Admissions FAQs

Preparing for Application

General Questions

The Department of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan offers graduate programs leading to three types of degrees: (1) PhD in Biostatistics, (2) MS in Biostatistics, (3) MS in Health Data Science (HDS), and (4) Accelerated MS in Biostatistics. Please see below for detailed questions about each program.

Please refer to the Rackham Graduate School website for detailed instructions on how to prepare your application. In brief, you will need (1) academic transcripts, (2) curriculum vita or resume, (3) academic statement of purpose, (3) personal statement, (4) three letters of recommendation, and (5) English test scores (for international applicants, see Rackham website for details). You can begin your application through ApplyWeb.

Students who are interested in the PhD program should apply directly to the PhD program. Many of our admitted PhD students hold a relevant master's degree, such as in biostatistics or statistics, and bachelor's recipients are also admitted directly into the PhD program. PhD applicants without a relevant master's degree can mark their application to be considered for one of our two MS degrees, if not admitted to the PhD program. 

All three Biostatistics Department graduate programs require:

  • Three semesters of calculus (including multivariable calculus)
  • One semester of linear algebra
  • One semester of statistics

Mastery of the content of these classes is essential for success in our graduate programs. If you took multivariable calculus or linear algebra more than two years ago, we suggest you re-familiarize yourself with the material before starting graduate school.

See below for the topics covered in the prerequisite courses:

  • Calculus I: functions and graphs, derivatives and their applications to real-life problems in various fields, and an introduction to integration.
  • Calculus II: techniques of integration, application of these, and an introduction to sequences and series and to differential equations.
  • Calculus III: vectors, vector functions, functions of two and three variables, partial derivatives, optimization (including Lagrange multipliers), multiple integrals, calculus of vector field, line integrals and surface integrals, Green's, Stokes', and divergence theorems.
  • Linear Algebra: matrix operations, echelon form, solution of systems of linear equations, Euclidean vector spaces, linear combinations, independence and spans of sets of vectors in Euclidean space, eigenvectors and eigenvalues, similarity theory.

If you have not completed all of the prerequisite courses at the time of your application, we encourage you to include in your application when and where you plan to complete those courses prior to starting graduate school. You may be conditionally admitted with the understanding that you will complete these courses before starting your first semester of graduate school. We strongly encourage you to enroll in the remaining prerequisite courses as soon as possible so that your transcript will reflect enrollment.

Typically, online courses or Coursera courses are not accepted for crucial prerequisites like multivariable calculus and linear algebra.

Biology is not required for admission or degree completion. However, exposure to biology is useful for understanding the types of data that are collected in biomedical studies, and for better understanding the application of biostatistical methods. Some students choose to develop an area of biological specialization, such as epidemiology, human genetics, or cancer, but this is not required.

You will need one semester of probability, statistics, or biostatistics. If you plan to pursue the PhD, advanced calculus (also called real analysis) is recommended, but not required. This course can be taken while you are enrolled in our graduate program.

There is no programming requirement for admission to our graduate programs. However, programming experience is helpful, and will make it easier to obtain funding as a research assistant and to conduct dissertation research. If you do not have programming experience, we encourage you to address this issue before entering the program if time and opportunity allows. Statistical programming in R and more general computing/scripting in C/C++ and Python are particularly helpful. We encourage you to describe in your application any relevant plans you have for this.

When requesting letters of recommendation, it is crucial to focus on quality and relevance. Aim to secure informative letters from individuals who can genuinely speak to your potential for success as a graduate student. It is advantageous to include at least two academic referees, such as a professor or researcher, who can provide insight into your scholarly and academic capabilities. We encourage you to ask potential referees if they feel able to write you an informative, supportive letter. This helps ensure the effectiveness of your recommendations and shows respect for the writers' honest assessments. To give them adequate time to craft a thoughtful letter, make your requests as early as possible, and at least one month in advance.

Research experience is not required for our graduate programs, but can provide useful information in evaluating your application. It also can help you determine if a research career and graduate school is the right path for you. Research experience often makes it easier for us to find you a research assistant position if you are funded by the department, or can help you find a research position on your own if you are not funded by the department.

We waive the application fee for all domestic applicants (US citizens and permanent residents). Unfortunately, we are not able to do so for international applicants.

