MA in Biomedical Informatics

The Free Standing Master of Arts (MA) program prepares students for practical, hands-on careers in informatics. Alumni have gone on to work at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University, entered industry, or enrolled in our PhD program.

There are two tracks for the MA degree: the applied track for workforce training and the research track. There is some overlap with coursework, and either track may be pursued full- or part-time. Students interested in the applied MA must indicate such on their admissions application in their personal statement.  All MA students are admitted into the research track by default unless students have explicitly expressed an interest in the applied MA in their personal statement and have been notified by our office they have been admitted to the applied MA track.  While both tracks culminate in a master’s essay, the content for the applied track essay is a summer practicum, whereas the content for the research track is a project. If attending full-time, the applied MA track can be finished in 12 months (coursework in the Fall and Spring terms with a full-time summer practicum). The research track typically takes 18-24 months on a full-time basis. For part-time students, both tracks must be completed within 4 years.

Degree Requirements

  • a minimum of 30 points of Columbia University instruction and 2 residence units
  • Oral I/Breadth Examination
  • Master’s Essay
  • Practicum (Applied MA only)


Transferring points: The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will permit transfer of up to 15 points of graduate courses previously taken at Columbia University if they were not used toward another degree at Columbia.

Residence units: The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences requires 2 residence units for the MA degree.  These accrue based on the number of courses for which you enroll (see Tuition and Funding section below). Master’s students are responsible for monitoring their transcript and addressing any discrepancies with the number of residence units with Student Administrative Services.

Oral I/Breadth Examination: A one-hour exam is administered by faculty members to assess a student’s breadth of knowledge of the field, the ability to express this knowledge verbally, reason with it, and synthesize concepts from different areas. The exam is written for non postdoctoral MA students.  The exam is a closed oral exam for MA postdoctoral students funded by the NLM Training Grant.  The written exam is normally taken in early fall or spring term. MA students may take this examination no more than twice. Failure of two consecutive examinations may result in dismissal.

Essay: After enrolling in BINF G6001 Projects in Biomedical Informatics, students submit a master’s essay, the culmination of a research or practicum project. The essay requires two faculty readers, one of whom is the research advisor from the projects section in which the student enrolled; the other is a faculty member appointed within the department chosen by the research advisor and student.

Practicum: Applied MA students take a practicum at the end of their coursework during the summer to obtain hands-on experience in informatics before completing their degree. Placements vary and are dependent upon availability. The practicum provides the students with the opportunity to put learned theory into practice in a work setting.

Tuition and Funding

Tuition costs are set by the Board of Trustees each summer and vary depending on a student’s full-time or part-time status.  Cost is dependent upon number of courses in which students enroll and divided into categories based upon residence unit status in the following increments: 1/4 residence unit = up to 2 classes, 1/2 residence unit = up to 3 classes, full residence unit = 4 or more classes up to 20 points.  After you accrue the mandatory 2 residence units the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) requires for the MA degree, students enroll in the extended residence unit category such that any additional classes each term are charged a set fee.  Should students enroll in classes that exceed 20 points per term, there is an additional per point charge.  Information on cost of the tuition and fees for free standing MA programs within the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is available from the Student Financial Services website.  Issues with residence unit status may be directed to the CUMC Student Administrative Services office (Black Building, 1st Floor, Room 1-141, tel. 212.342.4790).

With the exception of postdoctoral fellows funded by our National Library of Medicine Training Grant, DBMI does not provide financial support for those in the Master’s Program. Eligible students may apply for educational loans. Master’s students seeking financial support should visit the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Student Financial Services website.

For international students, the ability to work while pursuing a degree may depend upon visa status (see International Students and Scholars Office and information specific to international student applicants provided by their office).