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PhD Requirements

The PhD degree in statistics is designed for students who wish to pursue a career in statistics research or advanced applications in academia, government, or industry. Individual programs and dissertations may be oriented toward applied statistics, theoretical statistics, or probability. All 3 of these areas are studied in the initial phase of the PhD program, which is the same for all students.

  • You must have a strong background in mathematics (including, at a minimum, multivariable calculus, linear algebra, and elements of real analysis).
  • A year-long course in mathematical statistics at the level of Stat 8101-2, and a course in applied linear regression at the level of Stat 5302. For students that are otherwise admissible, Stat 5302 is offered during summer session, and Stat 8101-2 may be taken at the University of Minnesota, but it will not count as part of the Ph.D. curriculum.
  • We do not require a specific undergraduate major.
  • Familiarity with C, Fortran or some other higher-level computer programming language is required. Familiarity with a higher-level statistical computing package such as R or SAS is strongly recommended.

University of Minnesota Graduate School Requirements for the PhD Degree

The PhD degree requires a level of knowledge and of research ability evidenced by examination and by the preparation of a dissertation.

The University of Minnesota Graduate School has no explicit major course credit requirement, but expects a solid program of coursework as preparation for the preliminary examinations and dissertation. The Graduate School expects the equivalent of about 30 semester credits of graduate work in the major and requires at least 12 semester credits in a minor or "supporting program." Credits earned in a master's program may be counted toward these requirements. In addition, you must enroll for 24 semester doctoral thesis credits.

Filing Your Degree Program

A proposed course of study must be filed as an official "degree program" with the Graduate School before the preliminary PhD oral examination. Most students file their degree program during fall of their third year of the program.

Time Limit for Completing PhD Requirements

The Graduate School requires that you complete all PhD requirements and conferral of the degree within five calendar years following the semester in which you pass the preliminary oral examination. During this period you are officially a "PhD candidate."

Minimum Number of Semesters at the U of M

The Graduate School requires registration for at least 3 semesters in the University of Minnesota Graduate School. If work is transferred from other schools, either your first 2 years or your last year of the PhD registration must be spent in residence at the University of Minnesota.

More Information on U of M Graduate School Requirements

Some other Graduate School requirements are included below as requirements of the School of Statistics. For details of Graduate School requirements, see the section concerning the PhD degree in the Graduate School Catalog. Read these sections carefully.

School of Statistics Requirements for the PhD Degree

Your program will be planned with help from your adviser and must be approved by your adviser and the director of graduate studies. Note: the requirements for the PhD program were revised during spring of 2006; this page describes the requirements for students entering in fall 2006 or later.

Major Coursework for PhD

A PhD program in statistics shall include the following courses or equivalent material:

Stat 8051-8052-8053-8054 Applied Statistical Methods I, II, III, IV (3-3-3-3 cr)
Stat 8111-8112 Mathematical Statistics I, II (3-3 cr)
Stat 8801 Statistical Consulting (3 cr)
Stat 8913 Literature Seminar (1 cr/semester in the second and third years)
Electives A minimum of 12 additional credits in advanced elective courses approved by the director of graduate studies (generally 7xxx or 8xxx-level statistics or biostatistics courses or equivalent).
Supporting program 12 credits in a coherent minor or supporting program approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.
Thesis credits 24 thesis credits. Students may begin taking thesis credits upon passing of both written PhD preminary exams.

Minor or Supporting Program

A supporting program consists of a minimum of 12 credits. If all 12 credits are taken in one field, it may be possible to designate the supporting program a "minor." A minor field program must be approved by your adviser and the directors of graduate studies for both statistics and the minor area. A supporting program need only be approved by your adviser and the director of graduate studies in statistics.

Math 8651-2; Theory of Probability Including Measure Theory should be part of the supporting program. Any deviation from this requirement requires written approval from the director of graduate studies and your adviser.

Grade Point Average

You are expected to maintain a GPA of 3.00 or better in courses included in your degree program. You may take Stat 8802 and at most 4 elective credits as S-N (pass-fail). S-N credits are not used in calculating your GPA.


There is no second language requirement. International students should consult the international students section for information on English language proficiency.

PhD Preliminary Written Examination

Two written examinations for the PhD exam are required, an “applied” exam covering the material in Stat 8051-2-3-4, and a “theory” exam covering Stat 8111-2. The exams are offered before the beginning of fall semester, and will usually be taken in the fall after the relevant courses are completed. If you fail either examination, you will normally be allowed to retake it only once.

PhD Preliminary Oral Examination

The examining committee for this exam includes at least 3 members from the major field and at least 1 member from the minor or supporting program field. The graduate school requires the exam to be taken at least 1 full semester before the degree is conferred. However, the School of Statistics requires this exam to be completed no later than the end of 4th year or at least 1 full semester before the degree is conferred, whichever comes first.

The Preliminary Oral Exam is based on a thesis proposal. You will prepare this written document, proposing an area of research. The proposal should describe your research area, discuss critically the relevant literature, explain your research objectives, and describe initial approaches to the research objectives. The proposal is prepared in consultation with your advisor and other committee members. The proposal need not contain research results and does not limit your PhD topic. The dissertation is expected to contain materials not in the proposal, and some aspects of the proposal may be dropped from the dissertation. The proposal need only show that you have a novel and substantial problem, have an approach that may succeed, and have surveyed the relevant literature.

The exam includes an open presentation and a closed examination. The presentation is a formal oral presentation of the proposal. The presentation is in seminar form, lasting approximately 30 minutes, and all students and faculty in the School of Statistics are invited. The presentation serves several purposes: it builds your oral skills, it communicates your research plans to the members of the School, and it helps committee members assess your facility with the research area.

The closed oral examination is conducted by your committee; in most circumstances the examination will immediately follow the oral presentation. The examination evaluates your readiness for research, as evidenced by the proposal, presentation, and oral responses to questions. Criteria for evaluation include the clarity of the proposed problem, your knowledge of relevant literature, the feasibility and scientific merit of the proposed problem, and the quality of the written proposal, oral presentation, and responses to questions.

PhD Dissertation

The culmination of the PhD program of study is a doctoral dissertation, prepared with the guidance of a thesis adviser. The dissertation must demonstrate originality and ability for independent investigation, and the results of the research must constitute a noteworthy contribution to knowledge in the field. The dissertation must exhibit mastery of the literature on the subject and familiarity with the sources, and must be well written.

A PhD candidate files a dissertation proposal form with the Graduate School shortly after passing the preliminary oral examination.

The PhD dissertation is read by 3 members of the final oral examination committee, including your thesis adviser, 1 other member of the statistics graduate faculty, and 1 member from the field of the minor or the supporting program. The Graduate School has specific requirements for the format of the submitted copy of the thesis and the candidate should be sure to obtain the latest information from the Graduate School.

PhD Final Oral Examination

When the dissertation readers unanimously agree that the dissertation is ready for defense, a final oral examination is held. The oral examination includes a public seminar followed immediately by a closed meeting of the candidate with the examining committee. The examination covers the dissertation subject and related areas. The examining committee will consist, minimally, of 3 members from the School of Statistics and 1 member from the field of the minor or supporting program.

Seminar Requirement

All PhD students must give at least 2 public seminars, including those in association with their Preliminary Oral and Final Oral examinations.

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