Biostatistics Major, B.S.P.H.

Department of Biostatistics

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3103 McGavran-Greenberg Hall, CB# 7429

(919) 966-7262

Michael R. Kosorok, Chair

Jane Monaco, Program Director

Biostatistics is a discipline concerned with the improvement of human health through the application and advancement of statistical science.  The curriculum consists of a strong mathematical foundation; advanced coursework in statistical applications, theory, and computing; and an understanding of the public health sciences.

The Department of Biostatistics in the Gillings School of Global Public Health was the first undergraduate program in the country to offer an undergraduate degree in biostatistics. The undergraduate major in biostatistics prepares students to apply quantitative methods to design studies, implement methods, analyze data, and interpret results across a range of disciplines. The degree provides an excellent foundation for continued studies (primarily graduate school in biostatistics, statistics, data science, or medical school) and a strong foundation for employment for highly qualified students interested in quantitative methods applied to a variety of fields not limited to public health or medicine.

Admission to the program is required.

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the biostatistics program, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate familiarity with elementary statistical theory
  • Formulate and perform a descriptive and inferential analyses of a public health or other study using software
  • Interpret the findings from a moderately complex analysis
  • Design an experiment or observational study
  • Design survey sampling schemes appropriate for public health or other disciplines and demonstrate skills to analyze a survey
  • Demonstrate knowledge of environmental sciences, health policy management, health behavior and health education, and epidemiology


In addition to the program requirements listed below, students must:

  • attain a final cumulative grade point average of at least 2.0
  • complete a minimum of 45 academic credit hours earned from UNC–Chapel Hill courses
  • take at least half of their major course requirements (courses and credit hours) at UNC–Chapel Hill
  • earn a C (not C-) or better in prerequisite, core public health, and department-required courses

For more information, please consult the degree requirements section of the catalog.

Core Requirements
Public health core courses:
ENVR 600Environmental Health3
EPID 600Principles of Epidemiology for Public Health3
HBEH 600Social and Behavioral Sciences in Public Health3
HPM 600Introduction to Health Policy and Management3
Other core courses:
BIOS 500HIntroduction to Biostatistics3
BIOS 511Introduction to Statistical Computing and Data Management4
BIOS 545Principles of Experimental Analysis3
BIOS 550Basic Elements of Probability and Statistical Inference I4
BIOS 664Sample Survey Methodology4
BIOS 668Design of Public Health Studies3
BIOS 691Field Observations in Biostatistics1
Additional Requirements
BIOL 101
Principles of Biology
and Introductory Biology Laboratory 1, H
COMP 110Introduction to Programming 1, H3
or COMP 116 Introduction to Scientific Programming
MATH 231Calculus of Functions of One Variable I 1, H4
MATH 232Calculus of Functions of One Variable II 1, H4
MATH 233Calculus of Functions of Several Variables 1, H4
BIOL 201Ecology and Evolution 2, H4
or BIOL 202 Molecular Biology and Genetics
MATH 381Discrete Mathematics H3
or STOR 215 Foundations of Decision Sciences
MATH 521Advanced Calculus I H3
or MATH 528 Mathematical Methods for the Physical Sciences I
MATH 547Linear Algebra for Applications3
Total Hours66

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Sample Plan of Study

Sample plans can be used as a guide to identify the courses required to complete the major and other requirements needed for degree completion within the expected eight semesters. The actual degree plan may differ depending on the course of study selected (second major, minor, etc.). Students should meet with their academic advisor to create a degree plan that is specific and unique to their interests. The sample plans represented in this catalog are intended for first-year students entering UNC–Chapel Hill in the fall term. Some courses may not be offered every term.

Plan of Study Grid
First YearHours
BIOL 101
Principles of Biology
and Introductory Biology Laboratory H
MATH 231 Calculus of Functions of One Variable I H 4
MATH 232 Calculus of Functions of One Variable II H 4
Hours 12
Sophomore Year
COMP 110
Introduction to Programming H
or Introduction to Scientific Programming
MATH 233 Calculus of Functions of Several Variables H 4
Hours 7
Junior Year
Fall Semester
BIOS 500H Introduction to Biostatistics (fall only) 3
BIOS 511 Introduction to Statistical Computing and Data Management (fall only) 4
MATH 381
Discrete Mathematics H
or Foundations of Decision Sciences
HBEH 600 Social and Behavioral Sciences in Public Health 3
Hours 13
Spring Semester
BIOS 545 Principles of Experimental Analysis (spring only) 3
MATH 521
Advanced Calculus I H
or Mathematical Methods for the Physical Sciences I
EPID 600 Principles of Epidemiology for Public Health 3
Hours 9
Senior Year
Fall Semester
BIOS 550 Basic Elements of Probability and Statistical Inference I (fall only) 4
BIOS 691 Field Observations in Biostatistics (fall only) 1
MATH 547 Linear Algebra for Applications 3
ENVR 600 Environmental Health 3
Hours 11
Spring Semester
BIOS 664 Sample Survey Methodology (spring only) 4
BIOS 668 Design of Public Health Studies (spring only) 3
BIOL 201
Ecology and Evolution H
or Molecular Biology and Genetics
HPM 600 Introduction to Health Policy and Management 3
Hours 14
Total Hours 66

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Special Opportunities in the Department of Biostatistics

Dual Bachelor’s–Master’s Degree Program

Undergraduate students with appropriate math and biostatistics backgrounds have the opportunity to pursue a dual bachelor’s–graduate degree. This dual B.S.P.H.–M.S. program identifies a coherent course of study for students to complete some of the M.S. degree requirements in biostatistics while pursuing a B.S.P.H. degree with a major in biostatistics. More information is available on the department Web site.

Honors in Biostatistics

The Department of Biostatistics offers an honors program in which undergraduates can pursue individualized study and undertake a special project. Students who have a grade point average of 3.3 or higher are eligible to participate in honors research and write an honors thesis. Faculty members’ readiness to guide the students in their honors work governs the final selection of those allowed to enter the program. Students completing an honors program must register for BIOS 693H and BIOS 694H.

Experiential Education

The required course, BIOS 664, fulfills the General Education experiential education requirement. In addition, students are required to take BIOS 691 (usually during the fall semester of the senior year). This course consists of an orientation to and observation of six or more major nonacademic institutions in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park area that employ biostatisticians, including contract research organizations and nonprofit companies. BIOS 691 does not fulfill the General Education experiential education requirement.

Laboratory Teaching Internships and Assistantships

Students are encouraged to investigate part-time employment during the academic year and full-time employment during the summer after their junior year with members of our faculty and their collaborators on current research and service projects.

Study Abroad

Students are encouraged to participate in the University’s study abroad programs in the summers or before matriculating to the B.S.P.H. in biostatistics program. Identification of a study abroad program early in the student’s career is necessary for course planning purposes.

Undergraduate Awards

The Theta Chapter of Delta Omega honors up to two students among  the department’s graduates with an award of excellence. Awards are presented in the spring as part of the biostatistics awards ceremony. Among the recent graduates, a notable proportion of students have been inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.

Undergraduate Research

Students are encouraged to consider doing senior honors research and should consult individual faculty members for opportunities. However, some students choose to take advantage of the myriad part-time employment opportunities with our faculty members on their research and service projects or opportunities within nearby Research Triangle Park.