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PhD in Biostatistics

Offering Department: 
Program Description: 

Biostatistics is one of the most exciting areas of applied statistics - biostatisticians collaborate with scientists in nearly every area related to health and biology. Statistical models and methodologies have provided invaluable insight into the etiology of AIDS, cancer, genetics, psychology and numerous other areas of scientific research. The PhD degree program in Biostatistics trains biostatisticians to solve problems in the health sciences and to develop biostatistical methodology. Training combines mathematical statistics, biostatistical methods and a third-field specialization. It is designed to train statisticians who can apply statistical methods to solve problems in the health field and who can conduct theoretical research in statistical methodology.

Preparation for the Degree: 

Mathematics preparation for the program should include at least two years of calculus:

  • Mathematics 31A, B Calculus and Analytic Geometry
  • Mathematics 32A, B Calculus of Several Variables
  • Mathematics 33A, B Matrices, Differential Equations, Infinite Series

Mathematics 115A Linear Algebra

Program Requirements

The program requires the completion of the following elements:

1. Course Requirements

Unless previously taken, students are required to take the following courses:

  • Biostatistics 200 A, B, C: Method in Biostatistics
  • Biostatistics 202 A, B: Mathematical Statistics
  • Biostatistics 216: Mathematical Methods for Biostatistics
  • Biostatistics 250 A, B: Linear Models
  • Biostatistics 250 C: Multivariate Biostatistics
  • Biostatistics 257: Computational Methods for Biostatistical Research
  • Biostatistics 245 & 246: Doctoral Seminar
  • Biostatistics 409: Biostatistics Consulting
  • Mathematics 131 A: Real Analysis (must be taken in year 1 by students with limited or no prior experience to Real Analysis)
  • One 4-unit course in the Department of Epidemiology (either EPI 100 or 200A)
  • One 4-unit course in board public health (PH 150/C201 or HPM M242)
  • Minimum of 6 4-unit Biostatistics special topics courses from Biostatistics 202C, 210 and above.

2. Written Examinations

Students must pass 2 written examinations, the PH.D. Preliminary Exam and the PH.D. Written Advanced Qualifying Exam.

Failure to secure a passing grade in at most two attempts in the PH.D. Preliminary Exam and the PH.D. Written Advanced Qualifying Exam will result in the department recommending the student to the graduate division for academic disqualification.

The PhD Preliminary Exam

This exam is offered in September just before the beginning of fall classes. Students would generally take this exam in the beginning of their second year of study. Students are expected to pass the exam at a level that would predict successful completion of the Ph.D. program. The Ph.D. Preliminary Examination covers material in the following courses and is normally taken as soon as possible after having satisfactorily completing the relevant coursework: Biostatistics 200 A, B, C and Biostatistics 202 A, B.

Students must pass the exam at a level expected of doctoral students.

Students have a maximum of two attempts to pass the exam.

The PhD Written Qualifying Exam

This exam is offered in September just before the beginning of fall classes. The scope of the exam includes material from the following courses: Biostatistics, 250A, B, C. Students would generally take the exam after completing necessary coursework, which typically occurs either in the beginning of their 3rd or 4th year of graduate study.

3. Oral Qualifying Exam

The oral qualifying exam evaluates the student’s understanding of statistical theory, ability to apply the theory, and reviews the proposed dissertation topic. The student should prepare a written dissertation proposal. The proposal should include background, preliminary work and a research plan for carrying out the work. While there are no absolute page requirements, the proposal is typically between 15 to 50 pages with additional pages for figures and references. The proposal should be distributed to members of the dissertation committee in advance of the exam. Generally, the proposal is expected to be delivered to the committee members at least two weeks before the scheduled oral exam; if the student expects that the proposal will be delivered less than two weeks before the exam, the student should check with each committee member for advance approval. During the oral exam, the student will present and defend the proposed work. The student can expect that most of the questions will pertain to the proposal, however additional questions may be asked to assess general understanding of biostatistical principles. The overall objective of the exam is to evaluate whether the student has the ability and adequate plans for conducting PhD dissertation research.

