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Graduate Program

Doctorate in Statistics

Advanced exploration and investigation of the theory and application of statistics and data analysis.

Ph.D. candidates in the Department of Statistics can tailor the program to suit their career goals. Depending on the choice of courses, the program can emphasize theoretical, applied, or computational aspects of statistics and data analysis. Those that choose to emphasize statistical theory would be well prepared to pursue an academic career in research and teaching. An emphasis on applied or computational statistics would be appropriate for a career in government such as at the census bureau, developing methodologies for government surveys, or in industry, assisting with high-level data analytics, research, and in the design and analysis of surveys and experiments.


Ph.D./M.S. Graduate Handbook

The Ph.D./M.S. Graduate Handbook contains policies, suggestions, and links to forms needed for all M.S. and Ph.D. students in Statistics. Topics include requirements for the degree, description of milestones like the comprehensive exam and thesis defense, and required forms for all milestones to a Ph.D. or M.S. in Statistics.


Financial Assistance

All Statistics Ph.D. students in good standing receive year-round financial support in the form of assistantships and fellowships. This support includes a stipend to cover living costs as well as full tuition and academic fees. On admission, Ph.D. students are guaranteed five years of support. Outstanding applicants to the Statistics Ph.D. Program may be nominated by the department for particular fellowships or awards offered by the University or by the Eberly College of Science (e.g., University Graduate Fellowships or Science Achievement Graduate Fellowships). Strong candidates are encouraged to submit a formal application by January 7th to be considered in the first rounds of competition for these awards. 

Applicants and current students also may wish to seek alternative sources of funding, such as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. The Department of Statistics is happy to consider applications from students who are receiving outside funding.


What are the requirements?

For detailed and up-to-date course requirements, please see the degree requirements under the Graduate Bulletin.


Candidacy Examination

At the end of the first year, students will take a qualifying examination to be admitted to Ph.D. candidacy, which is offered at both the beginning and end of the summer. The exam consists of three parts based on theoretical statistics, applied statistics, and probability and Monte Carlo methods. Incoming students with exceptionally strong backgrounds may petition to take any section prior to starting the program, which will excuse them from the respective course work. Students are given two chances at passing each section


Graduate School Oral Comprehensive Examination

During the second and third year, students are expected to form a Ph.D. committee and schedule the Graduate School oral comprehensive examination. This exam consists of 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 during the semester they intend to graduate. The oral defense will include a public presentation of the thesis, followed by a private questioning by the committee. Information on the timeline for the graduation semester can be found under the Grad School's thesis calendar.


Foreign Language

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


Dual Degrees

Three dual degrees are currently offered, one with the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, one with Operations Research (OR), and one with Social Data Analytics (SoDA). Interested students may apply to these dual degrees after being accepted to the Ph.D. program in Statistics, though they may make their interest in these programs known while applying to the Statistics program.  For up-to-date degree requirements and details, please see the Graduate Bulletin.


How do I Apply?

Apply to a Graduate Program at Penn State. Additional information can be found here on the Statistics Graduate Program admission requirements, application deadlines, and the Penn State Graduate school requirements and application.