Ph.D. Program in Statistics

Graduate Program Handbook

Version: 2015-16. PDF, 32 pages.

The Ph.D. degree includes a thorough background of coursework in contemporary statistical theory, and provides an opportunity for studying a field in which statistics is applied.

Admission Requirements

An undergraduate major in mathematics or statistics is typical for statistics graduate students, but is not required. However, because of the mathematical nature of some of the graduate coursework, students should be able to demonstrate good mathematical ability. The minimal background for entrance into the graduate program is: a bachelor's degree with 3.0 overall grade-point average; facility with a programming language; and upper division work in mathematics and/or statistics. The program does not accept part-time students.

Prerequisites: The prerequisites for entrance into the Ph.D. program are as follows: at least one semester or two quarters of advanced calculus at a level equivalent to MAT 25 and MAT 125A; and a quarter of linear algebra at a level equivalent to MAT 67.

Deficiencies: Students admitted with deficiencies must make up the coursework within the first academic year, and must achieve a grade of at least a B in each course.

For more information on admissions requirements, please see our Admissions Section.

Program of Study

This is a Plan A program with final oral examination (defense of the dissertation). A Ph.D. student will select an area of specialization and will choose a major professor and dissertation adviser in that area, usually in the second or third year of study. The student's program of study will be developed by the student jointly with the Graduate Advisor.

Course Requirements for the Ph.D. degree:

Required Courses (34 units total):

  • Mathematical Statistics: STA 231A-231B-231C (4 units each)
  • Applied Statistics: STA 232A-232B-232C (4 units each)
  • Statistical Programming: STA 242 or Computational Statistics: STA 243 (4 units)
  • Seminar in Statistics: STA 290 (taken three quarters, 1 unit each, graded S/U)
  • Methods in Teaching Statistics: STA 390 (2 units, once, at the first offering of the course during residence, graded S/U)
  • Methods in Statistical Consulting: STA 260 (3 units)

Elective Courses (18 units total):

In addition, five elective graduate-level courses (at least 18 units total), out of which at least four must be from Statistics, from the following list of potential elective courses:

  • STA 222, Survival Analysis (4 units)
  • STA 223, Generalized Linear Models (4 units)
  • STA 224, Analysis of Longitudinal Data (4 units)
  • STA 225, Clinical Trials (4 units)
  • STA 226, Statistical Methods for Bioinformatics (4 units)
  • STA 235A-235B-235C, Probability Theory (4 units each)
  • STA 237A-237B. Time Series Analysis (4 units each)
  • STA 250, Topics in Applied and Computational Statistics (4 units)
  • STA 251, Topics in Statistical Methods and Models (4 units)
  • STA 252, Advanced Topics in Biostatistics (4 units)

Please note that other graduate STA courses (STA 200ABC, STA 201, STA 206-207-208 for example) may not be used to satisfy the graduate elective requirement for the Ph.D. degree. If you have any questions please ask the Graduate Advisor or the graduate program coordinator.


All coursework (a total of at least 52 units: 34 required and 18 elective units) and the program of study must be approved by the Graduate Advisor.

Ph.D. Pre-Qualifying Written Examination

The Ph.D. Pre-qualifying Written Examination will be given at the beginning of each Spring Quarter and also at the beginning of each Fall Quarter. Students in the Ph.D. program must attempt the exam in the Spring Quarter immediately after they complete both the STA 231AB and STA 232AB core course series. If a student does not attempt the examination at this time, it will be recorded as a ‘no pass’. Every Ph.D. student needs to pass the examination in a maximum of two attempts. In case of not pass at the first attempt, the second attempt must take place at the next time the examination is offered, and if a student does not attempt the exam at that time, it will be counted as a failure. Two ‘not passes’ of the examination will result in a recommendation to the Dean of Graduate Studies for discontinuation of the student in the Ph.D. program.

The Ph.D. Pre-qualifying Written Examination is a written exam with two separate parts: a theoretical part and an applied part. The duration of each part is about 3-4 hours. The applied part may be offered in a computer lab and may include the use of statistical software. If at the first attempt one part is passed but the other is not, only the part which was not passed must be repeated at the next attempt.

The Chair of the Graduate Program in Statistics (GPS) will appoint an examination committee that will be responsible for preparing, administering and grading the examination. This committee will forward its recommendation to the GPS, which will make the final decision on each student.

