Ph.D. Program Requirements

Our Ph.D. strongly emphasizes the development of a course of study and research that is customized to your background, interests and aptitudes. The graduate student advisory process aims to ensure a focus on individuality as a key to success in research, and the structure of study and course selection in the initial stages of your graduate career reflects this.


*NOTE: You are not required to take any courses; however, you are required to learn enough statistics to pass the First-Year and Preliminary Exams and finish your dissertation. Most students do take a full load of courses as this expedites learning required material and provides an efficient means for broadening training.

Suggested Coursework

Year 1

Select the first year courses shown in the table below to cover material regarded as "core" for Ph.D. studies. All PhD students are required to have mastery of these core course materials by the end of the first year. Indeed, the First Year Exam (FYE) covers material within the scope of these courses. However, no courses are required of any student and students with more advanced backgrounds may select more advanced courses in consultation with their advisors (see the Duke course schedule for all offerings) as well as the instructors of the advanced courses. A normal course load is 3 or 4 courses (3 for students with TA/RA duties). All course selections must be approved by the advisor. Core first year courses are scheduled as: 

Fall Semester Spring Semester
STA 601—Bayesian and Modern Statistical Data Analysis
STA 711—Probability and Measure Theory
STA 721—Linear Models
STA 701S—Readings in Statistical Science
STA 723—Statistics Case Studies
STA 732—Statistical Inference
STA 831—Probability/Statistical Models
STA 701S—Readings in Statistical Science
  • All students are expected to register for the Graduate Seminar Series STA 701S Readings in Statistical Science 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.
  • Most Ph.D. students enter the program with statistical backgrounds above the introductory level so will typically not take the fall semester introductory graduate probability and statistics course STA 611 Introduction to Mathematical Statistics. Some students do, however, take or audit STA 611  as a "refresher".

Year 2

You should select second year courses and more advanced courses, including STA courses and, in some cases, courses from other departments. All course selections must be approved by your advisor. Core STA courses include:

  • STA 841 Generalized Linear Models
  • STA 863 Advanced Modeling and Scientific Computing

Additional 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 Readings in Statistical Science each semester. This is an informal seminar with talks on research given by students and faculty. Some 2nd year students find it beneficial to give a presentation/talk in STA 701S as part of preparing Prelim Exam presentations.

Year 3 and Beyond

You may 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. As in years 1 and 2, course selection must be approved by the dissertation advisor. You should register for STA 993/994 Independent Study each semester with the dissertation advisor.

All students are encouraged to register for STA 701S Readings in Statistical Science 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.