We carry out a holistic review of your application for evidence that our program fits your educational and career goals and that you will succeed in our program. In particular, we look for evidence of sufficient mathematical aptitude and training (based on your mathematics/statistics courses and grades, letters from mathematics/statistics instructors, and relevant research experience), and motivation and fit with our program (research and personal statements, and letters of recommendation). We encourage applicants to address any weaknesses in their application in the statement of purpose or personal statement.

December 1 is the deadline for full consideration for admission and funding. Late applications may be considered if possible, depending on the number of students already admitted and/or awarded funding.

Yes, if you complete a degree from a US institution or an institution where the official language of instruction is English, the TOEFL requirement may be waived. Please refer to this Rackham test information page for English test rules.

Yes, IELTS is allowed for MS and PhD applications, although the Admissions Committee prefers TOEFL scores. Please refer to this Rackham test information page for English test rules specific to those programs.

MS Program Questions

The Biostatistics program is a long-standing program that offers rigorous, comprehensive, and in-depth training in biostatistics. The newer Health Data Science (HDS) program introduces enhanced training in computational and data analytic skills into the existing biostatistical curriculum for the analysis of large medical and public health data. The two programs differ in their curriculum designs and their training targets (i.e., biostatistician vs health data scientist). You should choose the program that best suits your interests and career goals.

The programs share four core courses: Probability Theory, Statistical Inference, Linear Regression, and Generalized Linear Models. Students in the Biostatistics MS program take a deeper dive into advanced statistical models such as Longitudinal Data Analysis, while students in the Health Data Science (HDS) program take more courses on Big Data Computing and Machine Learning. In addition, the required capstone courses differ between the two programs. For more information, please see the detailed descriptions of the MS in Biostatistics and MS in Health Data Science (HDS) program curricula.

There are multiple data science programs at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus. Among them, the only other residential master’s program is the Masters in Data Science (MDS) offered by the Michigan Institute for Data Science (MIDAS). The MIDAS MDS program is typically a 1-year program with 25 required credits, while the Biostatistics Department’s MS in Health Data Science (HDS) program is a 2-year program with 48 required credits. Students in the Biostatistics HDS program not only learn basic data analysis and computing but also gain in-depth knowledge of statistical methods and practical applications relevant to health data science, such as electronic health records, genetics, genomics, biomedical imaging, cancer, epidemiology, clinical trials, and digital and mobile health.  

Yes, students enrolled and doing well in the MS in Biostatistics and MS in Health Data Science (HDS) programs are encouraged to consider applying to the PhD program within the Biostatistics Department, typically during their third semester. Students in our MS programs typically have a better chance of admission to our PhD program compared to external applicants from other graduate programs. This advantage is due to the department's familiarity with their academic performance and demonstrated abilities at the University of Michigan, which provides a clearer assessment of potential for success in advanced study.

No, you should choose one of the MS programs and apply to it.  We strongly recommend that you carefully review the difference in the curricula before deciding to which program to apply.

We typically do not allow switching between the programs after admission. Only in exceptional cases might this be allowed.

PhD Program Questions

No, we consider applicants directly from undergraduate studies with bachelor’s degrees, as well as those with master’s degrees.

You may only apply to one program—either MS or PhD. However, If you apply for the PhD program and would like to be considered for the master's level programs, you will have a chance to indicate your preferences in a checkbox in the PhD application. The PhD Admissions Committee will take the applicant's interest into consideration when making the admissions and funding decisions.

There are no additional prerequisite courses. However, if you plan to pursue the PhD, taking advanced calculus (also called real analysis) is recommended, but not required. Qualified applicants for the PhD program typically have a strong academic record in mathematics, statistics, and computation. In addition, prior research experience and/or a focus on a specific topic is highly valuable for PhD applicants.


The Department of Biostatistics awards:

  • Full funding through fellowships, research positions, and teaching assistantships.
  • Partial funding (hourly paid positions).
  • Tuition awards (full or partial tuition scholarships without stipend support or health insurance.

U.S. citizens and permanent residents must complete the FAFSA to apply for financial aid from the U.S. federal and state governments. The FAFSA is used by university financial aid offices to determine need-based awards. See this page for financial aid eligibility and deadlines. Apply here for the FAFSA. International students cannot apply for federal student aid.

Consideration for funding is automatic when you apply for graduate admission to the department; no separate application is required. The Biostatistics Admissions Committee considers all applicants for possible funding. Applicants are notified of funding decisions as part of the admissions process.

