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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

Biostatistics (BIOST)

Program Home Page

VERNON M. CHINCHILLI, Chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences
College of Medicine, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
Hershey, PA 17033 717-531-7178


Degree Conferred:



The Graduate Faculty


The Program

Biostatistics is the science that applies statistical theory and mathematical principals to research in medicine, biology, environmental science, public health, and related fields. Biostatisticians working in the area of public health develop and use mathematical and scientific methods to (1) determine risk factors for disease and injuries, and (2) identify health trends within communities. Biostatisticians working in the area of medicine develop and use mathematical and scientific methods to design and analyze (1) clinical trials to investigate new therapies for treating acute and chronic illness, (2) observational studies to understand disease onset and progression, (3) basic science studies to determine the mechanisms of disease, and (4) human genetics studies to investigate the inherited susceptibility to disease. Career opportunities are available in universities, academic medical centers, government, and private industry. The demand for individuals with graduate-level degrees in biostatistics is extremely high.

Admission Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to general Graduate School requirements stated in the GENERAL INFORMATION section of the Graduate Bulletin.

Applicants must complete prior to admission:

1. A two-semester graduate-level course in applied statistics from a recognized graduate program. The comparable courses offered by the Department of Statistics are Stat 511: Regression Analysis and Modeling (3) and Stat 512: Design and Analysis of Experiments (3).

2. A two-semester graduate-level course in mathematical statistics from a recognized graduate program. The comparable courses offered by the Department of Statistics are Stat 513: Theory of Statistics and Stat 514 (3): Theory of Statistics II (3).

Prospective applicants must demonstrate:

3. For admission to the Graduate School, all applicants must have received from a regionally accredited institution a baccalaureate degree earned under residence and credit conditions substantially equivalent to those required by Penn State. International applicants must hold the equivalent of an American four-year baccalaureate degree.

4. Results from one of the following standardized tests taken within the past five (5) years:

  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
  • Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)
  • Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
  • Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
  • (This requirement is waived for applicants who have an advanced degree in a related field beyond the baccalaureate.)

5. Results from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) for applicants whose first language is not English.

  • The minimum acceptable score for the TOEFL is 550 for the paper-based test, 213 for the computer-based test, or a total score of 80 with a 19 on the speaking section for the internet-based test.
  • The minimum composite score for the IELTS is 6.5.
  • International applicants are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement who have received a baccalaureate or a graduate degree from a college/university/institution in any of the following: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States, and Wales.

6. Completion of the Graduate School application, which includes three (3) letters of recommendation and a Curriculum Vitae or resume.

7. Payment of the application fee.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

Each student in the Biostatistics Ph.D. program is expected to acquire knowledge in the disciplines of Biostatistics.

Each student must complete a total of 31 credits of graduate level course work, the majority of which are 500 level courses, specifically:

  • 22 credits in required courses
  • 6 additional credits in Epidemiology or Health Services Research
  • 3 credits in elective courses, plus
  • Dissertation

After the completion of the first year of coursework, each candidate is required to take a candidacy examination, based on the coursework in PHS 523, PHS 524, PHS 525, PHS 526 and PHS 527. The decision to admit or not to admit a student to candidacy will be made by a committee of graduate faculty in the Biostatistics program. In addition, a comprehensive examination is administered at the completion of all coursework, followed by the final oral examination in defense of the PhD dissertation.


Prescribed Courses: 22 credits
PHS 500(1), PHS 523(3), PHS 524(3), PHS 526(3), PHS 527(3), PHS 528(3), PHS 580(3), STAT 553(3)

Additional Courses: 6 credits
PHS 535(3), PHS 536(3), PHS 550(3), PHS 551(3), PHS 552(3), PHS 570(3)

Elective Courses: 3 credits
Select from PHS 516(3), STAT 561(3), STAT 562(3)

Common Courses: Varies
PHS 594(1-9), PHS 596(1-9), PHS 597(1-9), PHS 600(3-6)

PUBLIC HEALTH (PHS) course list


Last Revised by the Department: Fall Semester 2011

Blue Sheet Item #: 40-04-102

Review Date: 01/10/2012

Faculty linked: 8/14/14


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