MS in Biostatistics


The goal of the MS program is to train students in the basic theory and applications of statistical methods, as applied to problems in the biomedical sciences. The program typically consists of two years of full-time study, including the successful completion of a written exam and the preparation of a Master's thesis. Requirements include courses in probability, mathematical statistics, and statistical methods including discrete data analysis, linear models, multivariate methods, survival analysis, statistical computing, and applied data analysis. All students take a course in epidemiology.

Academic Advisor

Each incoming MS student is assigned an academic advisor who serves as the student's primary mentor during the program, advising in course selection and related academic matters. An attempt is made to assign advisors to students with similar backgrounds and interests, although a student may petition the Director of Graduate Studies at any time to request a change of academic advisor.

Course Requirements

The standard requirements for a two-year MS degree include 12 units of course credit, passing the written qualifying exam, and completing a Master's thesis. The MS in Biostatistics typically requires four semesters of study. A total of 10 credits of coursework are required for all MS students as follows. The additional two units consist of elective courses and the consulting requirement (see below).

Courses designated with an * are considered "core" courses for the MS degree and are covered on the written qualifying examination.


BSTA 630 Methods I (1.0 course unit)*
BSTA 631 Methods II (1.0 course unit)*
BSTA 651 Introduction to Linear Models and Generalized Linear Models (1.0 course unit)*
BSTA 652 Categorical Data Analysis (1.0 course unit)*
BSTA 653 Survival Analysis (1.0 course unit)*
BSTA 656 Longitudinal Data Analysis (1.0 course unit)
BSTA 659 Design of Biomedical Studies (1.0 course unit)


BSTA 620/STAT 510 Probability I (1.0 course unit)*
BSTA 621/STAT 512 Statistical Inference I (1.0 course unit)*


BSTA 510 Introduction to Human Health and Diseases (0.5 course unit)
BSTA 509 Introductory Epidemiology (0.5 course unit)*

General Examination

MS students must pass a written qualifying examination covering material in the core courses (designated with an * in the course listing). This exam is offered each year after the fall semester in conjunction with the Qualifications Evaluation Examination for the PhD MS students typically take this exam after completing the third semester of coursework.

Elective Courses

Up to two additional credits may be chosen from a number of advanced courses in Biostatistics and related topics offered at the University. A partial listing of these is provided in the PhD course section.

Consulting Requirement and MS Thesis

All MS students are required to participate in the Biostatistics Consulting Laboratory. In addition, each MS student must complete a Master's thesis, which typically involves conducting and reporting a comprehensive data analysis. The consulting laboratory will provide the basis for the MS thesis for most students. The consulting laboratory may be taken in either the fall or spring semester.

Part-Time Students

Although full-time study is the ideal, it is recognized that some students will attend part-time due to financial or other constraints. Part-time students are welcome in the MS program. However, because the training program requires that a number of courses be taken in sequence, completion of all required courses on a part-time basis may take more than four years. Part-time students should work with their academic advisors to develop an appropriate and efficient program of study.

Transfer of Credit

The University requires that at least eight course units (typically one year) of the total program be completed while enrolled in a graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania. Moreover, the University allows transfer credit of a maximum of eight course units. Because the MS program requires only 12 total course units, no more than four may be satisfied by transfer credit. All transfers of credit must be approved by the Director of the Biostatistics Graduate Program.

Academic Program Proposals and Approvals

At the beginning of each academic year, each student, in collaboration with his/her advisor, will prepare a proposal for the academic program including courses to be taken, courses to be transferred, and timelines for examinations and thesis preparation.
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