Department of Statistics Unitmark
Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Frequently Asked Questions

Graduate Student Handbook

Download the current handbook.

Application Process

Applications open on October 1.


Which courses will provide me with the best preparation for your program?

The more Statistics, Mathematics, and Computer Science preparation you have, the better. However, we do admit students who have not majored in these subjects as long as they have a solid record, an honest desire to learn statistics and are willing to learn the necessary material.

How important is computing to success as a Ph.D. student in Statistics?

Computers are indispensable in Statistics. Thus, computing plays a major role in our department. However, we recognize that many students do not necessarily have access to training in computing. For this reason, we make an effort to train all our students in computing, from basic to advanced skills.

How many students are admitted into the Ph.D. program each year?

A typical incoming class has approximately ten students.

Do I need to have an idea of what I want to work on when I start the program?

No! While students are expected to enter with a strong interest in Statistics, most of our students are unsure which area of research they will pursue. In fact, we encourage students to enter with an open mind, as once they are here they will encounter research topics and application areas they had not previously considered.

Do I need to decide whether to pursue a M.S. degree or Ph.D. immediately?

We do not have separate M.S. and Ph.D. programs. Students enter the program as “Ph.D. students” although many will earn an M.S. degree along the way towards their Ph.D.

Do all non-native english speakers have to take the TOEFL?

Non-native english speakers who have received a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree (or equivalent) from an institution where the primary language of instruction is English are exempt from this requirement.

Do you provide machine learning MS degree during the PhD?

Yes: Secondary Master's in Machine Learning

Life In The Department

How long does a typical student take to finish the Ph.D. program?

Five years on average.

Are there opportunities for student to teach while in the program?

Yes, Ph.D. students are able to teach courses during the summer.

When do students begin research?

Students start working on their Advanced Data Analysis project in their first year.

How large is the Department?

We typically have approximately 25 faculty and 50 Ph.D. students. We are a medium-sized department with an excellent faculty to student ratio. There are also approximately 25 students pursuing a one-year professional Masters degree, in addition to our large undergraduate program.

How diverse is the student body?

About one half of our students are American. The rest are from around the world, e.g., Italy, Chile, Argentina, Turkey, Canada, China, Nepal, Japan, Taiwan and India, among others. About one third to one half of our students are women. Many of our students have won nationally competitive awards from such places as the National Science Foundation, AT&T Labs, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Gertrude Cox Fellowship Fund and the Howard Hughes foundation.

Does your program emphasize theory or applications?

Both. We believe that theory and applications go hand in hand. This philosophy guides our entire curriculum as well as the research interests of the faculty and students. From the outset you will learn the theory of statistics, but you will also collaborate with researchers in psychology, engineering, business, neuroscience, etc. Part of the Ph.D. coursework involves a year-long collaboration with an outside researcher on a publishable applied research project; your Ph.D. dissertation may emphasize theory or application.

Do graduates tend to go on to academic or industry positions?