Online PhD in Statistics

Statistics is essentially the science of learning data. Statisticians are trained to collect data and measure, analyze, interpret, and control it to make decisions based on their findings. Through online PhD programs in statistics, students can learn the most up-to-date, advanced methods of analyzing data for use in a variety of areas, such as business, industry, government, and academia. They can also become trained in a specialized field of statistics and conduct research and teach in academia.

With more data available than ever before thanks to the Internet, more and more areas are in need of statisticians to analyze data. Statisticians are called in to help solve economic, medical, political, ecological, or social problems. They can be found, for example, conducting cancer research, analyzing statistical data to improve Internet search engines, and determining unemployment rates to help governments allocate resources. The possibilities for this field are seemingly endless.

About Online PhD Programs in Statistics

Statistics phd programs provide students with advanced training in applied or theoretical statistics. Course work may cover such topics as asymptotics, bootstrapping, decision theory, multivariate analysis, sequential analysis, and time series. Students will also have the chance to specialize in an area of their interest and complete a dissertation in it. Programs may prepare graduates for continued academic research and academic jobs in colleges and universities, as well as advanced research positions in corporations or government agencies. Here's an idea of what kind of classes you can expect to take, as offered by Texas A&M University's doctorate in statistics:

Year One:

  • Statistical Analysis. This course provides an introduction to probability, probability distributions, and statistical inference; hypotheses testing; and methods of analysis such as tests of independence, regression, and analysis of variance.
  • Topics in Statistical Computations. This course covers efficient uses of existing statistical computer programs (SAS, R, etc.) and generation of random numbers; using and creating functions and subroutines; statistical graphics; programming of simulations studies; and data management issues.
  • Theory of Linear Models. Topics in this course include matrix algebra for statisticians, Gauss-Markov theorem; estimability; estimation subject to linear restrictions; multivariate normal distribution; distribution of quadratic forms; inferences for linear models; theory of multiple regression and AOV; and random- and mixed-effects models.

Year Two:

  • Transportation Statistics. This course covers the design of experiments, estimation, hypotheses testing, modeling, and data mining for transportation specialists.
  • Methods of Statistical Data Modeling. This course is an introduction to new methods of statistical analysis, especially statistical data modeling, exploratory data analysis, adaptive and robust estimation.
  • Statistical Genetics. This course covers basic concepts in human genetics, sampling designs, gene frequency estimation, Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, linkage disequilibrium, association and transmission disequilibrium test studies, linkage and pedigree analysis, segregation analysis, polygenic models, and DNA sequence analysis.

The last — and often most time-consuming — process of earning a doctorate is writing the dissertation. This is completed once you've completed any core and elective requirements. Some programs may also require that students pass a written comprehensive exam. The dissertation consists of original research you conduct over the course of several years which you then defend orally before a dissertation committee. Areas of research could be any number of statistics specialties, including decision theory, multivariate analysis, sequential analysis, and time series.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Statistics

There are multiple valid reasons to earn an online phd in statistics. For one, it can help advance your career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), opportunities for promotion are greater for people with master's or doctoral degrees. A Ph.D. can also lead to greater freedom, as, the BLS also notes, statisticians with a master's degree or a Ph.D. usually can design their own work. And, as with any terminal degree program, a doctorate degree in statistics can be an exciting academic challenge, connect you with experts in the field, and lead to research opportunities.

There may be some challenges to consider when earning a Ph.D. For one, it can be very time consuming, especially if you are teaching or working while you are earning your degree. This is often the case for people who attend on a research or teaching fellowships. And because there are rare opportunities to earn a doctorate in statistics fully online, save from some online courses here and there, you also may need to relocate to pursue the degree.

Application & Admission Requirements

Application requirements will vary from program to program beyond such standards as an application and undergraduate and graduate transcripts. Though generally, doctorate candidates are expected to meet minimum GPA requirements (usually 3.0), as well as have a bachelor's degree in statistics, mathematics, or a related field. They may also be required to complete certain courses in calculus, algebra, computer programming, and applied statistics to be considered for admission. Students who lack any prerequisite courses demanded of their program will need to complete them before applying. The GRE is also often required.

Career Options & Job Market

More and more industries are relying on statistical analysis to make sense of data, and thanks to the Internet, there's more data available than ever before. Indeed, according to the BLS, employment of statisticians is expected to grow by 14% from 2010 to 2020. Areas where there will be a strong demand for the profession include government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and commercial businesses. The federal government employs the largest percentage of statisticians, with 20% in 2010, according to the BLS, followed by scientific and development services (12%), colleges, universities, and professional schools (9%), state government (8%), and insurance carriers (7%). The median annual wage for the profession was $72,830 in May 2010, according to the BLS.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

There are many financial assistant programs available to help you pay for your doctorate degree. For starters, many school's themselves offer students fellowships, scholarships, and teaching and research assistantships that can provide financial support for the degree; this can sometimes include living expenses, though these stipends can be competitive. If students' programs aren't covered, they can apply for grants and federal financial aid to help pay tuition and living expenses while they earn their degree. To receive federal aid, you have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form online by a specific deadline. You also have to be attending an accredited institution of higher education.

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan. This federal loan offers a low-interest rate of 6.80% and up to $20,500 per academic year.
  • Federal Perkins Loan. This federal loan offers a lower fixed interest rate of 5.0%, but only awards about $3,500 per academic year.
  • Campus-Based Aid. Fellowships, scholarships, and teaching and research assistantships are some of the financial aid opportunities that may be available through your school, though they are often very competitive.

Essential Advice

  • Undergoing a Ph.D. program is a big commitment, from the time you'll sacrifice to the cost it may incur. So before you even apply, you'll want to make sure this is a good move for you. Figure out how a statistics Ph.D. will help you in your career down the line, and how you will address any immediate challenges, such as financial costs. Talking to people who are currently undergoing an online doctoral program in statistics can help you make your decision and answer your questions.
  • Once you've decided to apply, make sure you have enough time to do so. Between the letters of recommendation, constructing your personal statement, and obtaining relevant test scores, it can take several months before your application is ready. So make sure you leave enough time to get everything you need to do done, as well as some wiggle room in case things take longer than you expect.
  • How are you going to pay for it? This is a big question for anyone pursuing higher education, from undergraduate freshmen to doctoral candidates. Luckily, at the doctoral level, there are fellowships, scholarships, and grants you can take advantage of to help defray the costs. So you should take the steps to figure out what your options are, and apply to programs that will provide you with them.
  • Before you jump straight into a Ph.D. program from an undergraduate or master's degree, consider the benefits of gaining work experience in between degrees. Taking a break from the demands of academia can be good for just your mental health, but also help you figure out what you'd want out of a Ph.D. program, who you'd like to study with, what the demand is in your field, and what you'd like to specialize in.