Frequently Asked Questions

What is the deadline for applying for the Fall term?

The application deadline for applying for the Fall term for full consideration of admission and financial aid is January 15th.

What materials are necessary in order for my application to be considered complete? 

Application:  You must complete the application electronically through the website of:  Upload your undergraduate transcripts (and when applicable, your graduate transcripts), your career statement/statement of purpose, CV, research papers.

Transcripts:  All students seeking admission to graduate study must hold a bachelor’s degree (or the equivalent of a four-year U.S. bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution as determined by the University of Pittsburgh).
Applicants can upload copies of their undergraduate and graduate transcripts via the online application.  Certified transcripts and translations of all undergraduate and graduate study are required at the time of admission.

Letters of recommendation:  These must be submitted electronically through ApplyYourself. We require 3 letters of recommendation.

Personal Statement: The personal statement should include educational and career objectives and their relevance to the goals of the PhD (or Master's) program to which you are applying.  What are your primary interests within your intellectual and professional goals?  Is there a particular area of Statistics you like and why?  And simply, why you want to study in this department.  If you are applying for a PhD, and if you have any, provide a description of previous research experience you may have had and/or other relevant information related to publications or honors received. 

GRE scores are a required exam and must be self-reported on the application and officially submitted to us.  There is no required minimum score.

International students:  An official test score of either the TOEFL or IELTS is mandatory for international students and must be entered on the application in the appropriate field and sent to the department electronically.  The required TOEFL score is 90 with at least a score of 22 in all of the four sections of speaking, listening, reading and writing; the required minimum IELTS is 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each of its four sections. The institution code is 2927 and the department code for Statistics is 59.  TOEFL scores must not be more than 2 years old.

Can I get a pre-evaluation?

Responding to such requests exceeds our resources.  Further, questions of whether or not one receives admission with support depend on the funds we have available and the quality of the other applications we receive.  These are factors we will not know until after our deadline of January 15th and the committee does a complete review of all applications submitted. Thus, we regret that we are unable to preview resumes or give advice about applicants’ chances for financial aid. Please see the next three questions that concern what we are looking for.

What are the prerequisites for entry into the program?

An applicant’s background should include three semesters of calculus, one semester of linear algebra, and it is desirable to have had a year of probability and mathematical statistics.  Note that a prior degree in mathematics or statistics is not required. 

What are you looking for in an applicant to the program?

The following is what our graduate committee looks for when recommending admission:  the quality of your school; the strength of departments in which prior education was obtained; quality and depth of your preparation in mathematics, statistics and computer science; the grades received (3.5 or higher for financial aid); letters of recommendation from knowledgeable people (primarily your teachers); and, finally, experience in scientific research (physical, biological or behavioral) and particularly experience in applying statistics in scientific research, are the factors that influence our choices among otherwise equivalent candidates.
For international students, the apparent ability to handle teaching duties in English (as measured by TOEFL and TSE), and other evidence of your ability to communicate in English is very important to us. The University’s minimum TOEFL score is 90 with a 22 on all 4 sections.  However, for potential TA’s, both speaking and listening scores should be in the mid to high 20’s.

Do you accept applicants with backgrounds other than statistics?

Our past students have come from undergraduate and graduate programs in mathematics, computer science, information science, physics, chemistry, engineering, economics, biology, medicine and of course statistics.  We look carefully at whether you have had enough math (3 semesters of calculus, 1 semester linear algebra or matrix theory) and had some mathematical statistics and probability. Given an adequate background in these areas, experience in applying statistics in science, business or public affairs is a definite (and strong) asset.  

What about letters of recommendation?  Can they be from someone outside of my department or an employer?

Not all letters of recommendation have to be from your department, and you certainly can submit a letter from an employer.  The most useful letters of recommendation that we receive must be able to give us a first-hand (not hearsay) account of the qualities that will be relevant to academic pursuits in work on advanced degrees, (ie., intellectual ability, mathematical and statistical background, scientific and statistical insight, ability to do research, writing and speaking ability, perseverance, etc.).  Because few employers are able to give such information, we prefer that at least two of your recommendation letters be from former teachers.

Do you require the GRE exam?

Yes, the GRE is a requirement of your application. The institutional code for the University of Pittsburgh is 2927, and if needed, the department code for Statistics is 0705. GRE scores are acceptable for five years after the test date.

