Frequently Asked Questions

What is special about Brown University’s Biostatistics Department?

Brown’s Biostatistics program is small so there is a lot of contact with faculty, but it is also growing along with the new School of Public Health so it is increasing its resources rapidly. Its location in the School gives it access to the School’s 11 Centers of Excellence and its proximity to Brown’s Medical School and its affiliated hospitals open up many connections for research and training. Brown also has close ties to the Rhode Island Department of Health which also provides opportunities for experience in a major state agency. Many students use these resources for internships and other learning experiences in addition to their coursework and thesis obligations. Brown has a strong interdisciplinary focus as a university and the Department of Biostatistics is continuing to establish links with other fields in the mathematical and computing sciences, the social sciences and the humanities through university-wide initiatives.

How do I apply to the Biostatsitics Doctoral Program?

The School of Public Health is transitioning to the SOPHAS online application service for the 2017-18 admissions year.  A link to the application portal will be made available in early Fall 2016.

What is the deadline for application?

The Graduate School application deadline for the Doctoral Program is December 15. 

 How and when will I know if I am admitted?

Formal written notification is made by the Graduate School, usually in February or March.

 Are GREs required?

Yes. Results from a recent GRE general test (within five years) are required. You may send self reported scores for the initial evaluation of your application but please send official scores as soon as possible. Subject tests may be submitted, but are not required. MCAT and other related tests for professional schools cannot be substituted for the GRE.

 Are TOEFL or IELTS scores required?

Foreign students with a BS or MS from a U.S. university or an institution where the primary language is English need not submit TOEFL scores, but should ask at least one native speaker of English to comment specifically on spoken and written English ability in the letter of recommendation. TOEFL or IELTS scores submitted should be from within the last two years. You may send self-reported scores for the initial evaluation of your application, but please send official scores as soon as possible. For more detail, see the Graduate School policy:

How can I get a TOEFL waiver if I have attended a US University/Institution?

If you are an international student that have or are expecting a degree from a US University/Institution you will have to email the Graduate School ( after you submit your application and request a waiver.

What is the average GRE score of applicants/What GRE scores are you looking for?

The GRE scores are interpreted in the context of the entire application. If scores on one or more parts is unusually low, it may be worth a brief explanation in the personal statement. The Biostatistics Department does not have a minimum score requirement, although the Graduate School requires a letter of explanation for scores lower than V144/500, Q153/500.

What GPA are you looking for?

As with the GRE, the GPA is interpreted in context. We look for demonstrated excellence in courses, particularly those related to the proposed field of study.

What type of coursework preparation do I need? What type of undergraduate degree do I need?

We do not require a specific type of undergraduate degree, and indeed we encourage applications from students with a variety of academic backgrounds. Course work in advanced calculus, linear algebra, and probability using calculus are expected.  

 What are the requirements for foreign applicants?

No special requirements for foreign applicants other than what is required by the Graduate School – that information can be found here: The PhD program also has a teaching requirement, which requires proficiency in spoken and written English. Proficiency must be demonstrated in an evaluation conducted at Brown.

 How many applications do the programs receive? How many applicants are accepted?

The number of applications received and offers made varies from year to year. On average we have 4 students in each class.

How many students do you have in your program?

We have 15 students currently enrolled in the PhD program in Biostatistics. 

Should I apply to the PhD or Master’s program?

Students interested in pursuing a career in research should generally apply to the PhD program, although many of the applicants to the PhD program already have a Master’s in Biostatistics or related field Those interested in pursuing a non-academic career may find that a Master’s degree is sufficient, although increasingly directors of statistics programs in industry and government have a doctoral degree.

Do my letters of recommendation have to be written by professors?

Not necessarily, but the letter writers must be in a position to evaluate your academic performance in courses relevant to the proposed field of study. In addition, we like to see letters of support from those who can attest to your interest in and aptitude for quantitative work related to biostatistics. Letter writers for PhD program applicants should be able to assess the student's potential for conducting independent research.

Can students be admitted to Biostatistics for the spring semester?

Not generally, because course sequencing assumes that students will start in the fall semester. In exceptional circumstances, or when course requirements have been satisfied, a spring entry can occur.

What financial support is available to incoming students?

All PhD students (including international students) are admitted with full aid and are eligible for continuing aid pending satisfactory academic progress.    The financial aid includes tuition, stipend and health insurance. You do not need to separately apply for financial aid.

 If I already have an MS in Statistics, does that give me an advantage, or do you prefer undergraduate applicants?

If all other conditions are the same, having the MS is a plus.

What current research is being conducted in Biostatistics at Brown?

The faculty within Biostatistics are involved in several major areas of research activity including analysis of biomarkers and diagnostic tests, causal inference and missing data, time series and functional data analysis, spatial data and network analysis, bioinformatics, longitudinal data, meta-analysis, multilevel modeling, statistical learning.  For detailed information on our faculty, their research activity and methodological expertise, visit our Biostatistics Research page, the Faculty Contact page as well as the Center for Statistical Sciences website.

Do you have any type of pre-application process to see how well I'm qualified based on the quality of other candidates, before I submit my application?

Unfortunately not. We review in the context of the other applications.

How is a Biostatistics graduate program different from a graduate program in Statistics, or Analytics, or…?

Statisticians use data to solve problems in a wide variety of fields. They work individually or as part of teams and apply their knowledge to train, inform and consult with professionals in other disciplines who need to analyze and interpret data. Biostatistics is the subfield of statistics dealing with medicine and public health. It specializes in techniques particular to these fields, but covers most of the topics that would be addressed in a statistics program. It tends to have a more applied focus than many statistics programs, which focus more on the mathematical theory and less on applications to solve important scientific questions of interest. Analytics is a new field that combines mathematics, computer science, statistics, information science and other data related fields. It focuses more on prediction and estimation and less on interpretation and the consideration of uncertainty.

What employment prospects will I have if I graduate with a PhD in Biostatistics?

Biostatistics is an extremely popular field with the exploding of information sources. Biostatisticians are in demand in fields such as biology, drug development and regulation, genetics, marketing, finance, medicine and public health. Individuals who can process, analyze and interpret large sources of data will become increasingly valued. Graduates with a PhD might work as supervisors for organizations working in these fields. They are also likely to find faculty positions in academic medical and public health programs.