Ph.D. in Statistics

The goal of the Statistics Ph.D. program is to train students to conduct original methodological and/or theoretical research in statistics and to apply advanced statistical methods to scientific problems. Students are expected to take advanced graduate classes in the theory and applications of statistics and other relevant classes. The Ph.D. program requires a Qualifying Exam, a Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam and a Final Oral Exam. The Ph.D. requires 90 hours of graduate credit, including a dissertation. At least 45 hours must be completed at UNL after the filing of the program of studies, which must be approved by the student’s Ph.D. graduate committee. The Ph.D. program will normally include at least 12 hours and at most 55 hours of dissertation research. In addition, there are specific course requirements.

The Ph.D. Qualifying Exam

Entrance into the Department's Ph.D. program is partially determined by the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam. The exam is a written exam over the MS core course that assesses preparedness for the PhD program. Students are allowed to take the exam if they have a GPA of at least 3.5 in their MS and PhD core courses taken, where a grade of B- or higher is needed in each course as well. This test is given in early January and in late May each year. Pass/No Pass grades for the exam are assigned by the PhD Qualifying Exam Committee. Students have two attempts to receive a Pass grade; a third attempt can be granted by a majority vote of the Department’s faculty if extreme circumstances prevented a student from achieving a Pass. The Exam Committee will inform the student of his/her exam result within two weeks from the last day of the exam.

Acceptance into the Ph.D. program

Full acceptance into the Department’s Ph.D. program also requires that the student find a faculty advisor (or a temporary sponsor) within one month after passing the PhD Qualifying Exam. Full acceptance into the Department’s Ph.D. program does not guarantee funding by the university.

Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree

At least 90-credit hours for a PhD degree. Most students will use their MS degree credit hours earned (from UNL or another university) to account for approximately 1/3 of these hours. A typical PhD program will also include dissertation hours (STAT 999) for approximately 1/3 of these hours. For the remaining credit hours, students need to complete at least the following core courses with a grade of B- or higher: 950, 980, 982, 983, and 984. Students may substitute 981 for 984 if desired. Students not obtaining the necessary grade level in a core course may need to re-take it. A student’s Supervisory Committee makes this decision. Six additional credit hours from 900-level elective courses are required as well, excluding STAT 997, STAT 999. Administrative Procedures.

  1. After a student has passed the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam, but before he or she has earned 45 credit hours, the student forms a Ph.D. Supervisory Committee. The student must choose an advisor, who will chair the Supervisory Committee and direct the dissertation. A form listing the Ph.D. Supervisory Committee must be filed with the Graduate Studies Office.
  2. A Program of Studies form must be filed with the Graduate Studies Office before the student has earned 45 credit hours; this form is completed with the advice and consent of the student's Supervisory Committee. See the Graduate Studies website.
  3. Once a student has passed the Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam, the student must file the Admission to Candidacy form with the Graduate Studies Office. This form must be filed no later than seven months prior to graduation. See the Graduate Studies website.

This is the typical timeline for PhD students entering UNL with a MS in Statistics (or in a closely related area) from another university.

Fall (Semester 1): 10 credits

  • STAT 810: Alpha Seminar
  • STAT 821: Statistical Methods I
  • STAT 850: Computing Tools
  • STAT 882: Mathematical Statistics I
  • STAT 892*: TA Prep

Spring (Semester 2): 9 credits

  • STAT 822: Statistical Methods II
  • STAT 883: Mathematical Statistics II
  • Elective
  • Form Supervisory Committee

Fall (Semester 3): 9 credits

  • STAT 823: Statistical Methods III
  • STAT 825: Principles of Statistical Consulting
  • Elective

Spring (Semester 4): 9 credits

  • Elective
  • PhD Qualifying Exam in January

Fall (Semester 5)

  • STAT 950: Computational Statistics
  • STAT 984: Asymptotics and Applications
  • Elective
  • Form Supervisory Committee

Spring (Semester 6)

  • STAT 980: Advanced Probability Theory l
  • STAT 900-level course
  • Elective

Fall (Semester 7)

  • STAT 982: Advanced Inference
  • STAT 900-level course
  • STAT 999: Dissertation Research

Spring (Semester 8)

  • STAT 993: Statistical Learning
  • STAT 999: Dissertation Research
  • Elective
  • Comprehensive Exam

Fall (Semester 9)

  • STAT 999: Dissertation research
  • Elective

Spring (Semester 10)

  • STAT 999: Dissertation research
  • Final Oral Exam

See “Steps to Degree Completion” at for degree forms and their deadlines.
*Required course for TAs only
*** May take STAT 981 in place of STAT 984

The PhD Comprehensive Exam

The Statistics PhD Comprehensive Exam involves a dissertation proposal that is presented in an open forum. This is followed by an oral defense conducted by the student’s Supervisory Committee. This Committee will give a Pass/No Pass grade. A portion of this exam needs to be in a written format to satisfy the requirements in the Graduate Catalog. The exact written requirements are determined by the Supervisory Committee, but normally will consist of chapter drafts from the dissertation. In addition to the dissertation proposal, the Supervisory Committee may incorporate other requirements for the exam.


The Ph.D. dissertation will be developed under the supervision of a faculty advisor on a topic approved by the student’s Ph.D. graduate committee. Dissertation hours (STAT 999) normally range between 15 and 30 semester hours. See the Graduate Studies Catalog for further requirements for the Ph.D. dissertation.

Final Oral Exam

The Final Oral Exam is a dissertation defense. For this exam, students present their dissertation research to the university in an open forum. This is followed by a final oral defense conducted by the student’s Supervisory Committee. This committee gives a Pass/No Pass grade. Complete details of the final examination procedure are in the Graduate Studies Catalog.