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Teaching Statistics

Data Science

ASA Board approves guidelines for Master's in Statistics

Preparing Master’s Statistics Students for Success: ASA Board Approves Workgroup Recommendations

In the February issue of Amstat News, John Bailer and others described an initiative undertaken in 2012 “to develop guidelines, framed as learning outcomes, for master’s degree programs in statistics and biostatistics that are responsive to the needs of stakeholders who employ such graduates.” ( The following recommendations from that group were unanimously adopted by the ASA Board of Directors at its April 2013 meeting:

  • Graduates should have a solid foundation in statistical theory and methods.
  • Programming skills are critical and should be infused throughout the graduate student experience.
  • Communication skills are critical and should be developed and practiced throughout graduate programs.
  • Collaboration, teamwork, and leadership development should be part of graduate education.
  • Students should encounter non-routine, real problems throughout their graduate education.
  • Internships, co-ops, or other significant immersive work experiences should be integrated into graduate education.
  • Programs should be encouraged to periodically survey recent graduates and employers of their recent graduates as a means of evaluating the success of their programs and to examine if other programmatic changes are warranted.

The committee noted that, while the first five recommendations are not precise learning objectives, they could readily be translated into learning outcomes in graduate programs. The sixth recommendation suggests an experiential requirement that might be built into graduate programs. The seventh recommendation encourages continuing attention to work force needs when reviewing graduate curricula.

The committee and the board further noted that the focus on experiential learning in statistics could be a promising area for closer partnerships between universities and local industry and government.

There are opportunities for future calls for Member Initiative projects, as well, and perhaps some opportunities for chapter activity. “We hope these recommendations will prove useful to academic departments as they think about starting or revising master’s degree programs,” Bailer said. “We believe that many of the recommendations above also would apply to bachelor’s degrees as well as doctoral degrees in statistics. Finally, the calibration of current academic programs with the needs and expectations of our partners in industry and government is important for guaranteeing that our graduates are prepared to excel upon entry into the work force.”

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