Graduate Statistician Webinar

Experience of a Graduate Statistician in the pharmaceutical industry

Statistician Thomas Brown presents his experience as a Graduate Statistician in the Pharmaceutical industry.

Webinar Content:

Tom gives us some insight on his background and how he became a statistician.

He delves into the day to day tasks he carries out as a statistician at Veramed, and examines the differences between the role of the statistician and the statistical programmer.

Tom received some thought-provoking questions throughout the session, which we have outlined below along with Tom’s answers. If you have any further questions about becoming a statistician in the pharmaceutical industry, please don’t hesitate to email

Graduate Statistician Webinar Recording


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Is a PhD needed to progress as a Principal Statistician?

Undertaking a PhD is a pursuit for statisticians who have a desire to enhance their technical and theoretical knowledge within a specific field. The skills developed in such a degree have value for statisticians who want to pursue more technical activities in their career. However, what is more critical in regard to career progression are your own abilities and how you apply them in a pharmaceutical environment. I know many statisticians at the principal level and above without a PhD and what got them there was not their degree but their own competency in the workplace environment.

What is the best way to learn about the industry to impress at an interview?

One of the single most valuable things one can do at an interview when making the leap into the pharmaceutical industry is to learn as much as they can about the company they are interviewing for. Understanding how the organisation fits in with the wider pharmaceutical industry and the company’s own goals and pursuits is a great start. Additionally, showing a drive and true passion for clinical trials and pharmaceutical development will always make a fantastic impression on interviewers.

Could you describe the career progression process working in the pharmaceutical industry?

There are many different routes for career progression in the pharmaceutical industry and you have the ability to direct your career in the way you want to based on your own interests. While most statisticians typically join assisting on clinical trial design and analysis, as you gain more experience you may follow a more technical route in trial design or get further involved in the day to day study activities and eventually lead the biometric aspects for such studies. Additionally, more project management and programming roles are available to statisticians who show a genuine interest in these fields.

What are the most complex procedures on SAS you have used as a programmer?

While I have done some complex modelling using PROC MI and PROC MIXED, it can be argued that the more complex procedures in SAS involve how you design your program. Developing a flexible program that works in multiple scenarios and is efficient is perhaps one of the most challenging but rewarding aspects in program development.

The statistical programmers that I am working with in my company do not have a statistical background. Is that different in your company?

It is not necessary for a statistical programmer to have a statistical background. Inevitably a programmer will gain a knowledge and awareness of statistical concepts as they gain experience but the most valuable skills as a programmer can come from having a logical and systematic mind-set.

What is your favourite therapeutic area?

I have worked in the industry for 6 months and given this, only been involved in a single therapeutic area. The statistical methods you apply in studies are highly dependent on the therapeutic area you are working on. I have been mostly involved in phase II studies and can say with a great deal of confidence that they have been incredibly enjoyable to work on. Trying to resolve all the uncertainty around a compound in early development has given myself a strong sense of purpose working as a Veramed Statistician.

Are the roles of statisticians and statistical programmers are so clearly distinct?

The two roles of statistician and statistical programmer are typically quite separate, however, at some companies and in some scenarios, there may be an amount of overlap between these roles. This is particularly applicable when statisticians pursue interests in the programming aspects of a study they are involved in.

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