The MA Program in Statistics

Table of Contents

Coursework and Requirements

Focus of the MA Program

The program is designed to prepare students for careers in industries that require statistical skills. The focus is on tackling statistical challenges encountered by industry rather than preparing for a PhD.

Course Requirements

The program is for full-time students and is designed to be completed in two semesters (fall and spring). However, students may stay an additional semester after consultation with advisors, based on academic criteria. Students who stay an additional semester are expected to find an internship for the summer between their second and third semester and to GSI in the third semester. In order to obtain the M.A. in Statistics, admitted M.A. students must complete a minimum of 24 units of courses and pass a comprehensive examination.

In the first semester, all students will take intensive graduate courses in probability, theoretical statistics, and statistical computing; the typical courses are STAT 201A, 201B, and 243. In the second semester, students will take an advanced course in modern applied statistics (STAT 230), an elective, and a capstone course. The capstone will consist of a team-based learning experience that will give students the opportunity to work on a real-world problem and carry out a substantial data analysis project. It will culminate with a written report and an oral presentation of findings. The elective will depend on the student’s interests and will be decided in consultation with advisers. For a complete list of courses offered by the department and course descriptions, please visit the academic guide.

All coursework used for the M.A. must be letter graded unless the course is only offered on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U) basis. The total of S/U units may only be 2.

Comprehensive Exam

Shortly before spring classes begin in January, students will take a comprehensive exam on the theoretical foundations of statistics. There will be a two hour exam on the material of 201A and a two hour exam on the material of 201B. All students taking the exam will receive copies of previous examinations.

Will I be able to write a thesis instead of (or in addition to) taking the comprehensive exam?

In extremely rare cases, a thesis option may be considered by the MA advisors. Typically, this will be when either the option has been offered to the student at the time of admission, or if the student arrives with substantial progress in research in an area of interest to our faculty.

If approved for the thesis option, you must find three faculty to be on your thesis committee. Though not required, it is strongly encouraged that one of the faculty be from outside the Statistics Department. Both you and the thesis committee chair must agree on the topic of your thesis. Please provide a short description of your thesis topic, the names of your committee members and the signature of your committee chair on the Worksheet for the M.A. in Statistics, Thesis Option. In addition, you will also need to complete Graduate Division’s Application for Candidacy for the Master's Degree (Plan 1 - Thesis)

Will I be able to take courses other than those that are required?

Course selection will be done in consultation with Statistics Department MA advisors. Some students do take additional courses, including courses in other departments, depending on their background and level of preparation. Other professional graduate programs on campus all have their own policies for enrollment in their courses. After appropriate consultation with Statistics MA advisors, students will need to check these policies before registering for such courses.

What are some classes that I can take to satisfy my elective requirement?

Elective courses are chosen with the guidance and approval of the MA program advisor. Generally, the elective must be a graduate level course related to statistics. Such courses can be within the Statistics Department or from other departments. Examples of past electives:

  • STAT 260: Topics in Probability and Statistics
  • COMPSCI 294: Special Topics in Computer Science (topics vary widely for special topics courses)
  • STAT 241A: Machine Learning
  • IND ENG 263A: Applied Stochastic Process I

Can I transfer to the PhD program?

There is no transfer arrangement into the PhD program. To gain acceptance into the PhD program, you must apply along with all other applicants, and you will be considered in the same way as other applicants. Students should know that admission to the UC Berkeley Statistics PhD program is highly competitive.

How does the program compare with the former two-year MA program?

There are two main changes, motivated by student feedback but primarily by the explosion in the demand for well-trained statisticians in industry. First, the program has changed from a two-year program for half-time students to a one-year program for full-time students. Second, there is an emphasis on students receiving hands-on experience with modern data analysis to prepare them for jobs in industry. The level and number of requirements has not diminished; if anything, the intensity of work has increased. For example, there is now a capstone experience replacing a traditional course. As a result of all of the changes, the new program has an excitement, focus, and direction that is of great benefit for students going to industry.

How to Apply to Advance to Candidacy

Students must apply to advance to candidacy in the semester in which they plan to graduate and have completed all coursework or be currently enrolled in the courses required to complete the degree. All coursework for the M.A. must be completed by the end of the semester in which you intend to graduate. In order to apply for advancement to candidacy, you need to complete the Worksheet for the M.A. in Statistics. The worksheet will have to be signed by their designated MA program advisor before submission. For those approved by the M.A. Program Committee Chair, to apply for the M.A. thesis option, you will have to complete the Worksheet for the MA in Statistics, Thesis Option, as well as the Graduate Division’s Application for Candidacy for the Master's Degree (Plan 1 - Thesis).

You must apply for advancement to candidacy by the end of the third week of the semester in which you plan to graduate and be registered or on approved Filing Fee in the semester in which you sit for the written examination or file your thesis. If you have completed the M.A. coursework requirements and need only to take the written exam or file your thesis, you might be eligible for the Filing Fee option. To be eligible for Filing Fee, you must have a minimum of two semesters of academic residence and were registered in the previous semester. If you have other questions regarding filing fee eligibility, please visit the Graduate Division website.

If you already have a master's degree from any institution including UC Berkeley and are applying for advancement to candidacy for a master's degree in Statistics, you must:

Please submit your completed paperwork to the Master's Program Coordinator at 367 Evans Hall for review by the M.A. Program Committee. The department deadline to turn in paperwork is by the end of the third week of the semester in which you plan to graduate.

How do I add/drop classes or change my grading option between letter grading and satisfactory/unsatisfactory (SU)?

