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What coursework will I take?

Doctoral Minor. A doctoral minor student must complete 4 courses from a long list spanning many academic units. The single required course is the Theory of Statistics. Students must receive an A or B in this course to receive the minor. A complete list of course options is available here.

Many graduate students choose a minor in Statistics. These students are enrolled in Graduate Interdisciplinary Programs (Applied Mathematics, Entomology and Insect Science), in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, Family and Consumer Resources, Renewable Natural Resources), in the College of Education (Higher Education), in the College of Engineering (Electrical and Computer Engineering, Systems & Industrial Engineering), in the College of Science (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology), and in the Eller College (Management Information Systems, Management).  With students from dozens of programs recently enrolled in the Statistics core courses, we anticipate that the number of programs represented among those receiving Statistics doctoral minors to continue to grow.


Graduate Certificate. A certificate student must complete the equivalent of a doctoral minor. In an effort to accommodate Certificate students in the workforce, all four first-year core courses are now a part of UA Online and thus the Certificate can be earned as an online student.


Masters and Doctoral Programs. For our master’s and doctoral students, the most common first four-semester curriculum is based on the following 2+2+2+2 plan:


Fall Semester

Spring Semester


Theory of Probability

Regression Analysis

Theory of Statistics

Design of Experiments


Statistical Consulting

Machine Learning

Statistical Computing

Multivariate Statistics

[Complete coursework for the MS and PhD]

The first-year core courses along with the course in Statistical Consulting are required of all master’s and doctoral students. In late May at the end of the first year of studies, both master’s and doctoral students take a two-part written qualifying exam, theory (probability and statistics) and methodology (regression and experimental design) based on the first-year core courses.  The students can receive one of three assessments on each part: Ph.D. pass, M.S. pass, or fail. Students may retake the exam once and the final result for each part is the better of the two results on each attempt. Student must receive the level appropriate to their degree program to continue towards graduation.

Master’s students have the option of completing a thesis in place of the qualifying exam. In addition to the 5 required courses, master’s students complete their degree by taking an additional 4 (with the thesis option) or 5 courses.  

The two tracks of the Doctoral Program require passing a qualifying exam, a written and oral comprehensive exam, and a final dissertation defense. The Ph.D. requires 71 units of coursework, including core courses, elective courses, at least 9 units of Ph.D. minor courses, dissertation credits, and a communications requirement.

During the first two years, doctoral students complement the core curriculum with informatics, optimization and computer science coursework (for informatics track students), and real analysis and measure-theoretic based probability and statistics (for regular track students). Students are also required to have an area of emphasis for the minor. They may choose to begin their coursework towards the minor during their first two years.

During the third year, doctoral students are encouraged to nearly complete their coursework requirements and to form a Comprehensive Examination Committee. The Committee consists of at least three Program members and a representative of the student’s minor program of study. The Comprehensive Examination Committee bears the responsibility for setting the written portion of the comprehensive exam.

The format and the timing for the exam is flexible and left to the discretion of this Committee with the goal to structure the exam in the best interests of advancing the preparation of the candidate. The typical format for the written portion of the examination is a series of technical and conceptual questions put forth by the committee concerning the student's expected dissertation research. A variety of formats are acceptable and not limited to the following suggestions.

  • A series of written question prepared by the Committee under a specified time schedule.
  • A review paper based on a specific set of background documents set by the Committee and related to the candidate's research topic.
  • A literature review of the dissertation topic with an analysis of the shortcomings of previous research as they apply to the candidate's research topic.
  • A dissertation proposal with preliminary analysis.

Upon successful completion of the written portion of the Comprehensive Examination, a student must sit for the oral portion of the exam. The Committee conducting the oral portion of the examination has both the opportunity and obligation to require the student to exhibit knowledge of

  1. the specific questions/material posed during the written portion,
  2. general comprehension of the minor field(s) of study as it pertains to the student’s research interests, and
  3. sufficient depth of understanding in the area(s) of the student’s statistical specialization.

The ability to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing, to audiences of varying levels of sophistication in statistics is essential to a successful career in industry, research, or teaching. Consequently, the Statistics program has a Communications Skills requirement. This requirement gives students an opportunity to develop their capabilities in a variety of directions to the public, to their peers, and to an audience of specialists.

As is the case with all Ph.D.’s, a completed dissertation must represent an original and substantive advance in scholarship as determined by the dissertation committee. For the Program in Statistics, this Committee consists of at least 3 program members, including the dissertation advisor(s).  The dissertation must be judged by the Committee to sufficiently advance the theory, the methodology, and/or the practice of statistics with focus on the candidate’s interdisciplinary interests.  It is expected that the work will result in one or more published research articles in high-quality, peer-reviewed statistics and subject-matter journals.

More details on graduate education can be found in the Graduate Handbook.

Last updated 24 Nov 2015