All students admitted to the PhD program are offered full funding: tuition, stipend, and Gradcare health insurance. Students admitted to either MS program (Biostatistics or Health Data Science) may also be fully funded, but this is not common. The Department of Biostatistics also offers full and partial tuition scholarships to some admitted MS students. Some MS students find additional funding opportunities on campus after they begin their graduate program.

After Admission

All students admitted to the PhD program and some admitted to the Masters program are promised funding from the department as part of their admission. While most funding offers are made by February, additional offers may be made later in the year. For those offered funding, after the April 15 decision deadline, we will ask for information regarding fields and faculty members of interest, and then match you to a teaching or research assistant position. Masters students not offered funding by the department often seek and obtain funding on their own. More information can be found in our Student Handbook under Student Financial Support and Employment.

This is usually an automatic process. The Rackham Graduate School will process the official admission after a recommendation is entered by the department. They will make sure that "minimum requirements are met." If materials are missing, they will contact you by email. For more information, please refer to the Rackham website.

Academics/In Program 

Students are strongly encouraged to be authors on papers resulting from their research with their faculty mentors and/or GSRA research supervisors. PhD students are expected to pursue publication of several papers based on their dissertation research and often publish other papers as well.

There are multiple ways for MS students to get involved with research. Students may join STATCOM to work on statistical projects from non-profit governmental and community organizations with faculty serving an advisory role. Students may register for Biostat 610: Readings in Biostatistics, where faculty and students can decide on an individualized research plan for course credit. Experiential learning opportunities are available via MIDAS. While GSRA positions are limited, many students find hourly positions within and outside of Biostatistics to work on short-term projects or may find a research position during the summer. Biostatistics faculty may send emails with available positions or positions may be searched for on SPH career links.

Data indicate that 98% of students who begin the MS finish the MS program and about 80% of students who begin the PhD program, finish the PhD program. For more information, see Rackham Statistics for Biostatistics PhD and MS programs - select Biostatistics at the dropdown menu for Field of Study.

The median time to the PhD degree is 4.6 years.

Students are encouraged to attend scientific meetings and funding to do so is available from the University, the Department, and faculty mentors.


Students who are funded via a graduate student research assistantship (GSRA) or training grant program are generally funded throughout the year, including the summer. Often, faculty hire additional GSRAs during the summer so that opportunities may open up. Alternatively, students can pursue internships or research opportunities through the SPH , American Statistical Association, or through their own searching, often with help from faculty advisors.

99% of our 2019 graduates are employed or pursuing an advanced degree.

Michigan Biostatistics graduates have great job opportunities across a number of fields and industries including higher education, pharmaceuticals, government, health care, and technology. More details can be found at the career outcomes webpage.


In the last few years, we have averaged around 250 total students, around half pursuing their Masters and half pursuing their PhD. 

Yes, our biggest community service effort is through STATCOM. Students regularly join this group in order to contribute to the efforts of non-profit organizations. Outside of the department, SPH (including SPH Public Health Service Day) and the UMich community at large offer many opportunities to get involved and students are encouraged to search out and engage in ways they find most beneficial.

Our goal is to create and foster a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming department for all students, staff, and faculty with which we learn and practice diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) and respect for and with each other and in our scholarly work. We have two DEI committees, one composed of faculty, staff, and students and another that is student-led committee. These committees have sponsored inclusion and intercultural exchange events, discussions and seminars on important topics, and learning and mentoring workshops. For more information, see here.

We have an annual Fall picnic, Holiday party, and graduation celebration where the full department gets together. There are several other events regularly hosted by the Biostatistics Student Association (BSA) such as game or trivia night, happy hour, coffee chat, and a range of outdoor activities. Other social events occur throughout the year but change from year to year. 

Ann Arbor consistently ranks among the country’s best places to live. Home to more than 150 parks and green spaces, the city is a vibrant and diverse community for students, families, foodies, artists, sports fans, and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Only 35 miles from Detroit, Ann Arbor combines small-town charm with metropolitan energy. Find out more here.

The average temperature in Ann Arbor during the winter is just around freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit), although there are days where the temperature is below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once you obtain the necessary accessories for the winter (e.g. coat, mittens, hat, and boots) you will be comfortable getting to and from campus and hunkering down to study. The winter allows you to really appreciate and take advantage of the sun and warmth that Ann Arbor experiences the rest of the year.