The Department of Biostatistics typically has 25 to 30 full-time students enrolled in its graduate program, the majority of whom are Ph.D. students. Additionally, several Ph.D. and M.S. candidates study in the department on a part-time basis.
Most students hold a bachelor’s degree in mathematics or statistics. Some, however, have bachelor’s degrees in chemistry, biology or other sciences. Because of more stringent admission requirements implemented by the department, students receive guidance in planning remedial course work. For example, students with gaps in their mathematical background are identified and directed to enroll in courses that will provide an appropriate basis for successful completion of the graduate program. This guidance is crucial given the varied backgrounds of biostatistics students.
Apart from the required course work, full-time supported graduate students receive 8-20 hours per week of additional training as research or teaching assistants, or working in professional internships. Research assistants generally work with one research project or one clinical department at VCU, gaining experience in data management, research design and analysis. Teaching assistants are expected to grade course work for one graduate-level class and to provide office hours for students in that class. Students in professional internships receive first-hand experience in the responsibilities of a biostatistician in the pharmaceutical industry or contract research organizations.
Part-time enrollment in biostatistics has increased over the years. The part-time graduate students have jobs that allow for flexible scheduling of work hours. Most part-time students are employed in career jobs in companies or research environments that need individuals with advanced statistical training.