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  Jun 18, 2024
2009-2010 Graduate Studies Bulletin (Archived Copy) 
2009-2010 Graduate Studies Bulletin (Archived Copy) [Archived Catalog]

Biostatistics, M.P.H.

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Degree Requirements Arnold School of Public Health 
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics   

The goal of the Master of Public Health degree in Biostatistics is to prepare students with prior public health experience, through quality lecture and field practice experiences and other research opportunities, to apply analytical and investigative biostatistical skills in a public health setting. Specifically, a student who successfully completes this degree will:

1. Demonstrate the ability to evaluate a given health related problem, and to identify the most appropriate statistical technique for analysis.

2. Display a mastery of a variety of traditional and newly developed statistical techniques, including multivariable methods for continuous and categorical data analysis.

3. Demonstrate the ability to interpret the results of a statistical analysis, and to communicate such interpretations in an easily comprehensible manner.

4. Demonstrate knowledge of academic and non-academic issues and problems in epidemiology and biostatistics.

5. Demonstrate the ability to structure available data in an easily useable form, using a variety of data management software tools.

6. Demonstrate the ability to use a variety of statistical software packages, to create and maintain databases, and to analyze data.

7. Demonstrate the ability to apply analytic epidemiologic methods used to investigate health conditions, gain exposure to a wide variety of public health topics and develop a basic understanding of the philosophy of public health practice.

8. Display the ability to apply an existing statistical technique to a current problem or question faced by a health agency.

9. Demonstrate the ability to interpret the results of a statistical analysis, and to explain those results in understandable terms to public health practitioners.

Degree Requirements

A minimum of 45 credit hours is required for the Master of Public Health with a major in Biostatistics. Students are required to have two semesters of calculus or will be expected to make up the deficit beyond the minimum program of study. Additional courses may be required to meet prerequisites or to accommodate electives. All department core courses must be passed with a grade of “B” or better. Failure to do so will necessitate repeating the course; these courses can only be repeated once. Course requirements are given below.

Practicum Requirements for the M.P.H.

Public Health in the United States is practiced in diverse settings that include both public and private agencies. Regardless of the type of agency in which it is practiced, public health includes a philosophy of social justice, concepts of community, and population perspectives. The range of public health activities in populations include preventing epidemics and the spread of disease, protecting against environmental hazards, preventing injuries, promoting and encouraging healthy behaviors, responding to disasters and assisting communities in recovery and assuring quality and accessibility of health services (Public Health in America, APHA, 1995). For epidemiologists and biostatisticians, one important aspect of public health practice is learning to bridge the gap between data collection/analysis and decision-making in addressing the goals of public health.


Minimum course prerequisites for the practice experience: completion of at least one of the School of Public Health core courses and the department core. Students must pass the progression examination before beginning the practice.


A variety of public agencies offer practice opportunities for students. Mentors for the practice experience are in most instances individuals whose daily activity focuses primarily on public health practice, such as those who develop, manage, or evaluate programs at the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control. Faculty research projects are not appropriate for the practice experience. Faculty with joint appointments in the School of Public Health and a practice setting may serve as Mentors as long as the practice experience is clearly situated in the practice setting and has a practice focus, and the Mentor is functioning, for the purposes of the student’s practice experience, primarily in his or her practice capacity. See 7 below: Developing a Work Task. Assistantships will not be offered to satisfy any academic requirements, including practice requirements and thesis/dissertation research.


Students in the M.P.H. program must satisfactorily complete a total of six credit hours in Public Health Practice. Practice can be taken in more than one semester, and credit hours assigned are variable depending upon the nature and extent of the work tasks undertaken. Three hours of practice work in a regular semester (Fall or Spring terms) requires an average of 10 hours of actual work each week including writing the final report, or 20 hours per week for six credits. In a summer term, three hours of credit would require 20 hours per week and six hours of credit would require 40 hours per week.


Public Health Practice combines the accomplishment of a task with intentional learning on the part of a student. In Public Health Practice, students are responsible for initiating their work and establishing learning objectives. In Public Health Practice, the student’s work is for the host organization’s benefit, and must not be used outside its purview without specific permission, usually in writing. The results of this work are “controlled” by the host organization or its representative.

