The Applied Statistics Ph.D.
A rigorous program preparing students for success in the new data-centered world.
The Ph.D. program in Applied Statistics is a research-intensive program designed for students who demand an in-depth understanding of statistical tools for solving real-world problems with innovation. The knowledge and skills that students learn prepare them to become professionals in a broad range of data-driven fields, including university professors and research statisticians in industry, government, and non-profit sectors.
The Applied Statistics professors support students interested in a diverse range of statistical topics including linear models, data mining and analytics, statistical process control, spatial statistics, longitudinal analysis, statistical computing, nonparametric and robust methods, change and anomaly detection, Bayesian inference, network analysis, and statistical learning.
Students are expected to finish the Ph.D. program in four years. They are required to take at least 48 credit hours of approved coursework and at least 24 dissertation hours. During the summer months, students are expected to enhance their research skills under the supervision of their academic advisors. Subject to evaluation by the Ph.D. program Director, some coursework (but no more than 24 credit hours) may be transferred from previous graduate programs.
All students, both international and domestic, with relevant preparation in calculus, linear algebra, probability, and statistics are welcome to apply. Prospective students without an MS degree in statistics or without proper preparation at a similar level are encouraged to apply to our Master of Science program. A complete application package must be submitted at the Graduate School web-page (https://graduate.ua.edu/prospective-students/apply-now) and should include the following items:
- Statement of purpose
- Previous transcripts from undergraduate and graduate institutions
- TOEFL/IELTS (for international students only) and GRE/GMAT test scores
- Three letters of recommendation from professional references
- Application fee.
GRE Exam Requirement:
Students may choose to take either GRE or GMAT. Students are expected to achieve an overall GRE score of at least 310, including at least 160 on the quantitative reasoning section.
TOEFL Exam Requirement:
All students whose first language is not English must submit an official TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS score. The minimum required iBT TOEFL score is 90 (575 in paper-based TOEFL). The language requirement may be waived for students with a two-year US-based degree.
We prefer that students enter the program in the fall semester. In some special situations, students can be allowed to enter the program in the spring semester. Application materials for consideration for fall enrollment with financial support must be received by January 15. Applications without requests for financial assistance must be submitted by March 15. Application materials for consideration for spring enrollment with financial support must be received by October 1. Applications without requests for financial assistance must be submitted by November 1.
Qualifying and Comprehensive Exams
Entrance and Qualifying Exam
At the end of the first academic year, Ph.D. students are required to take a written qualifying examination. The exam is usually administered at the end of a spring semester and is based on the required MS level courses including ST 552, 553, 554, 555, and 560. The qualifying exam requirement may be waived for students holding an MS degree in statistics. Students interested in waiving the exam must take an entrance exam in August before the start of the fall semester. The entrance exam represents a light version of the comprehensive exam that is based on major and fundamental concepts covered in the required MS level courses. Students passing the entrance exam are allowed to register for Ph.D.-level courses. Students failing the entrance exam are expected to register for MS level courses in which knowledge and skill deficiencies have been identified.
At the end of the second year or upon the completion of at least four (12 credit hours) Ph.D. level statistics classes, students must take a comprehensive exam. The goal of the comprehensive exam is to assess the potential of a student to conduct independent research. Individual research projects are assigned to students for independent work over a two-week period in April. By the end of the two-week term, students must submit a written report and present their findings at an Applied Statistics Ph.D. seminar. Applied Statistics graduate faculty assess the quality of completed projects based on the following rubrics:
- Comprehensive literature review.
- Soundness of the proposed research approach and adequacy of future research plans.
- Strength of experimental support.
- Quality of oral presentation and ability to address questions and concerns.
- Quality of written report.
By the time of the comprehensive exam at the latest, students are expected to find a dissertation advisor.
Every year, Ph.D. students meet with Applied Statistics faculty to discuss their academic performance and progress in the program
Students who fail to meet the program requirements such as maintaining at least a 3.50 GPA, passing the qualifying exam, comprehensive exam, proposal, and dissertation defenses, or finding a dissertation advisor and forming a dissertation committee will be required to resolve all academic issues during the next semester. The failure to do so over the next semester leads to the immediate dismissal from the Ph.D. program. The disruption of financial support can be recommended if GPA falls below 3.50 but is higher than 3.00. The financial support can be resumed when GPA becomes at least 3.50 again.
Within a year after passing the comprehensive exam, students must form a dissertation committee and present and defend their dissertation proposal. The proposal usually focuses on the already obtained findings and plans regarding research yet to be accomplished.
The dissertation defense is the final test that usually occurs at the end of the fourth year. A dissertation must present some original contributions to the statistics literature. A Ph.D. candidate must present a written document acceptable to the dissertation committee and Graduate School and pass the oral dissertation defense.
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