PhD in Biostatistics

Students in a biostatistics class

The PhD in Biostatistics program provides doctoral training in the theory of probability and statistics focusing on biostatistical methodology. The degree is jointly administered by the Department of Statistics and the GW Milken Institute School of Public Health's Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

The curriculum includes required and elective courses from across both schools, including Design of Experiments, Cancer Epidemiology, Measurement in Public Health and Health Services, Sample Surveys and more.

    Additional Components

    All PhD students must successfully complete a dissertation as well as general and final examinations. To complement their coursework, biostatistics students complete a professional enhancement requirement, which entails eight hours of professional development participation including attending workshops, seminars or other relevant meetings.

    Past Theses


    Course Requirements  

    The following requirements must be fulfilled:

    The general requirements stated under Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate Programs.

    The requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Program.

    Required preparatory courses

    Undergraduate course requirements (or equivalents to these GW courses) for admission consideration:
    MATH 1231Single-Variable Calculus I
    MATH 1232Single-Variable Calculus II
    STAT 2118Regression Analysis
    MATH 2233Multivariable Calculus
    Additional course requirements*
    Orr equivalents to these GW courses:
    MATH 2184Linear Algebra I
    One of the following courses:
    PUBH 6853Use of Statistical Packages for Data Management and Data Analysis
    STAT 2183Intermediate Statistics Lab/Packages
    *Applicants lacking these courses (or equivalents to these GW courses) will be considered for admission, but, if admissible, will be admitted conditionally with the expectation that these courses will be satisfactorily completed within two semesters following matriculation in the program. These credits do not count as credit toward the 72-credit graduation requirement nor are grades earned in additional courses reflected in the overall grade-point average.

    Doctoral program requirements

    The following requirements must be fulfilled: 72 credits, including a minimum of 52 credits in required and elective courses and a minimum of 6 credits in dissertation research; successful completion of the general and final examinations; and completion of the professional enhancement requirement. See below for additional information.

    Statistics core (30 credits)
    PUBH 6866Principles of Clinical Trials
    PUBH 8877Generalized Linear Models in Biostatistics
    STAT 6201Mathematical Statistics I
    STAT 6202Mathematical Statistics II
    STAT 6210Data Analysis
    STAT 6213Intermediate Probability and Stochastic Processes
    STAT 6218Linear Models
    STAT 6227Survival Analysis
    STAT 8226Advanced Biostatistical Methods
    STAT 8263Advanced Statistical Theory I
    Public health core (11 credits)
    PUBH 6003Principles and Practices of Epidemiology
    PUBH 6007Social and Behavioral Approaches to Public Health
    PUBH 6247Epidemiologic Methods I: Design of Health Studies
    PUBH 6899Topics in Biostatistics and Bioinformatics
    Electives (9 credits)
    Approved statistics electives (at least 3 credits must be selected from the following):
    STAT 6214Applied Linear Models
    or STAT 6231 Categorical Data Analysis
    or STAT 8262 Nonparametric Inference
    6 credits in electives from the following approved lists of STAT and PUBH courses.
    STAT 6207Methods of Statistical Computing I
    STAT 6208Methods of Statistical Computing II
    STAT 6215Applied Multivariate Analysis I
    STAT 6216Applied Multivariate Analysis II
    STAT 6217Design of Experiments
    STAT 6223Bayesian Statistics: Theory and Applications
    STAT 6242Modern Regression Analysis
    STAT 6287Sample Surveys
    STAT 6289Topics in Statistics
    STAT 8257Probability
    STAT 8258Distribution Theory
    STAT 8263Advanced Statistical Theory I
    STAT 8264Advanced Statistical Theory II
    STAT 8265Multivariate Analysis
    STAT 8273Stochastic Processes I
    STAT 8274Stochastic Processes II
    STAT 8281Advanced Time Series Analysis
    STAT 8288Topics in Sample Surveys
    BIOS 8998Advanced Reading and Research (see advisor)
    Approved public health electives:
    PUBH 6242Clinical Epidemiology and Public Health: Reading the Research (recommended)
    PUBH 6244Cancer Epidemiology
    PUBH 6245Infectious Disease Epidemiology
    PUBH 8419Measurement in Public Health and Health Services
    Consulting (2 credits)
    Consulting courses may be waived by the Biostatistics Program Director, based on written documentation of prior equivalent coursework or relevant work experience. Waiver of the consulting course increases the total number of elective to be taken by the number of consulting credits waived.
    PUBH 8283Doctoral Biostatistics Consulting Practicum
    PUBH 6869Principles of Biostatistical Consulting
    Dissertation research (6 to 24 credits)
    BIOS 8999Dissertation Research

    General and final examinations

    The general examination is given in two parts:

    • Part I is the qualifying exam, a written comprehensive examination based on the course content of STAT 6201, STAT 6202 (administered by faculty of the Department of Statistics), and PUBH 8877 (administered by the faculty of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics).
    • The qualifying examination is given over a two-day period in the beginning of the fall semester of every academic year and consists of one four-hour theory exam and one two-hour biostatistical methods/applications exam. Students are expected to take the comprehensive examination within 24 months from the date of enrollment in the program. A student who fails to pass the comprehensive examination may, with the approval of the faculty, repeat the examination the following year. Failure on the second attempt results in termination from the PhD program.
    • All examination questions focus on material that a person seeking a PhD in biostatistics is expected to know, regardless of subsequent specialization. The examination encompasses material in core mathematical statistics—STAT 6201 and STAT 6202—and biostatistical methods courses—PUBH 8877—in the PhD program in biostatistics. 
    • Part II, the research proposal, consists of an oral examination based on a written dissertation research proposal. As soon as feasible after successful completion of the comprehensive exam, students are encouraged to identify a dissertation advisor and a topic of research. The written dissertation proposal is then submitted to the student's Dissertation Research Committee, and the student makes an oral presentation of their proposal to the Committee. The Committee determines the student's readiness to pursue and successfully complete the proposed research, in addition to the appropriateness of the specific problem for dissertation-level research.

    Upon successful completion of the required coursework and both parts of the general examination, the candidate is generally recommended to the Associate Dean for Graduate Affairs of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences (CCAS) for promotion to PhD candidacy—the dissertation research. A candidate must file an approved dissertation research plan with CCAS before being admitted to PhD candidacy. Prior to completion of the general examination, a student may register for at most 6 credits of BIOS 8999.

    Consult with the Biostatistics Program Director or academic advisor for dissertation guidelines.

    Professional enhancement requirement: 8 hours

    Professional enhancement activities supplement the academic curriculum and help prepare students to participate actively in the professional community. They enhance practical knowledge and awareness of public health issues – either in general or in a student’s specific area of study.

    Students can fulfill this requirement by attending workshops, seminars, or other relevant professional meetings, which are often held at the Milken Institute School of Public Health (SPH) and in the metropolitan Washington, DC, area. Examples of conference sponsors include the National Academy for State Health Policy, the Pan American Health Organization, the American Public Health Association, the American College of Healthcare Executives, the Area Health Education Center, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the National Athletic Trainer’s Association. Opportunities for professional enhancement are regularly publicized via the SPH Listserv and through the department or the biostatistics academic advisor.

    Students must submit documentation of professional enhancement activities to the biostatistics academic advisor, which includes a prior approval, a description of the program agenda, and proof of attendance before applying for graduation.