M.S. Program in Statistics and Data Science



The M.S. in Statistics and Data Science is administered by the Department of Mathematics and Statistics located in the Chapman Building on the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) campus. UAF is reputed for its strength in the natural sciences, especially in those areas touching on the arctic environment. Many institutes and departments use statistical methodology in their research, among them the Institute of Arctic Biology, the Institute of Marine Sciences, the Geophysical Institute, the Department of Biology and Wildlife and the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. The MS in Statistics and Data Science program builds upon UAF's strength in the natural sciences by introducing a strong quantitative alternative to existing programs. Graduates of this program could be labeled quantitative biologists, biometricians, quantitative geologists, geostatisticians, or mathematical statisticians depending upon their specific coursework. In addition, this program prepares individuals for Ph.D. level work in statistics or in their area of application. Students pursuing a Ph.D. in another field can pursue the M.S. program in statistics and data science simultaneously. The program is intended to take two academic years to complete for individuals with the appropriate prerequisite courses and does not interfere with summer field work in the area of specialization.


Qualifications of Graduates

Graduates of the program will be qualified to do the following:

  • Plan and implement high quality natural resource assessment projects including the full range of statistical objectives from sample or experimental design to data processing and interpretation of results.
  • Qualify for Biometrician I positions with the State of Alaska Department of Fish and Game (Click link to see WorkPlace Alaska job specifications).
  • Teach courses with high statistical content including those in wildlife, biology, fisheries, geology, or natural resource management.
  • Pursue a Ph.D. in Statistics or a field of application

Previous students have become biometricians for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, statisticians in university institutional research groups and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, and gone on to complete Ph.D. programs is statistics or other fields.


The Program

The program is built around three core courses (Statistical Theory I, II and III labeled STAT 651, 652, and 653) and a collection of elective courses that enroll students from a variety of disciplines. The core courses are designed to blend the two semesters of mathematical statistics typical of an M.S. program in statistics with real applications. Such a blending requires a third semester but provides a substantial improvement in the graduate's skills, see course descriptions below.


Sources of Funding.

The Department of Mathematical Sciences offers several teaching assistant positions, consisting of a stipend (scroll down on this link to see stipend amounts) and tuition waiver.

Applications are evaluated when complete. To be competitive for financial support, applications should be complete at least six months before intended admission. Firm application deadlines are June 1 for fall admission and October 15 for spring (March 1 and Sept 1 for international applicants).

The department also works with other units on campus to arrange research assistantships (RA); we typically have several students on RAs. Some students already enrolled in other programs are externally supported.


Thesis/Project Options and Examinations

The program is typically completed with a project. Two presentations to faculty and fellow students are associated with the project; first, a proposal presentation laying out the plan of work; second, a project completion presentation. If a thesis is written rather than a project, it must follow the required UAF thesis format requirements (see UAF graduate school). The project must be summarized in the required format for a specific journal (e.g., The Journal of Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Statistics, The Journal of Wildlife Managment, or Canadian Journal of Fisheries) and the final project must be made available in a pdf format for library archives.

All students in the program must pass the following examinations:

  1. A written comprehensive examination covering both applications and theory related to the core statistics courses (STAT 651-653),
  2. Demonstrated ability to program in a common programming language and/or a major statistical computing package (commonly included in the project or thesis),
  3. An oral examination covering coursework, thesis, and/or project.

Student Admission Qualifications

To be admitted to the program, an applicant must complete the general UAF procedures for admission into the graduate program and submit the following:

  1. Three letters of recommendation concerning the applicants educational background specifically addressing mathematics and statistics background;
  2. Statement of Interest;
  3. Resume;
  4. General GRE scores are not required at this time, but will be looked at if you submit them;
  5. Complete transcripts for all college level coursework; and
  6. must have completed at least a bachelors degree from an accredited institution including the completion of the following courses or their equivalent with a grade of B or better:
      • A full calculus sequence (at UAF MATH 251, 252, and 253); Alternatively, students completing MATH 230 must take MATH 252 and MATH 253 before acceptance into this program.
      • A course in linear algebra (MATH 314); and
      • At least one introductory statistics or probability course (STAT 200 or 300 or MATH 371)
      • Completion of a statistics course in regression and ANOVA is highly recommended but not required

Guidance for New Graduate Students

Shortly after starting your program you should download and read UAF's Graduate School Manual (scroll down to download manual)

During your first semester you should meet all the statistics faculty and get to know their research interests, then form a graduate advisory committee consisting of at least three statistics faculty members and identify one of the statistics faculty members to chair the committee as your Advisor. You may select one advisory committee member from another UAF department or from a different institution. Complete and submit UAF's Graduate Advisory Committee form. Copies should be kept by the department administrative assistant in your file, by your advisor and by you. You may change advisors later in your program if your project work is related to someone other than your original advisor.

You should meet with your advisor to draft a graduate study plan, the list of courses you intend to take, any deficiencies that may need to be completed, and when you expect to complete your program requirements. Once you have a draft graduate study plan you should meet with your committee to see if any revisions are suggested.

You may be asked to take courses to remedy deficiencies identified by the advisory committee. The advisory committee can also decide, in accordance with university policy, whether specific transfer graduate courses may be allowed as part of the program (at most 9 credits).

