using computers in order to clean, organize and analyze health data. Some of these professionals might design and conduct surveys that capture the data. Once they have the data prepared, they determine the best tool for analyzing it. Some health data scientists may interview patients or participants in a research study. They may also observe people in order to collect health data. In some cases, health data scientists work closely with laboratory professionals. They might analyze the laboratory data that comes from testing blood or tissue samples collected from patients with specific health conditions.
How to Become a Health Data Scientist
A person who wants to become a health data scientist will need to earn at least a master’s degree. For the epidemiology track, the Bureau of Labor Statistics explains that a master’s in public health is the most common degree. A doctorate in public health is another option. Health data scientists might also earn a master’s or doctorate degree in statistics, health informatics or mathematics. Some health data scientists may earn a medical degree and take additional classes in statistics and research methods. Many health data scientists have two or more degrees, such as a medical degree and a master’s in public health.
Jobs for health data scientists are growing at a faster rate than average, with the BLS predicting a 31 percent rate in growth for jobs as statisticians between May 2018 and May 2028. A person who is interested in math, health and science should consider a career as a health data scientist. Knowing the answer to, “What is a health data scientist?” could help a person select a college major that will facilitate entry into this profession.