PhD Degrees

Doctor of Philosophy Degrees

The Department of Statistics at FSU offers a PhD in statistics and a PhD in biostatistics. Course programs and exact degree requirements are determined individually for students through consultation with their supervisory committee. General requirements for the PhD degree are in the FSU Graduate Bulletin. See the FSU Graduate Bulletin for the University's degree requirements, requirements for residence, time limits for the degree, and minimum dissertation hours.


Requirements for All Doctoral Students

Required course for all PhD students.

The course STA5910: Supervised Research, "Faculty Research Presentations," must be taken by all PhD students.


Qualifying Examination

This written examination is offered at the beginning of each spring and fall semester, usually shortly before the start of classes. It is normally taken at the beginning of the spring semester of the second academic year of work in the department. The examination is prepared, administered and graded by the graduate student awards and exams committee. This committee forwards student performance on the examination to the graduate director and department chair to be used in the student’s annual evaluation.

The examination will be graded as passed or failed. Students pursuing the PhD who receive a grade of “failed” may retake the examination at a later time. However, FSU allows the examination to be taken only two times. A second failure on the qualifying exam makes the student ineligible to continue in the
doctoral program.

Students intending to take this exam must register for STA 8964 during the semester they take the exam. Students retaking the exam must also register for STA 8964 during the semester they retake the exam.

Students must pass the PhD qualifying exam before they can advance to doctoral candidacy and register for dissertation hours. Students receiving department financial support must pass the exam by January of their third academic year.

The PhD qualifying exam is oriented toward problem solving. The exam consists of a list of questions grouped by topic. The materials covered on the exam for the PhD in Statistics and Biostatistics are taken from the courses listed in Table 10. Copies of past qualifying exams are available.

Careful readers will note that the qualifying exam for Statistics includes material from STA 5106 and not STA 5198, whereas the qualifying exam for Biostatistics covers STA 5198 and not STA 5106. A student passing the qualifying exam in one program only will achieve candidacy in that program. A student successfully completing the questions from both sets of required material will be recognized as having passed the qualifying exams for both Statistics and Biostatistics.

Table 10: Courses covering the material included on the PhD Qualifying Exam.

Course Number Course Name
STA5106x Computational Methods in Statistics I
STA5166 Statistics in Applications I
STA5167 Statistics in Applications II
STA5198y Epidemiology for Statisticians
STA5326 Distribution Theory
STA5327 Statistical Inference
STA6346 Advanced Probability and Inference I

xStatistics Majors only

yBiostatistics Majors only


Essay Examination

After successful completion of the PhD qualifying examination, the student must begin to consider a suitable topic for a dissertation. As an intermediate step between the qualifying examination and the dissertation, PhD students are required to submit an essay that doubles as a proposal for a dissertation topic.

After consultation with the major professor, the student selects a topic and begins initial investigation of the topic to determine whether a thesis in the area is desired. Following this preliminary investigation, the student writes an essay that should contain

  1. A literature review of the problem, stating what is known about it to date;
  2. Some preliminary research results;
  3. A plan for future research.

Additionally, all PhD students will take an exam based on their essay. This examination is conducted in two parts.

  1. A 40-50 minute oral presentation of the student's essay open to the entire Department of Statistics.
  2. An oral examination by the student's supervisory committee. This part of the examination will immediately follow the seminar presentation. It is "closed door" and is conducted orally by the student's supervisory committee to determine success in formulating a research area and ability to do research in that area.

The essay should be written with these goals in mind. A copy of the essay should be sent to the department academic assistant and provided to the supervisory committee members at least three weeks before the essay examination.


Dissertation Defense

The dissertation defense is the last department examination for a PhD candidate. This defense follows the same two-part procedure as the essay examination:

  1. A 40-50 minute oral presentation of the student's dissertation open to the entire Department of Statistics. All members of the university's graduate faculty are invited to attend the seminar.
  2. An oral examination. This closed-door part of the thesis defense immediately follows the presentation and is administered by the student's supervisory committee.

Academic courtesy requires that the dissertation be submitted to each member of the supervisory committee and to the department chair at least four weeks prior to the date of the oral examination. Individual committee members may have their own requirements or policies regarding timing and it is the student's responsibility to ensure that each committee member's requirements are met and that each member has an adequate opportunity to read the dissertation. A copy of the dissertation should also be sent to the department academic assistant at least four weeks prior to the defense. Faculty interested in the topic may obtain a copy of the dissertation from the department academic assistant before the defense.

The defense must be completed at least four weeks prior to the date on which the degree is to be conferred. Consult the registrar's office or webpage for deadline dates. Students must enroll in STA 8985 during the term in which they defend their dissertation.


Other Requirements

During the final semester of doctoral work, each PhD candidate must comply with a variety of university administrative requirements prior to obtaining the degree. The university also has specific requirements regarding the format for dissertations and abstracts. These requirements are issued by the Graduate School. Each candidate should become familiar with these requirements well in advance of their final semester's work.

All PhD students must take the department courses required for their degree, either the PhD in Statistics or the PhD in Biostatistics.

PhD students must take at least one course each semester for the first three years of study. Beyond the third year and after the departments required coursework has been completed, additional course work other than dissertation research will be determined by the student with the approval of their major professor and their dissertation committee.

All required coursework (as provided in the table of required courses for the degree being sought) except dissertation hours must be taken for a letter grade.

PhD students must demonstrate active involvement in the scholarly community through interaction with faculty and peers. This requirement may be met through participating in various scholarly activities including enrollment in courses, attendance at colloquium, utilization of the library, utilization of university computational facilities, engaging in collaborative study and research beyond the university campus, and attendance and presentations at professional conferences. Note: It is the students responsibility to document this involvement every year as part of their annual review.


Interdisciplinary Option

Students in either PhD program (Statistics or Biostatistics) may choose to pursue research in an interdisciplinary field of study. A student following the interdisciplinary option (IO) will typically take three graduate courses in an outside area related to the student's research area. No more than one of the three IO courses may be a DIS given by another department in the IO area of specialization.


Graduation Requirements

While engaged in dissertation research, students must register for the number of hours of dissertation (STA6980) determined jointly with their major professor (not less than three semester hours) for at least two of the three semesters of the academic year. Students are required to take a minimum of two semester hours of dissertation every semester until they graduate.

In their final semester, students must apply for degree clearance in the first two weeks of the term. Clearance is contingent upon successful completion of your program of study, as filed with the department. Therefore, the program should at all times accurately reflect the coursework taken. The student will be required to account for any discrepancies.

Students not enrolled in the PhD program who plan to continue working towards a PhD degree after earning a masters must contact the academic program specialist in the department to discuss moving into the PhD program. Students already admitted into the PhD program but who would like to apply for the masters degree must also contact the academic program specialist in the department to have the degree program added to their record.

There are many graduation requirements set by the university. Consult the FSU Graduate Bulletin for a comprehensive list.



Transferring Credits from Another University, Waiving Required Classes

The department follows the University's criteria for allowing transfer credits:

"Transfer of courses not counted toward a previous degree from another regionally accredited graduate school (or comparable international institution) is limited to six semester hours, and transfer of courses not counted toward a previous degree within Florida State University is limited to twelve semester hours, except when the departmental course requirement exceeds the thirty-two hour University-wide minimum requirement. In the latter case, additional transfer credit may be allowed to the extent of the additional required hours."

The complete University criteria may be found on the FSU Graduate Bulletin.

For those wishing to use courses from another university to meet the department's courses requirement, the student must obtain approval of the waiver from the instructor in our department who teaches the required course and the graduate director.

A form for applying for the waiver may be obtained from the Department Office.



PhD Degree in Statistics

Students in the PhD in Statistics degree program tailor their academic programs to be consistent with their individual career objectives. Programs can be designed to prepare graduates for careers in research and/or teaching, for careers emphasizing the application of statistics or for careers requiring the development of new statistical methodology.

Required courses for all students seeking the PhD in Statistics are given in Table 11.


Table 11: Required courses for the PhD in Statistics. All courses are three credit hours.

Course Number Course Name
STA5106 Computational Methods in Statistics I
STA5107 Computational Methods in Statistics II
STA5166 Statistics in Application I
STA5167 Statistics in Application II
STA5168 Statistics in Application III
STA5326 Distribution Theory
STA5327 Statistical Inference
STA6346 Advanced Probability and Inference I
STA6448 Advanced Probability and Inference II
One additional course approved by the student's major professor.


The department requires a minimum of 36 credit hours of coursework for the PhD in Statistics. All required courses must be taken for a letter grade, but up to 6 credit hours of other coursework can be taken S/U.

Students entering the program with equivalent work (as determined by the faculty) from other institutions will not be required to repeat it. However, in preparing a course program, students should keep in mind that they are required to pass the PhD qualifying examination as one step towards the degree. Students entering the graduate program without any prior graduate work in statistics typically begin course work by studying toward the MS degree in mathematical statistics. Students are responsible for the material
normally covered in the core course work of the MS in mathematical statistics degree.

Students are strongly encouraged to register for STA 6468, Advanced Topics in Probability and Statistics, whenever topics to be covered are related to the student’s areas of concentration. The final selection of courses will be determined by the student and major professor and supervisory committee.


Doctor of Philosophy in Biostatistics

The Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Biostatistics prepares students for specialized careers in academia, industry, and government. Program graduates will find themselves sought after by employers in such varied areas as biotechnology, public health, pharmaceuticals, AIDS research, epidemiology, insurance, food sciences, and agribusiness. With an aging US population, the development of new drugs, and advances in the understanding of biological functions at the level of individual genes and proteins, the need for more people trained to design studies and analyze data from these research areas continues to increase.

Required courses for PhD in Biostatistics are presented in Table 12.


Table 12: Required courses for the PhD in Biostatistics. All courses are three credit hours.

Course Number Course Name
STA5198 Epidemiology for Statisticians
STA5244 Fundamentals of Clinical Trials
STA5166 Statistics in Application I
STA5167 Statistics in Application II
STA5326 Distribution Theory
STA5327 Statistical Inference
STA5179 Applied Survival Analysis
STA5934 Longitudinal Data Analysis
STA6346 Advanced Probability and Inference I
STA6448 Advanced Probability and Inference II


The department requires a minimum of 36 credit hours of coursework for the PhD in Biostatistics. All required courses must be taken for a letter grade, but up to 6 credit hours of other coursework can be taken S/U. Flexibility is allowed in selecting the additional coursework for the Biostatistics PhD. The final selection of courses will be determined by the student and major professor and supervisory committee.


Financial Support

The department provides financial support for many of its graduate students. The two main ways in which students are funded are through teaching assistantships and research assistantships.


Types of Support

Teaching assistantships are the most common type of support in the department. These are halftime appointments. Students are paid a salary in return for 20 hours of work each week during the fall and spring semesters. Limited teaching assistantships are available each summer. Teaching assistants may be called upon to perform a combination of the following duties:

  • Lecture in lower division statistics courses (STA 1XXX, 2XXX).
  • Teach recitation sections of low-level statistics courses.
  • Grade homework, projects, and exams for lower and upper level undergraduate and graduate level courses.
  • Assist FSU students at the Strozier Library statistics help desk.
  • Assist faculty with course-related tasks.
  • Assist faculty in the Statistical Consulting Center.

Assignment of graduate students to differing duties is based on department need and when possible, student preference.

There are several university requirements that must be met before a graduate student may teach. These requirements are set forth in the document, "University-wide Standards for Teaching Assistants at Florida State University." This document is maintained by and available from the Office of Graduate Studies. Additionally, a TA must pass the departmental course "Teaching in the Discipline" before teaching.

Research assistantships are supported with funds from research contracts or grants, generally from agencies outside the university, held by department faculty. Students receiving such support assist faculty members with their research programs. Usually a student combines duties under this assistantship with their dissertation work, but the exact duties are established by the faculty member providing support.

In recognition of the differing degrees of responsibility of the above tasks, the amount of stipend provided to a student depends on the duties assigned. There are three levels of stipend in the department. The highest pay is reserved for students lecturing their own courses. The medium level is attained by those who teach recitation sections or work in the Statistical Consulting Center, and the third level is for the remaining students. Research assistant pay is determined by the faculty member supplying the salary.

Other avenues of support include competitive assistantships and fellowships available through the University. More general types of support include loans and grants and are administered through the University's Office of Student Financial Aid. Additionally, opportunities for employment in other university units are often available.


Restrictions on Support

Recipients of federal fellowships or traineeships or university fellowships must abide by the conditions of these awards. International graduate students must observe employment restrictions associated with visas issued. These regulations usually confine employment to appointments supportive of their field of study. Graduate students holding assistantships in the department or other units of the university must obtain permission for additional employment from the director of the project providing the assistantship, the faculty advisor or dissertation director, and the department chair. Any outside employment unrelated to the discipline or deemed to substantially lengthen the time to completion of the degree program may not be approved.

Holders of assistantships are required to register for at least nine hours each semester. Students are advised to consult the FSU Graduate Bulletin for the university policy regarding minimum enrollment requirements for assistantship holders and university residence requirements. Note that students not receiving support must also register for a minimum number of hours each term to meet University requirements.

The department expects all students to apply for the in-state residency tuition classification.


Requirements for Continued Department Support

Students receiving department financial support must complete the following to continue to receive it:

1. Master’s degree students who have not been accepted for continuing to the PhD degree will not receive financial support beyond their second year.
2. To be eligible to receive department financial support as a teaching assistant, PhD students must:

(a) Complete both PIE Day 1 and PIE Day 2 training in the first year.
(b) Complete the Teaching-in-the Discipline training workshop in the first year.
(c) Pass the PhD written qualifying exam by January of their third academic year.
(d) Students whose primary language is not English must take and pass the FSU SPEAK exam
with a score at least 50 by the end of the spring semester of their second academic year.

3. Financial support as a TA stops at the end of the fifth academic year.

4. For PhD students who have passed their qualifying exam, their financial support will be terminated if they receive two “Unsatisfactory” grades from their advisor in their dissertation study. Students who do not meet these milestones may continue toward their degree, but with no department financial support. The department chair makes the final decision on matters of continued support.


Tutoring for Payment

The Department receives numerous requests for tutors in statistics. Graduate students in statistics may tutor for payment subject to the following policies and procedures:

Under no circumstances is anyone to tutor, for payment, a student taking a course he or she is teaching or assisting with. For example, a graduate student currently teaching STA2023 may NOT tutor any student currently taking STA2023, even if that student is in another section. The graduate student may tutor, however, a student in STA 2122.

Students may engage in tutoring only insofar that it does not detract from their graduate studies. Students on academic probation are not to tutor. Questions regarding these policies may be addressed to the chair.

Students wishing to tutor are requested to submit the following information to the department secretary: a list of courses they wish to tutor and where or how they can be contacted. The department will maintain a file on tutors giving the above information. When requests are received, the caller will be given the information in the tutor file. The department does not make recommendations.

Please remember that tutoring is suggested as a last resort for students having difficulties in their course work. All graduate student instructors in the department are expected to make sufficient time available for office hours for student help.


Advisors and Committee Formation

The advisor provides academic counsel to the student, advises the student in the preparation of a program of study (see below), and approves the program of study. At no time will a student be without a department advisor. Master's students and students who have not yet been admitted to PhD candidacy will be advised by the graduate director.

Students who have passed the PhD qualifying examination should choose a faculty member to direct their dissertation. This selection of a major professor is a decision based upon mutual research interests of the students and their major professors. The department web-page contains faculty information and indicates research interests. Students should indicate their interests to the faculty member with whom they wish to work. Assuming the faculty member agrees, the student then forms a new supervisory committee to replace the one formed during their first term at FSU. Members of the doctoral supervisory committee are selected in consultation with the major professor subject to certain constraints. In addition to the major professor, the supervisory committee must have at least three other members: two other faculty members from the department and a tenured faculty from outside the department. All committee members must have graduate faculty status. The composition of the committee should reflect the student's research interests and areas of concentration. The composition of the committee is flexible and may be altered at the discretion of the student. Approval of the doctoral supervisory committee by the department chair is required.

The doctoral supervisory committee assumes responsibility for the student's academic advisement. It advises the student in the preparation of a doctoral program of study (see below) and must approve it.

Each year an assessment of the progress of the student is made by the student's advisor. The entire committee conducts the PhD essay examination and the dissertation defense.


Program of Study

A student must have on file with the department an approved program of study at all times. This document represents an agreement between the student and department delineating the course requirements the student must satisfy for a degree. The program of study may be amended at any time with the mutual consent of the student and their advisor. In preparing a program of study, the student must be aware of the degree and residence requirements established by the department and by the university. These forms are available from the department secretary and the department webpage. The forms should be typed and signed by the student's committee members and by the department chair. The original is placed in the student's file in the department office. A copy is made for the major professor who uses it in future course advising. The student is responsible for updating this document annually.


Annual Review

Each year a graduate student progress evaluation is conducted. This is a review of the academic performance of each graduate student. Students are informed whether or not their progress is satisfactory and are expected to remedy any deficiencies noted. The review is used by the department chair in decisions pertaining to the continuation of students in the program. Students not making timely and satisfactory progress toward their intended degree will not be continued in the department. The review is performed by the graduate director or, for students admitted to PhD candidacy, their dissertation director.

The department chair makes the final decision on matters of continuance in the department's degree programs.


The Student Advisory Committee

The Department of Statistics, through the Student Advisory Committee (SAC), participates in the university-wide program which promotes active involvement of students in academic decision making. The SAC consists of one representative each from the first and second year classes, two advanced representatives, and two officers.

The main function of the committee is to act as a liaison between faculty and students. By making themselves available for comments from both groups, the committee promotes effective communications and student awareness of department policies. A member of the SAC attends department faculty meetings. Some past inputs from SAC to the faculty have been to request new courses and invite specific guest speakers to department colloquia.

In addition, the SAC sponsors social/recreational events and enters teams in various intramural programs available on campus.

SAC members are elected each spring term by the graduate students. A representative of the incoming is class chosen at the beginning of the following fall term.


Statistical Consulting Center

As a service to the university, the department operates the Statistical Consulting Center (SCC).

Department members associated with the SCC offer assistance to faculty and students in the university who require statistical help with their research. Occasional assistance is provided to state agencies or to other community members.


Department Colloquia

The department colloquium is a lecture-discussion series on research and applications in topics of interest to members of the department. Colloquia are presented by faculty members, graduate students and visitors to the department.

Attendance at colloquium is expected of all faculty and graduate students in the department. Suggestions for colloquium presentations are always welcomed, and should be passed to the faculty though the SAC.

The department has an annual speaker competition for graduate students, the Anna and Yongyuan Li presentation award. The student who is judged by the faculty of the awards committee to have made the best presentation for the academic year is given the award.

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