Biostatistics PhD Vs. Statistics PhD

May 24, 2019

Students wishing to pursue a PhD program in statistics should consider their research interests when choosing between biostatistics and traditional statistics programs. Learn about the differences, requirements, and admission standards for the degrees.

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Biostatistics and PhD in Statistics degree programs have similar graduation requirements, but biostatistics programs provide specific training in the sub discipline, while statistics programs provide a larger overview of the field. Key differences in the programs arise in coursework and career outcomes. Explore the similarities and differences between the programs below.

Comparing a PhD in Biostatistics to a PhD in Statistics

PhD in Biostatistics

PhD in Biostatistics programs usually take around 4 years to complete and train students in the specific area of applied statistics dealing with research in the biology and health fields. Students may be required to complete around 72 to 79 semester hours and typically must complete comprehensive exams and a dissertation in an area of specialization, such as zoology, public health, bioinformatics, epidemiology, or pharmacology. Often, these programs also include hands-on training opportunities through a statistical consulting seminar or statistical consulting practicum where students get to interact with real-world clients and problems. Curriculum generally includes core courses and electives within students' area of specialization/application and may include topics in linear models, probability, multivariate biostatistics, theory of biostatistics, categorical data, and biostatistical computing. Graduates of these programs can pursue specific job titles like senior biostatistician, biostatistics manager, assistant professor, or senior research statistician.

PhD in Statistics

PhD in Statistics programs can be completed in 4 to 5 years and train students in the theory and application of statistics to a wide range of fields, such as computer science, finance, and public policy. Due to the wide range of applications, these programs may offer students specific areas of designated emphasis, such as computational science and engineering or communication, computation, and statistics. These programs may require a minimum of 52 credit hours, comprehensive exams, and a dissertation or doctoral thesis. Students may take courses in topics such as theoretical statistics, statistical modeling, Monte Carlo methods, linear models, applied statistics, and probability. Graduates may go on to pursue postdoctoral fellowships or careers as quantitative researchers in various fields or assistant professors.

Common Entrance Requirements

Applicants for PhD in Biostatistics and PhD in Statistics programs generally need to hold a master's degree in mathematical statistics, biostatistics, applied statistics, or another related field, although some programs may consider strong candidates with a bachelor's degree. Some schools may require students to meet a minimum GPA requirement and/or have GRE test scores. Most of these doctoral programs require students to have prior coursework in areas such as calculus, linear algebra, mathematical statistics, real analysis, and/or programming. Typically students submit transcripts, letters of recommendation, resume or CV, personal statement, and/or a writing sample with their application.

Students can earn a PhD in Biostatistics or PhD in Statistics in 4 years and generally must complete a dissertation. Graduates of biostatistics programs generally work in the fields of public health or biology, while graduates of statistics can pursue research-based careers in a range of fields.

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The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

    • Ph.D. Health Sciences

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    Georgia Regents University
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    Emory University
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    Columbia University in the City of New York
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    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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