FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Application Process

Curriculum

 

 

General Questions

What is biostatistics?

Biostatistics is the application of statistics to biological and medical questions. Biostatistics uses much the same core sets of concepts and principles as does applied statistics in general. The substance-matter knowledge that the biostatistician must learn in order to be successful is biomedical.

Biostatistics underlies the process of medical research, playing a key role in each step of scientific inquiry from the research bench to the hospital bedside to the community. Biostatistics is concerned with the development and proper application of methods for study design, data measurement, data generation, and data analysis, these latter methods being used to help understand biomedical data by quantifying variation and/or separating signal from noise.  An intellectually stimulating feature of biostatistics is that its fundamental elements of data and variation are ubiquitous, being found in the areas of cell regulation, gene expression, genetic susceptibility, pharmacokinetics, response to therapy, assessment of medical treatments and new technology, adherence to guidelines, and program evaluation, to name just a few. 
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What makes Duke's Master of Biostatistics Program different from other programs?

As background, the overall program goal is to train biostatisticians with the set of skills that are particularly valued by employers, and thus enable them to rapidly advance in careers that support biomedical research. From our experience as practicing biostatisticians, plus numerous interviews with those that employ and collaborate with biostatisticians, we have determined that successful biostatisticians must possess analytical skillsbiological knowledge, and communication skills.

Analytical skills include knowing which statistical analyses to perform, being able to run software to perform those analyses, and being able to interpret the results. Analytical skills also include the ability to identify non-standard applications of statistics, and to choose a reasonable path forward when such applications are encountered.

Biological knowledge allows biostatisticians to better understand the scientific context of the problems being studied. The best biostatisticians are always curious to learn more about what is being studied.

Communication skills allow biostatisticians to interact fruitfully with clinicians, basic scientists, and other collaborators. Employers often point to communication skills as one of the most important factors in determining how fast biostatisticians advance in their careers.

With this in mind, there are three things that are particularly unique about our program:

  1. Our program will focus in developing excellence in all three of the core skills that are essential for success.
  2. Our program is located within a world-class biomedical institution that not only trains, but also hires and provides role models for aspiring biostatisticians. Indeed, employment prospects for biostatisticians within Duke are usually excellent.
  3. Consistent with the latest research on effective teaching, we believe in providing a practice-based learning environment, whereby students practice new skills as a complement to the didactic material. Graduates will leave the program with a portfolio that demonstrates their mastery of the three core skills for success in biostatistics.

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What types of career opportunities are available to a Master of Biostatistics degree holder?

Masters-trained biostatisticians are in great demand in academia, industry, and government. The responsibilities of biostatisticians span the entire scientific process.  They assist in the design and interpretation of studies, and usually have primary responsibility for implementing protocols for data management, data analysis, and quality assurance. 

More generally, the increasingly complex, interdisciplinary, and data-intensive nature of medical research has caused, and will continue to cause, the demand for persons trained in biostatistics to increase. The supply of biostatisticians is currently inadequate, and is not rising quickly enough to keep pace with demand. The imbalance between supply and demand is particularly acute for outstanding biostatisticians that combine excellent quantitative training with the communication skills necessary to succeed in the medical environment.
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What is the Master of Biostatistics Program?

Duke's Master of Biostatistics Program is a two-year degree program that seeks to provide mentored academic training in the three fundamental competencies required for effective biostatistical practice: analytical skills, biological knowledge, and communication. Designed to be practical and applied, the program offers formal courses in statistical theory with programming and analytical methods integrated with experiential learning opportunities in authentic ongoing research. To learn more about the program, please review the Program Details.
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I did not major in mathematics or biology. Can I still apply?

Absolutely. While more experience and training is, by definition, better than less, it is also true that many excellent biostatisticians have entered our field through an indirect path. What is absolutely essential is a facility with mathematical concepts and an interest in biology and health.
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Application Process

How do I apply to the Master of Biostatistics Program?

All applications for admission to the Master of Biostatistics Program, whether for degree or non-degree study, should be submitted by the application deadline through the online program application. In addition to the program application, program applicants must also submit: a $75 non-refundable application fee, satisfactory scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) taken within the last five years, official electronic transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended, and three letters of recommendation. For more detailed instructions and information about how to apply, please review the information featured under the Prospective Students section of this website.
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How do I obtain a paper copy of the Program Application?

We do not use paper applications.  Please use only the online program application.  
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What is the Duke University institution code for GRE and TOEFL scores?

The Duke institution code for GRE and TOEFL scores is 5156. A department code is not needed.
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Can my application be reviewed before my recommenders submit their recommendation letters?

While Applications can be reviewed, they will not be considered complete until all Application Materials are received by the Department. Admission to the Program will not be offered to a qualified candidate until their Application is complete.
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I am an international applicant. Am I required to submit additional application materials?

As much of your success in graduate study in the United States will rest on your ability to understand, read, write, and speak English, applicants whose first language is not English must also submit official scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Test scores must not be more than two years old. An official copy must be sent to Duke University (institution code 5156). A department code is not needed. Personal copies are not acceptable, nor are “attested” or notarized copies. The department receives TOEFL scores electronically from the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

In lieu of the TOEFL, applicants may submit their scores for another English language proficiency test, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test.
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I am an international applicant who has studied in an English speaking institution. Do I still need to submit TOEFL scores?

Students who have studied in an English speaking institution for at least two fullyears at the time of application are not required to submit a TOEFL score. However, please note that an interview may be requested prior to a final admissions decision. If recommended by the Admissions Committee, this interview may be in person, through a video conference, or an internet video communication platform such as Skype.
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What mailing address should I use to send application materials?

Please do not send any material via mail unless we request that you do so.  If we request that you send some materials via mail, then use the following addresses:

If using the United States Postal Service, please mail materials to:
Master of Biostatistics Program
Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics
DUMC Box 2734
Durham, NC 27710

If using FedEx, UPS, DHL, or any other courier service that will not deliver to a P.O. Box, please mail application materials to:
Master of Biostatistics Program
Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics
Hock Plaza, Suite 1104
2424 Erwin Road
Durham, NC 27705-3860
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Curriculum

Are there any required courses for the Master of Biostatistics Program?

Seven courses (BIOSTAT 201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207), which constitute 23 credits, are required for all degree candidates. The Master of Biostatistics Program requires 34 credits of graded course work total plus a Master’s Project for which 6 units of credit are given. For more detail course information, please review the Course Descriptions.
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Can I place out of a Core Course?

Our Core Courses are tightly integrated, so missing out on one course would likely make for a less effective educational experience overall. Moreover, even if students have previously encountered some of the material in our Core Courses, we will have a different emphasis. Accordingly, we anticipate that it will be unusual for students to place out of our Core Courses.
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Must my Elective Courses total exactly 11 hours?

If approved by the Director of Graduate Studies, a Master's Project might count for more than 6 credit hours. For example, the student might take 10 hours worth of elective courses and have the Master's Project count for 7 hours.
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