Master of Biostatistics

Course 991AA (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Year and Campus: 2015 - Parkville
CRICOS Code: 088478A
Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Level: Graduate/Postgraduate
Duration & Credit Points: 150 credit points taken over 18 months full time. This course is available as full or part time.


Professor John Carlin



Academic Programs Office
Melbourne School of Population and Global Health
Tel: +61 3 8344 9339
Fax: +61 3 8344 0824

Course Overview:

The Master of Biostatistics is the most advanced award of the three-tier structure in postgraduate biostatistics (see also the Graduate Diploma and Graduate Certificate in Biostatistics). Biostatistics is the discipline that underpins the use of statistical methods in health and medical research. On completion of the Masters degree, graduates will have attained skills suitable for employment as professional biostatisticians in medical and epidemiological research, the pharmaceutical industry and government departments and agencies. The program is designed to accommodate students from a range of academic backgrounds and includes subjects designed to provide the necessary foundations in mathematical and statistical theory to those without a first degree in mathematics or statistics. A compulsory subject in epidemiology introduces those unfamiliar with research in population health to critical appraisal of the health and medical literature. Subjects taught under the Biostatistics program form a structured sequence and are not generally available to students taking other awards.

This course is designed to be taken on a part-time basis only, and at the maximum rate of 2 subjects per semester requires 3 years to complete (150 credit points). In exceptional circumstances approval may be given for students to take a higher subject load.

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of the Master of Biostatistics, graduates will:

  • have developed a sound understanding of epidemiological study design and the theory and application of the major areas of biostatistics relevant to professional practice
  • have acquired skills in complex statistical analyses to handle a variety of practical problems using modern statistical techniques and software
  • have acquired skills in data collection and data management, including database design, quality control procedures and the ethical handling of data
  • have developed skills to identify the relevant statistical issues in practical problems in medical/health settings and to propose and implement an appropriate statistical design and/or analysis methodology
  • have developed skills and had experience in communication of biostatistical issues with clinical/health personnel and the presentation of statistical results in a format suitable for publication in health-related journals or professional reports
  • have acquired the technical skills to be able to read methodological papers in the biostatistical literature and apply the methods described therein to practical problems
  • have developed the practical and technical skills to commence professional careers as independent biostatisticians and/or to progress to further postgraduate research studies
  • be able to demonstrate an understanding of professional codes of conduct and ethical standards such as those of the Statistical Society of Australia
  • have developed problem solving abilities in biostatistics, characterised by flexibility of approach

Course Structure & Available Subjects:

This course is available on a part-time basis only, and at the maximum rate of 2 subjects per semester requires 3 years to complete (150 credit points).

Subject Options:

Option 1: 10 coursework subjects and a two unit workplace project portfolio (150 points)
Option 2: 11 coursework subjects and a one unit workplace project portfolio (150 points)

Students may be waived the requirement to complete either Epidemiology (most likely students coming from a background in health research), or one or more of the units, Mathematical Background for Biostatistics, Probability and Distribution Theory and Principles of Statistical Inference (most likely students coming from a background in mathematics and/or statistics), if they have equivalent prior studies. This should leave room for the student to complete one or two electives in addition to the compulsory Workplace Project Portfolio unit (WPP). Students may receive credit for subjects previously completed while enrolled at the Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma levels.

Core Subjects

Students must complete the following core subjects:

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Semester 1
Semester 1, Semester 2
Semester 1, Semester 2
Semester 1, Semester 2
Semester 1, Semester 2

Workplace Project Portfolio

Students must also complete one of the following workplace project portfolio subjects (depending on the structure of their program):

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:

Optional Electives

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Not offered in 2015
Semester 2
Entry Requirements:

1. In order to be considered for entry, applicants must have completed:
• an undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline, such as statistics, mathematics, science, psychology, medicine, pharmacy, health sciences or economics, with a weighted average mark of at least H2B (70%); and
• a demonstrated capacity for advanced mathematical work, indicated for example by a high level of achievement in high-school or undergraduate mathematics; and
• a tertiary-level subject in statistics or biostatistics, or demonstrated equivalent prior knowledge of statistics at an introductory level.
Meeting these requirements does not guarantee selection.

2. In ranking applications, the Selection Committee will consider:
• prior academic performance.

3. The Selection Committee may seek further information to clarify any aspect of an application in accordance with the Student Application and Selection Procedure.

4. Applicants are required to satisfy the university’s English language requirements for postgraduate courses. For those applicants seeking to meet these requirements by one of the standard tests approved by the Academic Board, performance band 6.5 is required.

(a) Students need to complete three specified subjects within the first 50 points of the program with a weighted average mark of at least H2B (70%) to be permitted to continue in the Postgraduate Diploma of Biostatistics or the Master of Biostatistics. The Postgraduate Certificate in Biostatistics is available as an exit award for students who complete 50 points of study but do not meet this hurdle requirement due to their subject selection or their average mark.
(b) Successful applicants with prior cognate study at tertiary level may receive up to 50 points of advanced standing (with or without credit) towards the Postgraduate Diploma in Biostatistics or the Master of Biostatistics.

Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this course are articulated in the Course Description, Course Objectives and Generic Skills of this entry.
The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website.

Graduate Attributes:

The Melbourne Experience enables our graduates to become:

Academically excellent:

  • have a strong sense of intellectual integrity and the ethics of scholarship
  • have in-depth knowledge of their specialist discipline(s)
  • reach a high level of achievement in writing, generic research activities, problem-solving and communication
  • be critical and creative thinkers, with an aptitude for continued self-directed learning
  • be adept at learning in a range of ways, including through information and communication technologies

Knowledgeable across disciplines:

  • examine critically, synthesise and evaluate knowledge across a broad range of disciplines
  • expand their analytical and cognitive skills through learning experiences in diverse subjects
  • have the capacity to participate fully in collaborative learning and to confront unfamiliar problems
  • have a set of flexible and transferable skills for different types of employment

Leaders in communities:

  • initiate and implement constructive change in their communities, including professions and workplaces
  • have excellent interpersonal and decision-making skills, including an awareness of personal strengths and limitations
  • mentor future generations of learners
  • engage in meaningful public discourse, with a profound awareness of community needs

Attuned to cultural diversity:

  • value different cultures
  • be well-informed citizens able to contribute to their communities wherever they choose to live and work
  • have an understanding of the social and cultural diversity in our community
  • respect indigenous knowledge, cultures and values

Active global citizens:

  • accept social and civic responsibilities
  • be advocates for improving the sustainability of the environment
  • have a broad global understanding, with a high regard for human rights, equity and ethics

Generic Skills:

Refer to Course Objectives.

Links to further information:

All subjects are taught by distance education, via a consortium of universities known as the Biostatistics Collaboration of Australia (BCA). For further details, see the BCA website:

Because the degree of Master of Biostatistics includes a compulsory supervised workplace project portfolio (subject code 505-945), enrolment in the Master of Biostatistics is not usually possible for international students unable to live and be employed in Australia while undertaking the degree.

Mid-Year entry is available.

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