Doctor of Philosophy in Biostatistics

UCLA Fielding School of Public Health


The PhD in Biostatistics trains biostatisticians to understand and confidently solve difficult scientific data analysis problems in the health sciences from problem conception, through data collection, to choosing the appropriate data analyses, and reporting of results. Rigorous courses are taught by world leaders in their specialties and train students in mathematical statistics, advanced biostatistical methods, big data, machine learning, data science, and statistical computing. The PhD trains statisticians who can develop and apply appropriate statistical methods to solve novel problems in the health field and who can conduct statistical methodological research.

  • Degree Preparation

    Mathematics preparation for the program should include at least two years of calculus, as well as some linear algebra:

    • 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

    More math is always better, particularly for the PhD program, where real analysis (UCLA Math 131A, 131B), and linear algebra (UCLA Math 115A, 115B) are desirable.

  • 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 PhD preliminary exam and the PhD written advanced qualifying exam.

    Failure to secure a passing grade in a maximum of two attempts of the PhD preliminary exam and the PhD written advanced qualifying exam will result in the department recommending the student to the graduate division for academic disqualification.

    PhD Preliminary Exam

    This exam is offered in September just before fall classes begin. Students typically take this exam at the beginning of their second year of study after completing the related coursework and are expected to pass at a level that predicts successful completion of the PhD program. The exam covers material in the following courses: Biostatistics 200 A, B, and C, and Biostatistics 202 A and B.

    • Students must pass the exam at a level expected of doctoral students
    • Students have a maximum of two attempts to pass the exam

    PhD Written Qualifying Exam

    This exam is offered in September just before fall classes begin.The scope of the exam includes material from the following courses: Biostatistics 250 A, B, and C. Students typically take the exam after completing the necessary coursework in the beginning of their third or fourth year of graduate study.

    3. Oral Qualifying Exam

    The oral qualifying exam evaluates a student’s understanding of statistical theory and ability to apply the theory, and reviews the proposed dissertation topic. The student should prepare a written dissertation proposal that includes background, preliminary work, and a research plan for completing the work. While there are no absolute page requirements, proposals are generally 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. The proposal is expected to be delivered to committee members at least two weeks before the scheduled oral exam. If the student expects the proposal to be delivered less than two weeks before the exam, the student should obtain advance approval from each committee member. During the oral exam, the student will present and defend the proposed work. The student can expect the majority of the questions to 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 PhD dissertation is original research that advances the field of biostatistics. The dissertation is completed under the guidance of a Department of Biostatistics 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 program following the MS, although some students may complete the program in less time.

  • Course Sequencing

    The sequence of classes 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 adviser to best prepare them for the comprehensive exams. 

  • Career Outcomes

    Graduates from UCLA Fielding's Department of Biostatistics obtain employment as faculty members at universities and as leaders in government research organizations, and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies locally within California, throughout the United States and across the globe. 

    Examples of positions held by graduates include: 

    • Tenure-Track Faculty
    • Biostatistician
    • Statistician
    • Research Scientist
    • Pharmaceutical/Biotechnology Biostatistician
    • Data Analyst
    • Data Scientist
  • Department Faculty

    View a list of faculty in the Department of Biostatistics.

  • Tuition & Fees

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

    Please see the cost and aid section of our website 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.

    Cost & Aid
  • Admissions

    Desired Qualifications

    In addition to the University’s minimum requirements, competitive applicants are expected to possess strong quantitative skills that can be demonstrated through their coursework and GRE quantitative score. Ideally, successful candidates should have completed at least 30 quarter credits in mathematics and statistics, including multivariate calculus, linear algebra, and calculus-based probability theory.

    Admissions Process

    Visit the application guide to learn about our admissions process.

    Application Guide
Please note:
  • 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.