Each semester, graduate students have till the Friday of the third week of classes to add/drop courses on Cal Central. If you want to add/drop courses after the third week, you will have to complete a form called the Graduate Petition to Change Class Schedule. After completing the form, please submit it to the MA Program Coordinator in 375 Evans so that it can be processed. The form can be given in person or put in the MA Program Coordinator's mailbox in 367 Evans. It must be submitted before the last day of classes in each semester, which occurs before the week of final exams. See here for the academic calendar.

Duration and Finances

Do I have to complete the program in two semesters?

Students are expected to study full-time and finish the program in two semesters unless after consultation with their advisors there are academic reasons for extension.

For information about tuition, fees, cost of living, financial aid, and teaching assistantships, see the Financial Support page.

Student Life

For information about graduate student life and housing options, please visit the following sites:

International Students

What is the proportion of international students for this program?

We do not admit students based on national origin and we do not have fixed proportions of domestic and international students. The city of Berkeley and the Department of Statistics have always had a diverse and lively international community.

For questions regarding visas, employment of international students, or any other questions regarding temporary stay in the United States, please visit the Berkeley International Office Website or call them at (510) 642-2818.


Career Counseling

The UC Berkeley Career Center offers a wide range of resources, career events, and on-on-one counseling appointments. 

What Are Recent Grads Doing Now?

  • JP Morgan Chase - Investment Banking Division, Associate
  • LinkedIn, Applied Researcher
  • Ascend Analytics, Developer of Risk Analytics
  • Citigroup, Quantitative Analyst
  • Fair Issac, Project Analyst
  • Google, Analyst
  • Hewitt Associates, Actuarial Associate
  • Hewitt Consulting, Actuarial Intern
  • Providian Financial, Financial Analyst
  • The Athenian School, Math Teacher
  • Tillinghost Business of Towers Perrin, Actuarial Consultant
  • Towers Perrin, Actuarial Associate
  • UCSF, Data Analyst
  • University of Washington, PhD Student
  • UPenn, Wharton School, Finance PhD Program
  • Wecker and Associates, Analyst
  • Wells Fargo, Trader

Many of our former MA students are now in senior positions in industry and return to the department to recruit current students. The department’s Industrial Alliance Program also brings representatives of local firms to the department and creates recruitment opportunities for students. See the link for more details on what companies actively visit and recruit in the department. 


Is there a separate admissions application for current UCB graduate students?

As of Fall 2016, all current UCB graduate students outside of the Statistics Department interested in obtaining an M.A. degree in statistics must apply using the online application:  If admitted, students will be officially enrolled in the M.A. program for two semesters and pay the Professional Degree Supplemental Tuition (PDST)

Note: Students have the option to take the required coursework prior to applying, with the exception of the MA capstone course (STAT 222). However, if admitted, the student will still be required to take 12 units of approved coursework each semester. For example, if you have already completed STAT 243 for a passing letter grade, then once enrolled in the MA program you will be required to take another course instead of STAT 243. Once admitted, course selection/approval can be discussed with your assigned faculty advisor so that you can choose a course that both fits your interests and satisfies the 12 unit per semester requirement.

How many students applied for admission and how many are admitted each year?

Approximately 500 applications are reviewed for admission to the MA program each year. We usually recommend for admission 80-90 students per year to achieve an incoming class of 40.

Student Background

Admissions decisions are based on the most complete picture of the student we can get from the application. No single feature of the application automatically overrides others. Our applicants come from a variety of backgrounds and accordingly, we do not have a “one size fits all” approach. Statistics attracts students who are interested in interdisciplinary studies, have diverse skills, and interests. Our most commonly admitted students have majors in actuarial science, computer science, economics, finance, mathematics (pure and applied), the physical and biological sciences, political science, and statistics.

Recommended Preparatory Coursework

Our typical admitted student has significant coursework in multivariable calculus, linear algebra, probability theory, theoretical and applied statistics, as well as at least one statistical system (such as R) or a computer language (such as Python). Examples of UC Berkeley courses at this level are:

  • Math 53: Multivariable Calculus, 54: Linear Algebra and Differential Equations, 104: Introduction to Analysis, 110: Linear Algebra
  • Statistics preparation: A good reference are the requirements for our undergraduate major. Substantial coursework at this level will prepare applicants well for the MA. For example, STAT 134: Concepts of Probability is a prerequisite for STAT 201A: Introduction to Probability at an Advanced Level, which is the first course students will take in the MA program.

Some admitted students from disciplines other than statistics might have had this material in courses within their own discipline. This is why we ask for a descriptive list of mathematics and statistics courses as part of the application for admission. Please be sure to include all upper-division or graduate courses that have a significant quantitative component, even if the courses were not taught through statistics or mathematics departments.

What is the typical GPA of an admitted student?

GPA is only one of many factors that goes into the admissions decision. The minimum GPA required to apply to a graduate program at UC Berkeley is 3.0. Among our admitted students, the typical major GPA is 3.8 or higher.

Returning Students

Returning students (those who have been out of school for a number of years) need to be prepared for intensive coursework that requires fluency with the prerequisites for the MA classes. The program includes very little “start up” time for students to adjust to being back at school after time spent elsewhere. Students can demonstrate their preparation in a variety of ways, for example by providing examples of work that they have recently done that uses those prerequisites, or by taking relevant classes at local universities.

What is more valuable to the admissions committee: work experience, internships, or research experience?

Applicants vary widely, and we don’t compare one kind of experience to another. We are looking for evidence that the student has the skills and motivation required to succeed in the program.

Can I be accepted to the MA program with only a three-year bachelor’s degree earned outside the U.S.?

Normally, UC Berkeley requires applicants to have obtained the recognized equivalent of a U.S. bachelor's degree by the time they start graduate school. However, if you only have a three-year bachelor’s degree earned outside the U.S., you can still apply for admission. If admitted, the department may request an exception to the four-year degree requirement.

For more information regarding admissions please see the Graduate Admissions Page.