This page contains an overview of BCA program requirements.
Further information can be found in the Future and Current Students pages.
Who is the program for?
Program of courses
Program Objectives - what will I learn?
Who is eligible to apply?
How long is the course?
A note about the mathematical foundation of the BCA program
How to enrol
Who is the Program For?
The program has been designed to provide advanced biostatistical training for a diverse range of students. The main thing is that you should have an aptitude for advanced mathematics, and a desire to learn biostatistics.
The program includes units designed to provide the background in mathematical and statistical theory to those without a first degree in mathematics or statistics. The compulsory unit in epidemiology introduces those unfamiliar with research in population health to the basic concepts and methods of investigation used in public health & clinical medicine.
Graduates with a health sciences background, e.g. Masters degree in Public Health or Clinical Epidemiology, will gain more sophisticated statistical skills, while those from a mathematical background will further their understanding of health issues and the application of statistics in the field. On completion of the Masters degree or Graduate Diploma, graduates will have attained the required skills for employment as a biostatistician, while those completing the Graduate Certificate will have a good understanding of the principles of epidemiology and some aspects of biostatistics.
The Program of Courses in Biostatistics:
(Note that units of study may be called subjects, courses or papers at different universities.)
Masters Degree in Biostatistics (12 units of study including a Workplace Project Portfolio - unit code: WPP - equivalent in value to 2 or 4 units of study, depending on the university.)
For the Masters, 10 or 11 coursework units of study are required, (including Survival Analysis, which is an elective for the [Post]Graduate Diploma), plus a 1 or 2 unit Workplace Project Portfolio. 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 study. This will leave room for the student to complete one or two electives in addition to the compulsory Biostatistics Research Project (WPP)*, depending on the credit value placed upon WPP by the university at which they are enrolled.
*Unit title differs across universities; referred to as WPP by in all BCA liiterature.
NOTE: The unit of study, Linear Models, is an important foundation unit. Students who do not develop a strong grasp of this material will struggle to become successful biostatisticians. Students wanting to progress to the Master of Biostatistics (or Medical Statistics, as appropriate) would be expected to achieve at least 70% for the unit.
Graduate Diploma in Biostatistics (8 units of study)
For the Graduate Diploma, the Work Placement Project Portfolio is not a requirement and Survival Analysis may be an elective*. Some students may substitute electives for units of study such as Epidemiology, Mathematical Background for Biostatistics, Probability and Distribution Theory or Principles of Statistical Inference, if they have equivalent prior study.
*dependent on univeresity
Graduate Certificate in Biostatistics (4 units of study)*
For the Graduate Certificate, only Epidemiology (EPI) is a core requirement, if not already passed, allowing some flexibility (within the constraints of other subject-specific prerequisites, as indicated).
* program title can differ between universities. Program content is, however, the same across universities.
Program Objectives - What will I learn?
You will gain a sound understanding of statistical theory and methods and how to apply these to problem solving in professional practice. Flexibility of approach is central in this program.
This specialised program will give you the opportunity to develop an understanding of the theory and application of the major areas of biostatistics relevant to professional practice.
For a full list of learning outcomes for each course in the program of biostatistics, see Program Objectives.
- Masters Degree
- Graduate Diploma
- Graduate Certificate
Who is Eligible to Apply?
The program is designed to take students from a range of backgrounds and prepare them for employment as biostatisticians in a wide range of settings, including medical and epidemiological research, health services and the pharmeceutical industry. The main requirement is that you should have an aptitude for advanced mathematics and a desire to learn biostatistics at a professional level. Introductory subjects provide the necessary foundations in mathematical and statistical theory.
Applicants should have:
- a Bachelor degree in Statistics, Mathematics, Science, Psychology, Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, Economics, Health Sciences or other appropriate discipline from an approved university (or equivalent qualification);
- a proven aptitude for advanced mathematical work, indicated for example by a high level of achievement in high school or undergraduate mathematics;
- already passed an introductory course in statistics, covering at least the estimation of means and proportions with confidence intervals, and the comparison of means and proportions between two groups using hypothesis tests (i.e. t-tests and chi-squared tests for 2x2 tables).
NOTE: The BCA requires applicants to have done an introductory statistics course for which they were formally enrolled and assessed; online MOOC exams do not meet this requirement.
How long is the course?
The course is three years part time (if you two complete two units per semester).
The Master of Biostatistics course will allow you to develop a specialist career role in health-related research or health services. Biostatistical expertise is in very high demand in many areas. Possible job settings include:
- Medical and epidemiological research
- The pharmeceutical industry
- Government departments and agencies
The Masters degree also provides a great grounding for PhD and other higher degree research programs.
A note about the mathematical foundation of the BCA program
A fundamental principle underlying the BCA program is that a thorough knowledge of biostatistical concepts and methods requires a sound mathematical understanding. To practise effectively as a biostatistician you must be able to read, interpret, evaluate and potentially implement published papers that propose new methods and software for statistical design and analysis. The language of these methods is mathematics.
As outlined in the entry requirements, the completion of courses in mathematics at university level is not required but applicants must have a proven aptitude for advanced mathematical work, indicated for example by a high level of achievement in high school or undergraduate mathematics. We appreciate that many people working in various health and medical related fields may not have specialised mathematical training; therefore the BCA program provides instruction not only in the application of biostatistical methods but also in their underlying mathematical foundations.
For this reason, the program includes three mathematically based foundation units (subjects, courses).
- Mathematical Background for Biostatistics (MBB) which covers multivariable calculus and matrix algebra.
- Probability and Distribution Theory (PDT) provides the essentials of probability theory, random variables and the manipulation of probability distribution functions.
- Principles of Statistical Inference (PSI) which gives a thorough grounding in the core concepts of statistical inference including likelihood theory and parameter estimation.
If you have not completed courses in mathematics at university level you may find these foundation subjects challenging, however, once accomplished, you will have the tools to tackle the statistical concepts in subsequent units with confidence.
How to Enrol
See here for how to apply to enrol in the program at one of the consortium universities. Each participating university may have additional entry requirements. You should check the details with the university of your choice.
The Future students page:
contains information for prospective students, including details about how studying via a consortium of universities works (the BCA Consortium Outline);the BCA Program OUtline, showing required units for each course, co/prerequisites, semester availability, and how to apply for exemptions and/or credits; and textbook and software requirements.
Please note that BCA courses are designed to be studied part-time. In order to plan your study, it is important to consult the Curriculum Table and Study Schedules in the Program Outline.
See Unit Outlines for specifications and descriptions of units of study (subjects, courses) comprising the curriculum for the program.