4. PhD Dissertation and Oral Defense

The PH.D. Dissertation is original research that advances the field of biostatistics. The dissertation is completed under the guidance of a Biostatistical faculty member who serves as the adviser. Examples of dissertations from previous graduates are available in the Biostatistics Library. After successfully completing a dissertation, an oral examination defending the dissertation is conducted by the dissertation committee. A failed examination may be repeated once on the recommendation of the committee.

Time To Degree

The PhD in Biostatistics is typically a four-year year program after the MS, although some students may complete the program in less time.

Typical Course Sequencing

The sequence of classes to be taken during the first year of study depends on the student’s background. Doctoral students establish a sequence of courses in consultation with their academic advisor to best prepare them for the Comprehensive exams. To view the typical sequence of classes for the MS in Biostatistics, please consult the PHD in Biostatistics Sequence of Classes document. 


Desired Qualifications

In addition to the University’s minimum requirements, applicants for the PhD should have a good MS background in Statistics, or occasionally in other fields. They should have an extra year of mathematics, and demonstrated ability to succeed at the highest level.

Mathematics preparation for the program should include at least two years of calculus:

  • Math 31A, B: Calculus and Analytic Geometry
  • Math 32A, B: Calculus of Several Variables
  • Math 33A, B: Matrices, Differential Equations, Infinite Series
  • Math 115A: Linear Algebra

Math 131A: Real Analysis

Admissions Process

Applicants are only admitted in the Fall.  Applicants who wish to be considered for all financial aid considerations should have their applications, letters, transcripts and official GRE scores here at the School of Public Health by December 1 of the year preceding the desired entrance year.

The department will accept late applications, but we encourage you to apply as early as possible. After June 1 you should probably consider applying for the following year's admission cycle. Late applicants are less likely to be considered for financial aid.

The application process has three steps. You must:

  1. Submit an on-line application and pay the application fee at SOPHAS,
  2. Submit an online application and pay the application fee at UCLA Graduate Admissions, and
  3. Mail required academic documents and test scores to SOPHAS and to UCLA's School of Public Health.

For complete application instructions and the list of required materials, review UCLA School of Public Health Admission Application Check List and Submission Instructions.

As we receive many more qualified applicants for the program than there are available spaces, meeting the minimum requirements for admission does not ensure admission to the program.  

Tuition and Fees

For the most up to date fees and more information on fee breakdown, visit the registrar's office.

Please see FSPH Financial Opportunities page for information on awards, scholarships, training opportunities, employment, summer internship funding, and need-based aid. Please note that opportunities listed under 'Summer Internship Funding' are only applicable to MPH students.


Graduates from UCLA's Biostatistics programs are recruited by top-notch employers. Our students get jobs at excellent universities, companies, and government agencies. Many graduates stay in the Los Angeles area or elsewhere in California, but our graduates are recruited by employers across the United States and indeed around the world.

Graduates of the program can contribute to transforming health in a number of ways, whether it be through their work as faculty members, as leaders in government research organizations, or through work in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, to name a few. Graduates with a UCLA PhD are exceptionally well prepared for academic careers and for industry and government careers.

Faculty in this Department

For a list of faculty in this department, please click here.

To search all School of Public Health faculty members by name, department or area of expertise, click here.

Helpful Links

Who to Contact for More Information

For more information or for questions on the program, please contact Roxy Naranjo at or 310.267.2186.


*This information is intended as an overview, and should be used as a guide only. Requirements, course offerings and other elements may change, and this overview may not list all details of the program. 

* Admission requirements listed are departmental requirements, and are in addition to the University's minimum requirements. Many programs receive more applicants than can be admitted, so meeting the minimum requirements for admission does not ensure admission. Every effort is made to ensure minimum admissions requirements are up to date - for the most up-to-date information on the University's minimum requirements, please visit the UCLA Graduate Division.

** Fees are subject to change and should be used as a guide only. For the most up to date fees and more information on fee breakdown, visit the registrar's office.