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Graduate Option in Statistics

Within the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, students may choose options which concentrate in Statistics. This page summarizes the main features of the Statistics options and overlaps considerably with the material in the Axioms, which contains full detail of all program requirements.

The M.S. option provides students with training in statistical applications, statistical computing and theory, preparing them for jobs in industry or government, or for moving on to a Ph.D. in Statistics of Biostatistics. The Ph.D. option provides a combination of theory and application preparing students for positions in academia, industry or government. Each of these programs is described in more detail below.

On this page:
NEW (Spring 2019): M.S. in Statistics at Newton satellite campus, evening degree
M.S. in Statistics
The Fifth Year M.S. in Statistics
Ph.D. in Statistics
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NEW (Spring 2019): M.S. in Statistics at Newton satellite campus, evening degree

Starting Fall 2019, the M.S. option in Statistics will also be offered at the UMass-Amherst satellite campus in Newton (just outside Boston), with entirely evening classes. Admissions are being accepted on a rolling basis through June 30, 2019. All requirements are the same as for the Amherst campus, except that students admitted to this program will take courses entirely at the satellite Newton campus. Note that the degree earned will be listed as the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Information about applying is here: How to Apply.

We will also offer individual, for-credit, continuing education (CPE) courses at the satellite Newton campus, which can be taken stand-alone or as part-time work towards the M.S. option in Statistics.

Questions? Please contact the Director of Graduate Admissions for the Newton Campus, Erin Conlon, at:


M.S. in Statistics

The M.S. option in statistics is designed to prepare students for positions in industry or government. It also serves as a basis for future work towards a Ph.D. in Statistics or Biostatistics. This program is designed to provide the student with a background in basic theory along with experience in various applications, including computational aspects. As part of their training, students will receive comprehensive exposure to popular statistical software packages. In addition to courses offered within the department, the program allows room for the students to take statistics courses in other departments on campus.

Students entering the M.S. are expected to have had Linear Algebra and Calculus up through Multivariate Calculus (this is typically covered by a three semester sequence in U.S. schools).

The requirements for the M.S. degree involve coursework, a project and qualifying exams.


The student must complete 30 hours of coursework with grades of C or better, including at least 24 hours with grades of B or better (Pass or fail grades cannot be used to satisfy this requirement). In addition, the student must have at least an overall B average.

The required 30 hours must include

  1. Stat 625: Regression Modeling,
  2. Stat 607-608: Probability and Mathematical Statistics I, II,
  3. Stat 535: Statistical Computing,
  4. At least five other courses which are either Statistics courses numbered 526 or above, from within the department, or some courses outside the department numbered 500 and above subject to prior approval by the Statistics coordinator.


Basic Exam

Students doing the M.S. in Statistics are required to pass two of three basic exams we offer: applied statistics, probability, and statistics, which are based on ST625 and ST535, ST607, and ST608, respectively. The Basic Exam is given twice a year, in January and in August.


The project is completed under the guidance of a faculty member. This project must have prior approval of the Statistics coordinator and involves 3 credit hours which may be used to satisfy the 30 hour coursework requirement. The project can take many forms; an expository report on a particular area, an examination of methods through simulations or a detailed statistical analysis of real data. A final report is required. This requirement is typically satisfied by the successful completion of the project seminar course Stat 691P.

The Fifth Year M.S. in Statistics

This section explains how a Five College student can earn a Masters degree in statistics in a fifth year.

Entering the fifth year M.S. program

In order to enter the fifth year M.S. program, students need to

  1. Start taking graduate courses in the fall of their senior years, typically Stat535, Stat607, Stat608, and/or Stat625. Since
    1. no credits may be counted toward both the Master's degree and the baccalaureate degree, and
    2. at most nine credits of graduate work taken while enrolled as an undergraduate may be counted toward the Master's degree,

    students who would like to pursue the fifth year M.S. degree should prepare to take at least 129 total credits (120 for the baccalaureate degree and 9 credits of graduate work) after their senior years.
  2. apply by February 1 of their senior years to the regular M.S. in statistics program by following instructions here.


Finishing the fifth year M.S. program

After being accepted into the program, students

  1. need to take additional 21 credits and fulfill the requirements for the regular M.S. degree in statistics in the fifth year
  2. may use courses taken as an undergraduate to fulfill the requirements of the Master’s degree, although no more than nine credits may be counted toward the Master’s degree. For example, if a senior takes all four Stat 535, Stat 607, Stat 608, and Stat 625 graduate courses, the student can use one of the four to count toward both the credits for the baccalaureate degree and the requirement for the Master’s degree.
  3. are not obligated to finish the program in the fifth year, although financial assistantship, if any, is only guaranteed for the fifth year


Please note that students who are interested in the fifth year MS in Statistics should start planning during the fall of the their junior year and contact the Coordinator of the Statistics Program if there are any questions.

Ph.D. in Statistics

The Ph.D. option in statistics prepares students for academic positions or positions in Academia, applied statisticians in industry or government. Entering students are expected to have had Linear Algebra, Calculus and Advanced Calculus. Typically an incoming Ph.D. student will have had an introductory course or two in Statistics at the undergraduate level. Student seeking a Ph.D. in statistics must complete the following: coursework, qualifying exams, language requirement and dissertation.



  1. The student must complete successfully 36 hours of coursework, including Math 523 (or Math 623, or Math 605), Stat 535, 607, 608, 625, 705, and 725.
  2. The student must also complete five elective courses, including two 600 level statistics courses, and 3 courses of the student’s choice, which require prior approval by the statistics coordinator.


Qualifying Exams

There are two tiers of exams, Basic and Advanced, which are intended to measure a student's overall mastery of standard material. The exams are administered during the week preceding each semester (August and January).

Basic Exams: The student must pass three Basic Exams at the Ph.D. level: the Applied Statistics exam, and the Basic Probability and Basic Statistics exams, which cover the material from Stat 535 and Stat 625, Stat 607 and Stat 608 respectively.

Advanced Exams: The student must pass the Advanced Exam in advanced statistics and the oral literature-based exam. The advanced statistics exam version I is based on advanced topics in Stat 607 and Stat 608, and topics from Stat 705. The advanced statistics exam version II is based on advanced topics in Stat 607 and Stat 608, and topics from Stat 725. The two versions are offered in alternate years depending which of Stat 705 and Stat 725 is offered in a year.

For the literature-based exam, students need to choose a topic from the list of topics in the Axioms and form an exam committee that includes the primary faculty of that topic and two secondary faculty. Students are then given reference papers on the chosen topic to read. The exam is in the form of oral presentation and responding questions in front of the exam committee. A student may select a non-standard exam topic, in which case, the student must have the agreement of their committee members on the topic and the reading list.

In order to take the literature-based exam, a student is responsible for forming an exam committee by the end of September for a January exam, or by the last day of spring classes for an August exam. Decisions on passing the exam are by unanimous consent of the exam committee. A student who does not pass will have one more chance to pass the literature-based exam. The second attempt may be on the same or a different topic.


After passing the Advanced Exam, the student becomes a Ph.D. candidate. The student must write a satisfactory dissertation and pass a final oral examination (primarily a defense of the dissertation), and must satisfy all other requirements of his or her dissertation committee. The student is required to register for a minimum of 18 dissertation credits.

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