PhD Degree Regulations

Revised 5/1/2014. These regulations are effective for students entering the program in summer/fall 2014 or later. Current students have until fall 2016 to complete the program under the old requirements. For past regulations, see PhD Degree Past Regulations.

  1. Course Requirements
  2. Qualifying Examination
  3. Preliminary Examination
  4. Dissertation
  5. Breadth Requirements and Procedures
  6. Graduate School Higher Learning Commission Requirements

For those interested in biostatistics, please also read the Biostatistics Degree Option Regulations.


1. Course Requirements

Required Courses:

  • Statistics 709 and 710 (Mathematical Statistics)
  • Mathematics/Statistics 733 (Measure Theoretic Probability)
  • Statistics 849 and 850 (Statistical Methods and Applications)
  • Statistics 998 (Statistical Consulting)

Elective Courses:

  • Eighteen or more elective credits from statistics courses numbered 641, 642, or 700 or higher (with the exception of 609, 610, 699, 709, 710, 849, 850, 990, or 998). If 992 is used to fulfill the elective requirement, a maximum of 9 credits can be counted, with a maximum of three credits on any one topic.
  • Breadth requirement (option A, B, or C). Specific requirements can be found in section 5 of this document.

  • The following may also be allowed to count towards the 51-credit minimum for the PhD degree:
      • Up to six credits of graduate courses in other departments complementary to the student’s interest areas (with permission of the student’s advisor).
      • Up to six credits of statistics coursework at the 600-level or above, taken while an undergraduate or special student at UW-Madison, provided that the work was completed no more than ten years prior to admission to the PhD degree (with permission of the student’s advisor). If the work was completed as a special student, students must also pay the difference between special student and graduate tuition.
    1. Sufficient credits of Statistics 990 to reach the 51-credit minimum.
    2. If completing the Biostatistics option, 12 credits of the required 18 elective credits must include three credits of Stat 641, six credits from this list: (Stat 642, 741, and 877), and three credits selected from this list: (Genetics 466, Zoology 570, Biocore 303, Population Health 795, or Medical Sciences 622-721).

    A grade of B or better must be received in any course used to fulfill the required and elective course requirements.

    With the approval of the Curriculum and Degree Requirements Committee, up to nine credits of graduate course work taken elsewhere or equivalent material learned elsewhere may be used to fulfill the above requirements. Approval must be requested within the first two semesters of registration as a graduate student in the department.


    2. Qualifying Examination

    The student must pass the PhD Qualifying Examination within six semesters from the first fall semester of registration as a graduate student in the Department. The examination may be attempted a maximum of two times.

    Master’s degree students who successfully complete the Department’s MS Degree Requirements within four semesters and are then admitted to the PhD program must pass the PhD Qualifying Examination within four semesters after entering the PhD program.

    The examination is a written exam and is based on a syllabus made available by the PhD Qualifying Examination Committee. A reading list containing references discussing material on the syllabus is also available. Most or all of the syllabus material is covered in the required courses, 709, 710, 733, 849, and 850.

    The written examination is given during the week before or the first or second week of classes in each semester and is administered on two days. The first day covers Mathematical Statistics and is based on the material of 709 and 710; typically the student must answer three questions from a list of four. On the second day the student must answer two questions from a list of four containing two questions based on material from 849-850 and two questions based on material from mathematical distribution theory and probability (709 and 733).

    Passing or failing this examination will not affect the student’s candidacy for the Master’s degree.


    3. Preliminary Examination

    The student must pass an oral preliminary examination on a topic selected with the approval of the student’s advisor. The examination is given by a committee of at least four faculty members appointed by the advisor. Prior to the actual examination, the student must prepare a 15 to 20 page paper outlining the area to be covered. The paper must be written in a clear style with consistent notation. The paper should indicate the scope and depth of the student’s dissertation research, and should be submitted to the committee at least one week prior to the examination.

    The examination typically consists of a 20 to 30 minute talk by the student and questions by the committee. The committee may ask questions during and after the talk. The student may consult notes, but is expected to display a mastery of the subject matter as defined by the list of references. The scope of the questions will normally be directed to the subject matter of the paper but may, by natural extension, include any relevant topic. The student’s advisor may not serve as chair of the committee, but does appoint the chair.

    At least three weeks before the scheduled Preliminary Examination, students should contact the graduate coordinator, who will request a preliminary warrant from the Graduate School. Upon review, the Graduate School will return the warrant to the Graduate Coordinator for committee members to sign after the examination.


    4. Dissertation

    The primary requirement for the PhD degree is the completion of a significant body of original research and the presentation of this research in a dissertation. The research is carried out under the guidance of a member or members of the Department. The candidate must defend the dissertation in a final oral examination.

    At least three weeks prior to the final oral examination, the student should contact the graduate coordinator, who will submit a request for a "PhD Final Oral Committee Approval Form” to the Graduate School. Upon review, the Graduate School will return the warrant to the Graduate Coordinator, which will then need to be signed by the Committee and Department Chair following a successful defense.

    Students are responsible for ensuring that they meet Graduate School requirements and deadlines: http://grad.wisc.edu/currentstudents/degreedeadlines/ and
    http://grad.wisc.edu/currentstudents/degree/


    5. Breadth Requirements and Procedures

    (See separate document on Breadth Requirements and Procedures.)


    6. Graduate School Higher Learning Commission Requirements

    • A PhD degree requires 51 credits (not including audits or pass/fail). [Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement]
    • At least 32 of these credits must be taken in-residence at UW-Madison. [Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement]
    • Half of the degree course work (26 credits out of 51 total credits) must be completed with a combination of Statistics courses numbered 600 or higher (which our department considers to be graduate courses), and, if doing the Biostatistics option, courses considered graduate courses from other departments used to satisfy the Biostatistics requirements (including, but not limited to, Genetics 466, Zoology 570, Biocore 303, Population Health 795, and Medical Sciences 622-721). [Minimum Graduate Course Work (50%) Requirement]
    • With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of graduate course work from other institutions toward the graduate degree credit and graduate course work (50%) requirements. Course work earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements. [Prior Course Work Requirement]
    • With program approval, up to 6 statistics credits from a UW-Madison undergraduate degree at the 600 level or above are allowed to count toward minimum graduate degree credits. Course work earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements. [Prior Course Work Requirement]
    • With program approval, and payment of the difference between special and graduate tuition, up to 15 statistics credits completed at UW-Madison while a University Special Student at the 300 level or above are allowed to count toward minimum graduate degree and graduate residence credit requirements. Of these credits, those at the 700-level or above may also count toward the minimum graduate course work (50%) requirement. Course work earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements. [Prior Course Work Requirement]
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