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Degree Division
Biostatistics Division
Program Contact
Tony Panzarella

Program Description

The Master’s of Science (MSc) degree in Biostatistics will typically take 12 months to complete. The curriculum provides a solid base in biostatistical methods including foundational courses in mathematical statistics, survival analysis, categorical data analysis and applied Bayesian methods. It also offers numerous electives. These include courses in clinical trials, predictive modelling, applied machine learning and correlated data analysis. Course instructors are either core faculty members or status-appointed faculty who work as biostatisticians at University of Toronto-affiliated research centres, such as the Hospital for Sick Children and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

Program Objectives

Program graduates will be capable of working as biostatisticians / data scientists within multi-disciplinary research teams. This objective will be achieved through coursework that equips students with a sound knowledge of study designs, statistical theory, statistical models, and statistical computing. A practicum placement provides students opportunities to apply their knowledge and obtain experience within an academic or industrial health setting. The program is intended to meet the growing demand for qualified biostatisticians / data scientists in academia, government and industry.

Admission Requirements

MSc students are admitted under the General Regulations of the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) and should hold an appropriate bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from a recognized university with at least a mid-B average in final year of the degree, or in the last 5.0 full course equivalents completed at a senior level. Proof of English Language Proficiency is required (See below).

Minimum Admission Requirements for MSc Biostatistics
Applicants should have completed courses in linear algebra, advanced calculus, probability and mathematical statistics.

International applicants
No applicant will be admitted without evidence of English Language Proficiency (ELP).  As per the policy of the School of Graduate Studies (SGS), the following applicants do not have to provide direct supporting evidence of ELP in the application.

  • A Canadian citizen who studied at a Canadian university where instruction is in English or French;
  • Any applicant who has obtained a qualifying undergraduate degree from an institution that is recognized by the University of Toronto, and where the language of instruction and examination is uniformly English.

If either criterion above is satisfied, the application can be submitted without test scores or other proof of ELP.  The ELP requirement will be waived, in the online system, when the application is reviewed.

Otherwise, an approved test of English Language Proficiency must be submitted at the time of application.  Scores must meet the minimum requirements set by SGS and must be valid (taken within 2 years of submission of the application). See SGS website for details.

The MSc Biostatistics program does not make other exemptions. If an applicant is required to submit proof of ELP and does not include this with the application, by the application deadline, the application will be rejected as incomplete and inadmissible.

Applicants who studied outside Canada must consult the School of Graduate Studies website to determine whether evidence of ELP can be waived. The SGS website lists those countries where university instruction in English will be recognized without further documentation. Click here for more information.

The SGS website also has an international degree equivalency tool that may be consulted to determine minimum admission requirements for graduates from recognized institutions outside Canada.  Admission eligibility cannot be determined until a complete application is submitted. We are not able to review or assess your academic record without an official application to a graduate degree program, including payment of the appropriate application fee.

Program Options

The MSc degree in Biostatistics is offered in three options:

  1. Course-only Option:
    Students enrolled in the course-only option require 5.0 FCE (equivalent to 10 half courses) to graduate. The program includes both mandatory (4.0 FCE) and elective (1.0 FCE) courses.
  2. Course-only, with an emphasis in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Science Option:
    Students registered in the course-only option with an emphasis in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Science are expected to complete the same 4.0 FCE required courses outlined in Option 1 above, but will choose the remaining 1.0 FCE from among a set of approved courses in AI and Data Science electives. These two course-only options take 12 months (i.e. three terms) to complete, but can be completed in as little as 8 months.
  3. Thesis Option:
    Students following this option are expected to complete the 4.0 FCE required courses outlined in Option 1 above, as well as develop a research proposal and complete a thesis under the close supervision of a faculty member within the Division. While the MSc Biostatistics degree is designated as a one-year program, the thesis-based option takes longer, up to 24 months. The first year (12 months) is dedicated to course-work and an additional 12 months may be needed for the thesis work. Given its longer duration, the thesis-based option will usually involve higher overall tuition fees than the non-thesis-based alternative. Students are required to pay fees for each (fall and winter) session in which they are registered.  If they defend their thesis mid-session (in November or February, for example), they would be required to pay the fees for the full session.  On the SGS Letter of Offer to international students, the expected program length for Visa purposes is one year.  Students with study permits must be aware of their Visa expiry dates and be prepared to request extensions, should they switch to the thesis-based option and are no longer able to complete the program in one year.

Once the MSc Biostatistics degree is completed, international students will be eligible to apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). For the purposes of the PGWP application, the length of the MSc Biostatistics degree program is one-year, regardless of the option completed or the length of time taken to complete the option.

Although there are 3 program options, all students will apply, and be admitted into the Course-only program under Option 1.

The number of placements for students wishing Option 2 will be based on the number of practicum projects available in AI and data science. Students interested in Option 2 will have to apply and interview for these required specialized practicums. If they are successful, they will be enrolled formally in this Option and are responsible for meeting all its requirements.

Students interested in Option 3 will have until the end of March to formally make the transition. This will allow them time to consider a possible thesis topic and possible primary supervisor.

Career Opportunities

Finding the right career path is important for anyone, especially in today’s economy when a good job is hard to find. A combination of employment stability, decent salary potential, and personal satisfaction are all important in a career, and choosing to become a biostatistician can offer all of these elements.

A biostatistician career offers a salary that is above the national average and a solid career future. It also offers a way to help influence the future of medicine for the better, and those in the field have an impact on the overall public health in various ways. It’s a job with a considerable amount of potential, and one worth considering.

Graduates will be well-suited to work in a support role in universities, government departments, teaching hospitals, and industry, including pharmaceutical companies and contract research organizations.

What does a biostatistician do?

The stature of our profession is on the rise. See, for example, the following articles published in the New York Times, Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal, respectively.

Importance of Numeracy in Society

See TED Talk by Alan Smith