Ph.D. Qualifying Examination

The Ph.D. Qualifying Examination (QE) is an oral exam whose purpose is to determine if the student is capable of independent research. The QE will be composed of a forty-five minute presentation given by the student and is followed by a question period which covers a special research topic as well as coursework in general. A student who passes the QE is eligible for advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. The QE is expected to be attempted within one year from the quarter in which the student passes the Ph.D. Pre-qualifying Written Examination, but no later than the end of the student's third year of the Ph.D. program. In consultation with the Dissertation Adviser, the student will submit to the Graduate Advising Committee (GAC) a date for the exam and a dissertation proposal.

1. The dissertation proposal should be between three and five pages in length and should contain an outline of the general context of the thesis research, a description of the special problem(s) to be addressed, and an indication of the methods and techniques to be used.

2. A draft version of the proposal must be submitted to the GAC for the purpose of determination of the composition of the QE committee at least 6 weeks before the proposed date of the exam. The student must submit a final version of the proposal to the QE committee a week before the exam date.

3. Based on the proposal, the GAC will recommend the appointment of a committee of five examiners to Graduate Studies (in consultation with the student and the student's Dissertation Adviser). Normally the exam committee with be composed of four members from the Department of Statistics. Per Graduate Council guidelines, at least one member must be external to the Graduate Program in Statistics. The student’s intended Dissertation Adviser (and/or co-adviser) is not eligible to serve on the Qualifying Examination committee.

A student who passes the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination is eligible for Advancement to Candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. The student must file the appropriate paperwork with the Office of Graduate Studies and pay the candidacy fee to be promoted to Candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.

Graduate Studies guidelines for Ph.D. Qualifying Examinations apply. These can be obtained from the Graduate Studies Website.


The doctoral dissertation is an essential part of the Ph.D. program. A topic will be selected by the student, under the advice and guidance of a major professor (thesis adviser) and the dissertation committee chaired by the major professor. Students are encouraged to begin some research activity as early as possible during the second year of their graduate studies. The dissertation must contain an original contribution of publishable quality to the knowledge of statistics that may expand the theory or methodology of statistics, or expand or modify statistical methods to solve a critical problem in applied disciplines. Acceptance of the dissertation by three designated members of the dissertation committee follows Graduate Studies guidelines (Plan A with defense). The dissertation must be completed and submitted to the dissertation committee prior to taking the final examination. Students should be guided on matters of style by the chair and members of the thesis/dissertation committee. Graduate Studies is not concerned with the form of the bibliography, appendix, footnotes, etc. as long as they are done in some acceptable, consistent and recognized manner approved by your committee. (See

Final Examination

Defense of the dissertation before the dissertation committee will constitute the final examination for the Ph.D. degree. The final examination must be passed within four years after promotion to Candidacy, unless a special exception is granted. Pass or no pass is determined by a vote of the dissertation committee. The title and abstract of the Ph.D. Defense presentation must be submitted to the graduate program coordinator one week ahead of the defense. This will be distributed to all faculty and students of the Graduate Program in Statistics, who are invited to attend the presentation portion of the examination. The subsequent question period is a closed session between the student and the committee.

Normative Time to Degree

The Normative time to Degree is four to five years.

Sample Study-Plan

Every full-time student at UC Davis is required to take 12 units of coursework per quarter. Financial support, if granted, is contingent on normal progress towards the degree goal. In addition to the coursework as outlined below, students will take Statistics 290 and generally will take additional electives later on, in consultation with their major professor.

The following would be a typical program for a well-prepared student seeking a Ph.D. degree who opts for the fast track.

Year 1




STA 231A (4 units)

STA 231B (4 units)

STA 231C (4 units)

STA 232A (4 units)

STA 232B (4 units)

STA 232C (4 units)

STA 290 (1 unit)

Grad Elective (4 units)

STA 243 (4 units)

STA 390 (2 units) STA 290 (1 unit)

STA 290 (1 unit)

Ph.D. Pre-Qualifying Written Exam

Year 2


Grad Elective (4 units)

Grad Elective (4 units)

STA 260 (4 units)

Grad Elective (4 units)

STA 242 (4 units)


Grad Elective (4 units)

STA 299 Independent Study

Ph.D. Qualifying Exam

Years 3, 4, 5

Complete requirements for the Ph.D. degree, including Dissertation and Defense

For the pdf of our official requirements, including the Ph.D. and M.S. program, please refer to the Degree Requirements Document.

Degree Requirements approved by Graduate Council June 5, 2017.