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PhD in Statistics

Program Description

The Ph.D. program in statistics prepares students for a career pursuing research in either academia or industry.  The program provides rigorous classroom training in the theory, methodology, and application of statistics, and provides the opportunity to work with faculty on advanced research topics over a wide range of theory and application areas. To enter, students need a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, statistics, or a closely related discipline. Students graduating with a PhD in Statistics are expected to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding the core principles of Probability Theory, Estimation
    Theory, and Statistical Methods.
  • Demonstrate the ability to conduct original research in statistics.
  • Demonstrate the ability to present research-level statistics in a formal lecture

Requirements for the Ph.D. (Statistics Track)

Course Work
A Ph.D. student in our department must complete sixteen courses for the Ph.D. At most, four of these courses may be transferred from another institution. If the Ph.D. student is admitted to the program at the post-Master’s level, then eight courses are usually required.

Foreign Languages
Ph.D. students must give evidence of sufficient mastery of at least one foreign language (usually French or German) to enable them to use that language effectively in their areas of special study. Consult with the Director of Graduate Studies for dates and times at which the language examination is offered. [NOTE: For international students who are studying with us in English as their second language, this foreign language requirement is automatically satisfied.]

Qualifying Examinations
First, all Ph.D. students in the statistics track must take the following two-semester sequences: MA779 and MA780 (Probability Theory I and II), MA781 (Estimation Theory) and MA782 (Hypothesis Testing), and MA750 and MA751 (Advanced Statistical Methods I and II). Then, to qualify a student to begin work on a PhD dissertation, they must pass two of the following three exams at the PhD level: probability, mathematical statistics, and applied statistics. The probability and mathematical statistics exams are offered every October and the applied statistics exam is offered every April.

  1. PhD Exam in Probability: This exam covers the material covered in MA779 and MA780 (Probability Theory I and II).
  2. PhD Exam in Mathematical Statistics: This exam covers material covered in MA781 (Estimation Theory) and MA782 (Hypothesis Testing).
  3. PhD Exam in Applied Statistics: This exam covers the same material as the M.A. Applied exam and is offered at the same time, except that in order to pass it at the PhD level a student must correctly solve all four problems.

Note: Students concentrating in probability may choose to do so either through the statistics track or through the mathematics track. If a student wishes to do so through the mathematics track, the course and exam requirements are different. Details are available here.

The dissertation is the major requirement for a Ph.D. student. After the student has completed all course work, the Director of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the student, selects a three-member dissertation committee. One member of this committee is designated by the Director of Graduate Studies as the Major Advisor for the student. Once completed, the dissertation must be defended in an oral examination conducted by at least five members of the Department.

Satisfactory Progress Toward the Degree
Upon entering the graduate program, each student should consult the Director of Graduate Studies (Prof. David Rohrlich) and the Associate Director of the Program in Statistics (Prof. Uri Eden). Initially, the Associate Director of the Program in Statistics will serve as the default advisor to the student. Eventually the student’s advisor will be determined in conjunction with their dissertation research. The Associate Director of the Program in Statistics, who will be able to guide the student through the course selection and possible directed study, should be consulted often, as should the Director of Graduate Studies. Indeed, the Department considers it important that each student progress in a timely manner toward the degree. Each M.A. student must have completed the examination by the end of their second year in the program, while a Ph.D. student must have completed the qualifying examination by the third year. Students entering the Ph.D. program with an M.A. degree must have completed the qualifying examination by October of the second year. Failure to meet these deadlines may jeopardize financial aid. Some flexibility in the deadlines is possible upon petition to the graduate committee in cases of inadequate preparation.

Post-BA students must complete all of the requirements for a Ph.D. within seven years of enrolling in the program and post-MA students must complete all requirements within five years. This total time limit is set by the Graduate School. Students needing extra time must petition the Graduate School. Also, financial aid is not guaranteed after the student’s fifth year in the program.

Financial Aid

As with all Ph.D. students in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, the main source of financial aid for graduate students studying statistics is a Teaching Fellowship. These awards carry a stipend as well as tuition remission for six courses per year. Teaching Fellows are required to assist a faculty member who is teaching a course, usually a large lecture section of an introductory statistics course. Generally, the Teaching Fellow is responsible for conducting a number of discussion sections consisting of approximately twenty-five students each, as well as for holding office hours and assisting with grading. The Teaching Fellowship usually entails about twenty hours of work per week. For that reason, Teaching Fellows enroll in at most three courses per semester. A Teaching Fellow Seminar is conducted to help new Teaching Fellows develop as instructors and to promote the continuing development of experienced Teaching Fellows.

Other sources of financial aid include University Fellowships and Research Assistantships. The University Fellowships are one-year awards for outstanding students and are service-free. They carry stipends plus full tuition remission. Students do not need to apply for these fellowships. Research Assistantships are linked to research done with individual faculty, and are paid for through those faculty members’ grants. As a result, except on rare occasions, Research Assistantships typically are awarded to students in their second year and beyond, after student and faculty have had sufficient time to determine mutuality of their research interests.

Regular reviews of the performance of Teaching Fellows and Research Assistants in their duties as well as their course work are conducted by members of the Department’s Graduate Committee.

If you have any questions regarding our PhD program in Statistics, please reach out to us at