Once the graduate study plan is approved by your committee, the signed original should go to the graduate school. Copies should be kept by the department administrative assistant in your file, by your advisor and by you.

You should enroll in at least 9 credits per semester; these courses should be those on your graduate study plan. First semester students should enroll in STAT 651 and other courses suggested by a statistics faculty member as appropriate for your background. In your third and fourth semesters as a graduate student you should enroll in 3 credits of research each semester. Prior to or early in the third semester you should identify a research project and begin work on it with your advisor, discuss it with your committee, revising it as necessary, and present your project proposal at the statistics seminar. During your fourth semester you should complete the written project in the required format of a specific journal (as agreed upon with your committee) and give an oral presentation of your project, using Power Point, at the statistics seminar. You should also produce a pdf copy of your project and send it to your advisor for the library archives. In addition, in your fourth semester you should enroll in STAT 654, Statistical Consulting.

You should complete and submit an advancement to candidacy form at least one semester before you intend to graduate. Fill out the application for graduation at the beginning of the semester in which you intend to graduate.

During your fourth semester, typically mid April, you will take the written comprehensive exam. This exam is a four hour written exam covering the content of STAT 651, 652, and 653. This exam is graded pass or fail. During the week or two after the written exam is graded you will present your project to the statistics seminar then your committee will conduct an oral examination (only if you have passed the written exams). The content of the oral exam may include questions concerning your project and questions concerning the written exam, especially any areas where your answers may have been incorrect or incomplete. Students are allowed two attempts to pass the written exam. Second attempts are typically at least 6 months after a first failed attempt.


Program Requirements

The student must satisfy the general university requirements, in particular, complete a minimum of 30 semester credits of which at least 24 credits must be at the 600 level (including those earned for thesis or research projects which are limited to a maximum of 12 credits).

The program requires the following specific requirements:

I. Complete the M.S. Core Statistics Courses:


Statistical Theory I

3 credits

STAT 652

Statistical Theory II

4 credits

STAT 653

Statistical Theory III

3 credits

STAT 654

Consulting Seminar

1 credit

STAT 698


6 credits


17 credits subtotal

III. The following are examples of courses for specific areas of concentration:


WLF 625 and WLF 695; STAT 402 recommended



FISH 601 and FISH 602; STAT 402 recommended




FISH 621 and FISH 622; STAT 402 recommended


Mathematical Statistics

MATH 641 and MATH 660; many other possibilities



GEOS 430 and GE/MIN 635



ECON 626 and ECON 636


As UAF has strong graduate programs in Fisheries, Marine Science, Wildlife, Biology, Geophysics, among others, there are many available graduate-level applications courses. Please check out the links at the bottom of this document for more information. * - Courses useful for State of Alaska Biometrician qualification.

IV) Complete approved elective courses, 8 credit subtotal

30 credits TOTAL




Fall even year

odd year

Fall odd year

Spring even year


Introduction to Statistics












Regression and ANOVA






Scientific Sampling






Multivariate Statistics





Topics in Statistics






Design of Experiments




Spatial Statistics




Time Series Analysis





Distribution-Free Statistics





Categorical Data Analysis

STAT640 Exploratory Data Analysis (Juneau) ADW ADW ADW ADW


Statistical Theory I






Statistical Theory II





Statistical Theory III




Consulting Seminar (1 cr)





Sampling Theory










Mathematical Statistics





Undergraduate Research






Statistics Seminar






Graduate Research





NOTES: STAT480 "Topics in Statistics" may be retaken for credit as long as the topic varies. Past topics have included:

  • Introduction to SAS
  • Introduction to S-plus
  • Logistic Regression
  • Nonlinear Regression
  • Bootstrap and Jackknife
  • Survival Analysis

Qualifying for State of Alaska Biometrician Positions

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) currently has more than 20 full-time biometricians. Historically, ADF&G has had difficulty recruiting biometricians and commonly recruits outside Alaska because of a lack of adequately trained individuals within the state. ADF&G commonly has more than one open position each year. The Commissioner of ADF&G wrote to UAF in 1995 suggesting that the university offer additional biometrics coursework and potentially a degree program in this area.

The minimum qualifications for biometrician positions include a masters degree in statistics, biometrics, or in one of the biological sciences with 18 semester hours in graduate- level biometrics or statistics courses. The statistics MS program will well qualify graduates for state biometrician positions. Our program was developed in close consultation with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Many of our graduates currently work in ADF&G Biometrician positions.



Fall 1 : Statistical Theory I (STAT651), Experimental Design (STAT602), applied elective (3 cr.).

Spring 1 : Statistical Theory II (STAT652), Time Series Analysis (STAT611), applied elective (3 cr.).

Fall 2 : Categorical Data Analysis (STAT631), Project (3 cr., STAT698), applied elective (3 cr.).

Spring 2: Spatial Statistics (STAT605), Statistical Consulting Seminar (STAT654), Statistical Theory III (STAT653) , Project (3 cr., STAT698).

30 to 36 cr.



Applicants may apply at any time up to the beginning of their first semester. However, if an applicant is interested in obtaining a teaching assistantship, they should apply before March 1.

Links to other University of Alaska Programs

Also of interest: