For Current Students


  • Maintain a GPA of 3.0 in Core6 courses: STA 702L, 711, 721, 723, 732, 831, and enroll in the seminar course STA 701S. 
  • Preliminary Examination: Typically taken in the Fall of the second year, and must be passed by the end of the third year.
  • Teaching Assistant: In years 2+ of Ph.D. studies
  • Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Program
    • 12 hours of RCR training, including Orientation and Graduate School RCR Forum or Departmental RCR Forum events
  • English Language Requirement (for non-native English-speaking students)
  • Progress Toward Completion
    • Satisfactory progress in courses  and other program requirements
    • Annual progress form submitted to DGS before April 15 of each year
  • Dissertation


Year 1

The courses in the table below are the required core courses for the PhD program and are typically taken during the first year.  A course requirement may be waived only in the special case of satisfactory performance in a previously-taken course that covered the same material.  

Fall Semester Spring Semester
STA 702L—Bayesian and Modern Statistical Data Analysis
STA 711—Probability and Measure Theory
STA 721—Linear Models
STA 701S—Statistical Science Graduate Student Seminar
STA 723—Statistics Case Studies
STA 732—Statistical Inference
STA 831—Probability/Statistical Models
STA 701S—Statistical Science Graduate Student Seminar
  • All students are expected to register for the Graduate Seminar Series STA 701S Statistical Science Graduate Student Seminar each semester. This is an informal seminar with talks on research given by students and faculty and is an excellent way to find out about research areas of potential advisors.
  • Ph.D. students generally enter the program with background in mathematics that includes preparation in analysis at or above the level of the Duke course MATH 531 Basic Analysis. In rare cases a student may take MATH 531 concurrently in the first semester, in order to ensure mathematical preparation.
  • Occasionally, some students enter the program needing extra preparation before taking the first year PhD courses.  The DGS works with those students to devise an individualized plan. This could involve, for example, taking some 500-level courses offered by the department in lieu of some of the PhD first year core courses. 

Year 2

Take the Preliminary Examination before the end of the Spring semester of the 2nd Year. This entails

  • A GPA of 3.2 in the Core6+ graduate courses is required to take the exam.
  • Enrollment in 3 1 credit STA891 Prelim Topics and at least one other course worth 3 credits is required in each semester that the Prelim Exam is taken. 
  • An exam committee must be formed by the second week of the semester (end of Add/Drop) in which the exam is taken.
  • A student who does not take the exam in the Fall must enroll in a full course load (10 credits) in the Fall.  
  • Either pass the prelim exam or complete 36 credits before the end of Spring Year 2. 
  • Pass the prelim exam or leave program by end of Summer Year 2.
    • At the discretion of the prelim committee, a failed exam may be retaken within 3 months.  
    • MSS degree (terminal or en route)  may be earned subject to 36 credit and completion exercise requirement. Taking the prelim exam counts as the MS completion exercise.

You should select second-year courses and more advanced courses, including STA courses and, in some cases, courses from other departments.  Availability of advanced courses and special topics courses vary depending on departmental offerings from the menu of courses taught every 2-3 years: see Course schedule.

You are expected to register for STA 701S Statistical Science Graduate Student Seminar each semester. This is an informal seminar with talks on research given by students and faculty. 

Year 3

  • Identification of a Thesis Advisor and Formation of the PhD Dissertation committee
  • Thesis Proposal presentation to the PhD Dissertation Committee by the end of the Spring semester
  • Research presentation in STA701S with Dissertation Committee invited

As the preliminary exam will be an evaluation of research preparedness, a formalized thesis proposal later in the student's career will be helpful to ensure adequate progress. In the third year progress report  students will be asked to identify a thesis advisor and the advisor will need to sign off on a thesis proposal. This will take the form of a short meeting of the student's thesis committee. 

Students are encouraged to take a small number of more advanced or special topics courses in statistics and sometimes a course in an area of immediate relevance to your thesis research from other departments. Course selection must be approved by the dissertation advisor. You should register for STA 993/994 Independent Study each semester with the dissertation advisor.

Year 4 and Beyond

  • Research presentation in STA701S at least once each year (inviting thesis committee)
  • Meeting with full dissertation committee at least once each year to update committee on research

You may take elect to take a small number of more advanced courses.

All students are encouraged to register for STA 701S Statistical Science Graduate Student Seminar each semester. Every student in their 3rd year or higher must give (at least) one presentation/talk in STA 701S each year; this is a primary opportunity for practicing research presentations and presenting progress in research to committee members.