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The PhD in Statistics program is a four-year degree that focuses on training future researchers on the theory and methods of statistics. Major emphases are placed on probability models and modern computational statistical tools. Throughout the program, students are exposed to central ideas of both Bayesian and classical approaches to inference. 


  • 22 hours of required courses in statistical theory and methods
  • 18 hours of electives (research, free, and/or substantive area)
  • 12+ hours of dissertation 
The PhD in Statistics is expected to take four years to complete.

Year 1

The first year consists of the core courses:

In addition to the core courses, students of the first year are expected to participate in SDS 190 Readings in Statistics. This class focuses on learning how to read scientific papers and how to grasp the main ideas, as well as on practicing presentations and getting familiar with important statistics literature. Students are also expected to attend the SDS Seminar Series.

At the end of the first year, students are expected to take a written preliminary exam. The examination has two purposes: to assess the student’s strengths and weaknesses and to determine whether the student should continue in the PhD program. The exam will cover the core material covered in the core courses and it consists of two parts: a 3-hour closed book in-class portion and a take-home applied statistics component. The in-class portion is scheduled at the end of the Spring Semester after final exams (usually late May). The take-home problem is distributed at the end of the in-class exam, with a due-time 24 hours later. 

Exams from previous years are available below. Since the first year curriculum has been revised over time, exams from earlier years may cover material that is less relevant.

Previous First Year Exams
2018 2017 2016 2015 2014

Year 2

The second year of the program is a transition from a student to a researcher stage.

Students will choose three courses per semester. Each of these courses can be:

  • An elective (How to Register for Classes) from the list of allowed electives
  • A research elective (Research elective registration form). Research electives are a way students are encouraged to explore different advising possibilities by working for a semester with a particular professor. These projects can also serve as the beginning of a dissertation research path.
Students of the second year are expected to participate in SDS 190 Readings in Statistics and attend the SDS Seminar Series.

Year 3

Advance to Candidacy:

Students are encouraged to attend conferences, give presentations, as well as to develop their dissertation research. At the end of the second year or during their third year, students are expected to present their plan of study for the dissertation in an Oral candidacy exam. During this exam, students should demonstrate their research proficiency to their PhD committee members. Students who successfully complete the candidacy exam can apply for admission to candidacy for the PhD once they have completed their required coursework and satisfied departmental requirements. The steps to advance to candidacy are:

  1. Discuss potential candidacy exam topics with advisor
  2. Propose PhD committee: the proposed committee must follow the Graduate School and departmental regulations on committee membership for what will become the PhD Dissertation Committee
  3. Take candidacy exam in the form of a 45 minutes long talk. Many students take the candidacy exam in the fall session of the third year. However, the candidacy can be deferred until the end of the third year with the approval of the Graduate Advisor.
 Application for candidacy


Students are also expected to attend the SDS Seminar Series.

Year 4


Students are encouraged to attend conferences, give presentations, as well as to develop their dissertation research. Moreover, they are expected to present part of their work in the framework of the Seminar Series

Students who are admitted to candidacy will be expected to complete and defend their PhD thesis before the PhD committee to be awarded the degree. The final examination, which is oral, is administered only after all coursework, research and dissertation requirements have been fulfilled. It is expected that students will be prepared to defend by the end of their fourth year in the doctoral program.


Students are also expected to attend the SDS Seminar Series.


Annual Review

At the end of every year (due May 1), students are expected to fill out the Annual progress Review

Summer Internships

Students are encouraged to seek internships during the summer semester, and they need to communicate it to the departmental staff by signing up for NSC 120E. Previous students have interned at a variety of companies, including: 

  • Google
  • Twitter
  • Intel Corporation
  • HomeAway
  • Berry Consultants


Attending Conferences 

Students are encouraged to attend conferences to share their work. All research-related travel while in student status require prior authorization.

Request for Travel Authorization (both domestic and international travel)

Request for Authorization for International Travel