Admission to our program is competitive, and applicants are evaluated based on the entire application package. Every year we receive approximately 140 MS applications and 230 PhD applications, and offered admission to approximately 50 MS applicants and 15 PhD applicants. Below are minimum prerequisites for admission and criteria to be considered a competitive applicant.
Requirements for Specific Degree Programs
MS and PhD
Applicants to the MS and PhD program should have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Most students enter with a major in mathematics, statistics, or a biological sciences field; however, we also accept applicants with backgrounds in other fields if the necessary math and statistics prerequisites below are fulfilled. We often have applicants from engineering, psychology, or financial/business backgrounds. Strong applicants will have solid quantitative skills as evidenced by their coursework and GRE quantitative score.
UW Graduate School Minimum Requirements
Important: When you apply to a UW Biostatistics graduate program, you are also formally applying to the University of Washington Graduate School. Although all acceptance decisions are made within the Biostatistics department, the UW Graduate School also has minimum admission requirements for all UW graduate programs.
Pursuing Concurrent Degrees
If you are a UW student interested in pursuing a second/concurrent degree, please consult with your current degree program to determine the feasibility, division and sharing of credits, and timeline for pursuing a concurrent degree. See the UW Graduate School's policy on concurrent degrees.
Math and Statistics Prerequisites
Our program is mathematically rigorous and a strong quantitative background is essential to succeed in our program.
Minimum Math Requirements
All applicants to the MS and PhD program should have the equivalent of approximately 30 or more quarter credits in mathematics and statistics, which must include:
- approximately three semesters or four quarters of calculus, which must include multivariate calculus
- one course in linear algebra
- one course in probability theory (calculus based)
UW course equivalents that meet these requirements
University of Washington courses which are approximate equivalents to these requirements are:
- First-year calculus; MATH 124-125-126
- Advanced multivariable calculus: MATH 224
- Linear algebra: MATH 208
- Probability: MATH/STAT 394 and/or 395
For descriptions of these courses, please refer to the UW Department of Math course catalog. This information may help you determine whether your background is sufficient to meet our prerequisites.
Applying course credits from other universities
When determining whether a course at another institution is equivalent to the UW courses, we recommend that you also check that the prerequisite for that course is equivalent to the prerequisite for the UW course (e.g., the Probability course should have a Calculus III prerequisite).
How multivariate calculus, accelerated calculus series, and AP courses count toward requirements
- In general, if you have taken multivariate calculus, you have met the minimum calculus requirement. Accelerated/shorter calculus series are generally not recommended but acceptable if you have taken additional advanced math/statistics courses.
- If you have taken AP calculus courses, these count towards the requirement.
Additional recommendations for coursework
When planning remaining undergraduate courses, we encourage applicants to complete more mathematics. Students planning to apply to the PhD program should consider coursework in real analysis, though you may take this as part of your graduate study. Most of our successful applicants have taken courses in differential equations, real analysis, number theory, and/or advanced algebra. Additional credits in the biological sciences are also desirable.
Prerequisites may be taken at any accredited higher education institution, including accredited community colleges or online courses from accredited schools that provide grades for the courses. Taking them pass/fail or credit/no credit is not acceptable.
The majority of the prerequisite courses should be completed by the time of application. If you are taking any remaining courses in the autumn in which you apply, make sure this is indicated in your transcript or statement of purpose and we will follow up if needed. If you have not taken the majority of prerequisites, it is unlikely you will be considered a competitive applicant. If you plan to complete a remaining course in the spring, you may still apply, but the lack of grades will impact your application. Prerequisites cannot be completed after starting the program.
If you are a UW student planning to take MATH/STAT 394 at the University of Washington, the course is usually closed to non-majors. However, this course may have better openings for non-majors during Summer quarter. See the Math department's website for their registration policies. Because of the potential challenges of enrolling in this course, a possible online alternative is STAT 414: Introduction to Probability Theory offered by Penn State. Applicants are also encouraged to find and take other alternative courses, using the above guidelines for determining equivalency.
Due to the large number of local and online institutions that offer math courses, we do not maintain a list of recommended institutions or courses, except the probability course above.
Test Scores and GPA
GRE General Test scores are optional for all applicants to the MS and PhD program, regardless of prior degrees or other background. In the past, most competitive applicants had :
- Quantitative score in the 90th percentile
- Analytic score above the 50th percentile
- Verbal score above the 70th percentile
Test scores are valid for five years and must be valid on the date the application is submitted.
Proof of English Language Proficiency for International Applicants
English language proficiency for international applicants must be demonstrated with one of the tests accepted by The Graduate School as outlined in Memo 8, unless:
You have a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from a regionally accredited institution in the United States or from an institution in Australia, the Bahamas, Canada, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, or the United Kingdom; OR from an institution from another country that can provide verification that all instruction is in English.
You are currently working on such a degree and will earn it prior to enrolling in our program.
See details about English proficiency requirements. Questions regarding this requirement may be directed to the UW Graduate School.
While our department does not have minimum score requirements, most competitive applicants will have:
- TOEFL total score ≥ 100
- TOEFL speaking score ≥ 23
Test scores are valid for two years and must be valid on the date the application is submitted.
While our department does not have minimum GPA requirements besides the 3.0 GPA required by the graduate school, competitive applicants typically have an undergraduate GPA ≥ 3.5, with mostly As in Math/Statistics coursework.
Concerned about low test scores or GPA?
The admissions committee considers all components of the application, including the statement of purpose, recommendation letters, and individual course grades, in addition to the test scores and GPA. You may apply even if you do not meet the above averages for competitive applicants, as a particularly strong performance in one or more areas may sometimes offset a weak performance. However, due to the competitiveness of the program, we generally advise that applicants strengthen their test scores and grades before applying, especially for the quantitative test and courses.