M.S. Vs. PhD in Statistics

Mar 29, 2019

Master's and doctoral degree programs in statistics are fairly common and require many courses in different areas of mathematics. Learn about some of the coursework and requirements for each degree program and how interested students can apply.

Statistics is a field that is easily applicable to many other industries, and therefore, provides graduates of master's and doctoral degree programs with diverse career options. Graduate programs in statistics vary in length, graduation requirements, and other factors. Explore some of these differences below.

Comparing an M.S. to a PhD in Statistics

Master of Science in Statistics

Master of Science (M.S.) in Statistics degree programs are available in full- and part-time formats and may take around 30 to 45 credits to complete, depending on the program. Some of these programs are available in online formats or offer online classes, and typically students are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA. Most programs can be completed in 1 to 2 years and do not require a formal thesis, but some may offer a thesis option in place of additional coursework. Other programs may offer additional areas of concentration, such as applied statistics or analytics. Common course topics for programs include statistics (applied and/or theoretical), probability, statistical computing, stochastic processes, regression, time series, and analysis of variance. Graduates with an M.S. degree in statistics may go on to pursue study at the doctoral level, but may also enter the workforce as statisticians and researchers in a wide range of fields, such as manufacturing, healthcare, finance, and education.

Doctor of Philosophy in Statistics

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Statistics degree programs are usually taken on campus and vary in credit requirements. Students usually focus their studies in a particular area of statistics through their research and elective courses. Programs typically take 4 to 5 years to complete, require a dissertation and qualifying/comprehensive exams, and may require students to have mastery of at least 1 foreign language. Coursework varies greatly, based on a student's interests, but may include topics in linear models, theoretical statistics, statistical modeling, probability, law of large numbers, regression, and hypothesis testing. Graduates of doctoral programs in statistics are prepared for advanced research positions in various industries or academia.

Common Entrance Requirements

Students applying to M.S. or PhD degree programs in statistics must have at least a bachelor's degree and usually need to meet a minimum GPA requirement around a 3.0. Most of the degree programs at either level require applicants to have prior coursework in areas such as linear algebra, probability, calculus, programming, and statistics. Some programs may allow students to be admitted on a limited status or conditional basis and then change the student to full graduate standing once the conditions of their admission are met. Many of these programs require the GRE exam, and those that do not require it may encourage students to include scores in their application. Some common application materials for graduate programs in statistics include transcripts, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and/or a resume or CV.

Graduate programs in statistics usually allow students to focus their studies in a particular area of the field through available concentrations, electives, or research opportunities. Master's students can earn their degree in 1 to 2 years, while doctoral students take 4 to 5 years and must complete a dissertation.

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