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Ph.D. Program

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Doctorate in Statistics

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Advanced exploration and investigation of the theory and applications of mathematics and statistics.

Ph.D. candidates in the Department of Statistics can pursue one of several degree programs. Depending on your choice of courses, this program can lean toward the theoretical or applied. If you choose to emphasize statistical theory, you might pursue an academic career in research and teaching. An emphasis on application could lead you to a career within government agencies such as the census bureau, developing methodologies for government surveys, or in industry, assisting with research and development in the design and analysis of experiments.

Statistics and Operations Research

The graduate programs in Operations Research are administered by an operations committee appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School. Graduate students in statistics may earn a master's degree or doctorate in Statistics/Operations Research. This program is for you if you want to pursue a career in industry or with a government agency where operations research techniques -- such as mathematical optimization, linear and dynamic programming, and scheduling -- are useful.

What are the Requirements?

The following requirements apply to the doctoral degree in statistics. For more information, consult the Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin (the "white book").

Candidacy Examination

To be admitted to Ph.D. candidacy, the student must pass the Master's exam and Ph.D. qualifying examination. The latter is based on STAT 551 Linear Models I and STAT 553 Asymptotic Tools. The student is expected to take this exam at the end of the fall semester in the second year, or at the first opportunity. The qualifying exam may be repeated once.

Incoming students with a master's degree in statistics from another university may, with permission of the Graduate Studies Committee, take the master's exam in August and begin with STAT 551 and 553. These students would be expected to take the Ph.D. qualifying exam at the end of their first semester.

Core Course Requirements

In addition to STAT 511 through STAT 515, the following courses are required for the Ph.D.:

  • 3 credits in mathematical analysis (MATH 403) -- students who demonstrate completion of an equivalent course may have this requirement waived
  • 3 credits in probability theory (STAT 517)
  • 3 credits in statistical inference and asymptotic theory (STAT 561)
  • 3 credits in linear models (STAT 551)
  • 3 credits in asymptotic tools (STAT 553)
  • 2 credits of colloquium
  • 18 credits of electives taken from STAT 518, 544, 545, 552, 562, 564, 565, and 572, or other courses suggested by your committee
  • 3 credits of statistical consulting practicum (STAT 580, 581)

Graduate School Oral Comprehensive Examination

During the third year, students are expected to form a Ph.D. committee and schedule the Graduate School oral comprehensive examination. This comprehensive exam, as described in the Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin, will have a written component, whose content will be determined and administered by the student's Ph.D. graduate committee, and an oral component, which includes the presentation of a thesis research proposal.


The student must submit and defend a doctoral thesis. The oral defense will typically include a public presentation of the thesis, followed by questioning by the committee.

Foreign Language

There is no foreign language requirement for a Ph.D. in Statistics.

How do I Apply?

For information on the Statistics Graduate Program admission requirements, application deadlines, and the Penn State Graduate school requirements and application please view:
Apply to the Statistics Graduate Program