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.

Application Deadline

  • February 1



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.



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* (or 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 51 credits in required and elective courses and a minimum of 12 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
STAT 6201Mathematical Statistics I
STAT 6202Mathematical Statistics II (* Comprehensive Exam)
STAT 6210Data Analysis
STAT 6213Intermediate Probability and Stochastic Processes (* Comprehensive Exam)
PUBH 8365Design of Medical Studies
PUBH 8366Biostatistical Methods (* Comprehensive Exam)
STAT 8226Advanced Biostatistical Methods
STAT 6227Survival Analysis
STAT 8263Advanced Statistical Theory I
STAT 6218Linear Models
Public health core
PUBH 6003Principles and Practices of Epidemiology
One of the following:
PUBH 6247Design of Health Studies
PUBH 6299Topics in Epidemiology
PUBH 6007Social and Behavioral Approaches to Public Health
or PUBH 6006
9 credits in electives from the following approved lists of STAT and PUBH courses.
Approved statistics electives (at least 3 credits must be selected from among the first three courses below):
STAT 6231Categorical Data Analysis
STAT 8262Nonparametric Inference
STAT 6214Applied Linear Models
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 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 6258Principles of Biostatistical Consulting
Dissertation research
BIOS 8999Dissertation Research (taken for 6 to 24 credits )

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 8366 (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 8366—in the PhD program in biostatistics. Specifically,
  1.  The theory portion of the exam—STAT 6201 and STAT 6202—is based on the first 10 chapters of Casella G and Berger RL (1990). Statistical Inference. Second Edition, Duxbury Press.
  2. The biostatistical methods portion of the exam—PUBH 8366—is based on chapters 1 to 8 of Lachin J.M. (2010) Biostatistical Methods: The Assessment of Relative Risks, 2nd Edition, Wiley.
  • 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.