The statistical science MS trains students in the theory and practice of statistical methodology, particularly as it relates to high-technology applications. Statistical science is regarded as one of the oldest and most successful information technology (IT) subjects. It focuses on the conversion of raw data into information. Coursework emphasizes applied statistics, applied probability, and statistical inference, with elective options in mathematics, operations research, and others. The program prepares students for careers in research as well as in industry and government, for positions such as statisticians, data scientists, or biostatisticians.
In addition to satisfying general admission requirements for graduate study, all applicants are expected to have basic computer literacy. They also must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in a field that includes coursework in multivariable calculus, matrix or linear algebra, statistics, and calculus-based probability. Applicants with degrees in such fields as mathematics, statistics, and some engineering programs usually meet these requirements.
In addition to meeting general requirements that apply to master's degrees at Mason, all students must complete the 12-credit core requirements for the degree. Grades of B- or better are required in two of the core courses: STAT 544 and STAT 554. Students build on these core requirements by choosing 12 credits of methodology courses and 6 credits of electives.
Students select either the professional or research option, depending on career ambitions. This choice must be made no later than the end of the semester in which 15 credits have been completed. The professional option provides MS degree qualifications to those seeking an expanded knowledge base in modern statistical theory and practice but do not wish to pursue a research career. The research option is for students planning to continue with a PhD degree, or begin/continue careers in statistical methodology research.
The professional option focuses on completing coursework in modern statistical theory and practice. 30 credits are required for the degree: 12 credits of core courses (taken by all MS students), 12 credits of methodology courses, and 6 credits of electives. Students electing this option are encouraged to pursue a broad background in statistical science, and they may seek to concentrate on applications of statistical methodology to other disciplines.
Students who select the professional option may elect to complete a master's research project resulting in a technical report. This report is not an original research report but a scholarly essay on a topic of current interest in the statistical science discipline. The technical report is usually about 20 to 25 pages long and demonstrates the student's ability to read and synthesize current technical literature into a scholarly essay. The report is evaluated by the student's adviser, taking into account the comprehensiveness of the coverage of the scientific literature, the accuracy of presentation and interpretation, and the literary style. Students are notified of their evaluations, and they may be required to revise their report to further develop their skills in preparing reports on technical subjects. The report is usually written in the context of 3 credits of STAT 798 - Master's Research Project, which count as elective credits. Students opting not to complete a research project must take 30 credits of coursework.
The research option requires 30 credits, including 6 credits that must be in independent research (thesis). Research is done under the guidance of a faculty member. Research may be carried out at Mason or, if appropriate, at nearby facilities. For example, students may pursue research at their place of employment on topics of interest to their employer, provided the research meets the standards of the university. The thesis is usually written in the context of 6 credits of STAT 799 - Master's Thesis, which count as elective credits. The remaining 24 credits include the 12 core credits and 12 methodology credits.
In addition to satisfying general university requirements for a master's degree, candidates who select the research option must submit a thesis based on the research to the student's thesis committee, which must give preliminary approval. The composition and appointment of this committee follows graduate program policies.
Candidates also must pass a final oral exam that concentrates on, but is not limited to, the area on which the thesis is written. The exam is administered by the student's thesis committee, and all interested members of the graduate faculty are invited to attend and participate in the questioning. The thesis committee makes the final decision on whether the candidate passes or fails.
Graduates with a master's in statistics from the Volgenau School of Engineering are prepared to address the technically rigorous demands of a career as a statistician. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth is expected at a very high rate of 27 percent in the next 10 years due to changes and advancement in data collection techniques and applications. Statisticians are interested in the theory and design of data collection, analysis, and application. There are a variety of fields with a demand for highly-trained statisticians, including biosciences, engineering, education, and psychology.