The Master of Science in Statistics, Concentration in Biostatistics at San Diego State University emphasizes statistical methods and applications in the biological, health, and medical sciences. This would be the appropriate program for a student who entertains the idea of working in the biotech or pharmaceutical industry. Local job opportunities are excellent.

Admissions and Financial Support:
Please see the Overview and Admissions page for information about applying to the program and for information about teaching assistantships.

Admission Requirements

Students entering the master’s program should have three semesters of calculus, one semester of a calculus-based probability course, and one semester of linear algebra. Students should also have working knowledge of a computer programming language. Students lacking some of the above undergraduate background may be admitted conditionally and may make up this coursework during the first year of the program (these courses do not count toward the degree course requirements). Requirements concerning the GRE exam and GPA requirements are the same as for the other SDSU graduate programs. A GRE combined score (quantitative and verbal scores) of 950 and a GPA of 2.85 (3.0 GPA international) are expected.

Program Requirements

The student must complete a minimum of 31 units of coursework as described below. Upon entry to the program, the student will be assigned to a graduate adviser in biostatistics. Thereafter, the adviser will meet with the student each semester and discuss their academic program. A program of study must be approved by the graduate adviser in biostatistics.

1. Complete Statistics 510, 670A, 670B with no grade less than B in each course. These are core statistics courses.

2. Complete Statistics 680A, 680B with no grade less than B in each course. These are biostatistics concentration courses.

3. Complete at least six units of courses in biostatistics and statistics, selected from the following with the approval of the graduate adviser in biostatistics: Statistics 520, 560, 570, 580, 596, 672, 673,676, 677, 678, 679, 696, 700, 701, 702, 795.

4. Complete at least six units of 500-level or graduate courses from a science of application of biostatistics (e.g., bioscience, health science, or medical science), selected with the approval of the graduate adviser in biostatistics. If the student has an undergraduate degree in an area of application of biostatistics, 500-level or graduate mathematical sciences courses may be substituted with the approval of the graduate adviser in biostatistics.

5. Complete one unit of Statistics 720.

6. Thesis Option (Plan A) – With approval of the graduate adviser and the faculty member who will chair the thesis committee, the student may choose Plan A and complete three units of Statistics 799A. The chair of the thesis committee must be a faculty member from the division of statistics in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. One of the other two members of the thesis committee must be a faculty member from a science of application of biostatistics (i.e., bioscience, health science, or medical science). The student must pass an oral defense of the thesis, open to the public.

7. In other cases, the exam option (Plan B) will be followed. Students who choose Plan B are required to complete three additional units of 600- and 700-numbered statistics courses, not including Statistics 799A, and pass a comprehensive written examination.

Refer to Graduate Bulletin for current courses and curricula.

Thesis Requirements (Plan A)

General requirements for the master’s thesis are as described in the graduate bulletin:

A thesis is the written product of a systematic study of a significant problem. It identifies the problem, states the major assumptions, explains the significance of the undertaking, sets forth the sources for and the methods of gathering information, analyzes the data, and offers a conclusion or recommendation. The finished product evidences originality, critical and independent thinking, appropriate organization and format, high level of writing competency, and thorough documentation.

Students should note that they must be advanced to candidacy before they will be permitted to form an official thesis committee and to enroll in Math 799A. In addition to the university requirements, the departmental requirements are as follows:

1. The chair of the thesis committee must be a faculty member from the Division of Statistics in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

2. One of the other two members of the thesis committee must be a faculty member from outside the Statistics Division. For students pursuing the Concentration in Biostatistics, the outside member must be a faculty member from a field of application (e.g., biology, public health).

3. The student must pass a public oral defense of the thesis.

Please view complete details regarding your Thesis Committee form.

PLAN B (Exam/non-thesis option): Spring 2016/Fall 2016

Policies and Procedures for the Plan B examination:

Students in the Plan B option must pass a two-part comprehensive examination.

  • Part 1 is the theory exam and students will choose any 10 questions out of the 14 to answer during the exam. The 10 questions that are chosen need to be marked clearly in the exam as well as on the exam envelope, otherwise the first 10 questions of the exam will be graded, regardless of whether any of the questions 1 through 10 are attempted by the student or not. The exam questions will not be marked as from specific course work, but they will be about statistical theory appropriate for a Master’s level comprehensive exam. Students are advised to review course materials from Stat 551AB, Stat 670AB, Stat 680AB, Stat 510,  Stat 350AB, and other required and elective courses.  This is a four hour closed book exam. Relevant tables will be provided. You are allowed 3 two-sided sheets of formulas. The sheets must be of standard letter size (11 inches by 8.5 inches) and if typed, no smaller than 12 point font.  You may put only formulas on the cheat-sheets, no problems with solutions. You are required to hand in your cheat-sheets together with your exam.
  • Part 2 of the exam is a written report of a data analysis project. Each student will be given a data set and corresponding scientific questions. Students will have one week to complete the data analysis and to produce a written report, not to exceed 7 pages. Collaboration on the data analysis and report writing is not allowed. Any collaboration will be deemed as cheating and result in a failing grade.

TE registration: Friday, July 15 – Friday, August 5

Exam date: Thursday, August 25, 1:00-5:00pm, Room: GMCS 301
No registration will be accepted after the deadline.
Be sure to bring your personal hand calculator for the Theory Exam.

Exam will be available online:  10:00am, January 2016, details pending


Written report is due in the Department Office, GMCS 413, no later than TUESDAY, January, 2017 by 11:00am (details pending). Report may be submitted any time prior to the deadline.
Students should note that they must be advanced to candidacy before they will be permitted to take a two-part comprehensive exam.

Subject line reads: Fall Theory Exam, or Spring Data Analysis Exam: (insert your last name in CAPS).  In the text, Include your full name, red id#, mailing address, phone#, and email address. You must indicate the number of times you have taken the exam.

Cancellations should be done before deadlines noted above or a failing grade will be given. At the time of the exam, each student will be given a random ID number to be used on the exams. Students may take the two parts of the exam in any order. Each part of the exam may be taken by a student at most two times.

If you have filed for Advancement to Candidacy, and successfully passed the two part comprehensive exams, please download and complete a copy of the Report of Final Examinations form. Have your Academic Advisor sign the form, and then take the form to the Graduate Division Office.


While coursework from other instructors may be counted towards the MS, the core faculty for the program consists of the statistics and biostatistics specialists within the Department. These are as follows:

Barbara Bailey, Jianwei Chen, Juanjuan Fan, Richard Levine, C.D. Lin, K.J. Lui, Jorge Carlos Roman

Advisor: Dr. Jianwei Chen, GMCS 573, 619-594-7205

rev: 03/10/16