Professional conditions of confidentiality are to be honored according to prevailing practice of the sponsoring organization. In general, information received from an individual or organization belongs to that individual or organization and recipients (i.e., students) are not free to pass along this information to other parties without the consent of the individual or organization.

All practice projects involving human subjects must be reviewed and approved by the appropriate ethics review committee. Research qualifying for exemption (typically secondary data analysis of existing data, observational studies with adults, or evaluation of service/public activities) can be approved by the University Institutional Review Board. The IRB application must be completed online at It will be necessary to register the first time you enter the site. Some projects must also be approved by the agency review committee at which the practicum is conducted. Any necessary approvals must be obtained prior to beginning work on the defined practicum tasks. Some practicum activities related to an ongoing research project may be covered under that project’s IRB approval; this should be discussed with the project PI and/or practicum advisor; in most situations, notification of the IRB of a change in protocol is sufficient.


If financial resources are required for doing a Public Health Practice activity, the responsibility for negotiating these arrangements rests with the sponsoring agency and the student. These costs and responsibilities for coverage are included in the practice proposal. Responsibilities of a graduate assistantship cannot be used to satisfy practice requirements.


Students are expected to:

  • Take initiative and responsibility in defining competence to be developed, arranging or selecting an appropriate setting for practice activity, developing clear work and learning objectives and completing work and learning tasks by the dates agreed upon.
  • Arrange appropriate meetings with Faculty Advisor and Mentor, including the final oral presentation.

Faculty Advisors are expected to:

  • Advise students in developing work and learning proposals.
  • Advise students regarding ethics review required of the practice project.
  • Participate in meetings with student and Mentor at the location of student’s practice.
  • Provide ongoing expert advice and guidance as needed or requested.
  • Assess learning outcomes and assign pass/fail grade at appropriate times.
  • Attend final oral presentation by student.

Mentors are expected to:

  • Assist SPH staff and students to define short-term tasks of potential use to his or her organization.
  • Review student’s “proposal” for usefulness to organization, determine limits of Mentor’s role with student, and provide on-site direction to the work component of the practice.
  • Provide student logistical support (arranging space, equipment, use of phones, use of computer and/or computer software, secretarial help, making introductions, providing data or helping gain access to it, and general advice within the organization.
  • Attend the student’s required final oral presentation.
  • Assist with assessment of student’s work and growth in competence during the practice.


For some students, a work task may be defined and negotiated for a practice activity prior to establishing specific learning objectives. In this case, discovering the learning potential of a given work task is required. For others who have developed and articulated learning objectives, the requirement is to locate and determine experiences that will enable the student to develop the specified skills.

There is no single proper way to find the “right” setting and task. The challenge is to locate something that needs to be done that some organization and persons within the organization care about, and then determine if that task can be done in the time you have available and if it allows you to pursue your learning objectives.

Experience with organizations that have sponsored SPH students suggests that if six major conditions are present, a sound practice activity can be developed. The conditions are:

  • An organization wants or needs something done, and it “controls” or “owns” the work results.
  • The student has some previously developed competence or experience that indicates the potential for contributions to the organization and citizenry. This includes knowledge gained in prerequisite courses.
  • The student has well thought out and communicated learning objectives that can be pursued in the framework of doing the task.
  • The student demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of what is to be done and is able to identify a supportive network of people.
  • A Mentor is identified who both wants the work done and wants to assist the student in pursuing the designated learning objectives.
  • The student seeks advice and monitoring from his/her Faculty Advisor.

The draft Work Task Proposal contains a minimal checklist of items that are considered important in preparing a work task proposal for Public Health Practice. Complete this draft first and discuss it with your Practice Faculty Advisor. The Public Health Practice Agreement form should be completed before the start of the practicum.

Individual sessions should be arranged by the student as needed with the Faculty Advisor or Mentor. It is recommended that the student schedule regular conferences with the Faculty



The student must write a final report on his/her practice experience and give an oral presentation based on this report. The report should address the objectives set down in the student’s practice plan. The faculty and the Mentor must approve the final version of the Practice Report. The student should provide a spiral bound copy of the report to the faculty, Mentor, and the department (a formal copy is not submitted to the Graduate School).

The student is responsible for arranging the time and place of the oral presentation. The Faculty Advisor and Mentor must be present at the presentation. The student should make a general announcement in the School of Public Health at least a week before the presentation so that anyone who wishes can attend the oral presentation.

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