Do you require the GRE in Advanced Math?

We do not require this exam.  If you have had few formal mathematics courses and are largely self-taught in calculus and linear algebra, doing well on the advanced Math GRE might be convincing evidence that you are well-prepared in mathematics for our program.

Do you require the TOEFL?  Can you explain the importance of TOEFL scores?

Yes, we require the TOEFL for all international applicants.  All applicants who are citizens of a country where English is not the official language of that country must submit the results of the TOEFL or the IELTS.  TOEFL results MUST be sent directly to the University of Pittsburgh by the Educational Testing Service, ETS.  The minimum TOEFFL score we accept is 90 on the internet-based test with a minimum of 22 on all 4 sections.  TOEFL scores are only valid for two years.

For international applicants, the TOEFL is the only objective information that we will have about your ability to listen to, and clearly speak in English.  Because nearly all of the financial assistance that we have to give comes in the form of teaching assistantships, and because our University requires all teaching assistants to pass an oral exam to demonstrate their ability to speak English, we place considerable weight on English-speaking ability. For potential TA’s, both speaking and listening should be in the mid to high 20’s. 

Note:  We will accept the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score in place of the TOEFL. Official results must be sent directly to the Office of International Services.  The minimum IELTS score we accept is 7.0 with a 6.5 on the sections. When submitting the TOEFL, the institutional code for the University of Pittsburgh is 2927 and the department code for Statistics is 59.

Are there any exemptions to submission of the TOEFL?

Exemption based on Citizenship: Only applicants who are citizens of a country where the official language is English are exempt from the IELTS or TOEFL requirement.

Exemption based on Degree:  Applicants who have completed or are about to complete a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree from a regionally accredited institution in the United States are exempt from submitting the TOEFL.

What financial aid is offered?

Financial aid has no citizenship requirements and awards are made to the most promising entering PhD students as determined by the graduate committee.  We are a small, competitive program and cannot offer financial aid to entering Master's students. A master’s degree is a professional degree and we expect applicants to be willing to finance such a degree, just as they would be expected to finance an M.B.A. or an M.D.  A master’s degree usually takes three semesters or two years.  A Ph.D. takes 4 - 6 years and is beyond the ability of virtually anyone to finance on their own; that is why our financial aid is primarily for Ph.D. candidates.

The department supports approximately 20-25 graduate students through teaching assistantships fellowships and research assistantships.  For entering students, teaching assistantships are the primary source of financial support.  Typically, between 2 and 5 teaching assistantships are awarded to entering students each year. 

The support offered in the form of a teaching assistantship for first-year students covers all tuition and fees, a living stipend and health care benefits.  In addition, if a first-year student elects to remain in school the Summer Semester following the first year of graduate study, we also try to award additional stipends for the summer sessions.

First-year teaching assistantships are automatically renewed for a second year assuming the student is making satisfactory academic progress (including a 3.0 QPA) and does his/her duties satisfactorily. 

We try to provide complete financial support for all students who have passed the PhD preliminary exam and are taking advanced classes or doing dissertation research.  Such support may be through teaching assistantships or research assistantships (both in the department and outside the department).

If I do not get recommended for admission into the PhD program, can you re-consider me for the Master's program?

If and when you are rejected, you can ask, but space in our master's program is severely limited, decisions would have been most likely made to master’s applicants by then, and admitted master’s students receive no financial aid.  Although students in our Ph.D. program often pick up a master's degree in the course of obtaining their Ph.D. degree, we do not regard our master’s degree programs as a way to qualify for our Ph.D. program. Students who enter our master's degree programs should expect to use their degree to either enter the workforce or transfer to another Ph.D. program.

Do you accept students in the spring semester?

Typically no. Our program is designed with a sequence of courses offered in the Fall and Spring semesters whether one begins a Master's or a PhD program.   

How long does it take to receive a Master’s degree?

The Master’s degree in Statistics or Applied Statistics will take 4 semesters, ie, fall/spring.  However a student taking 4 courses a semester could finish the master’s degree in 3 semesters. Our two master's degrees, applied statistics and statistics, each require 11 3-credit courses, for a total of 33 credits. 

What is the median time for completing the doctoral program?

For a full-time student, it probably takes a median time of about 5 years to complete a PhD.  

What is the difference in the Statistics degree and Applied Statistics degree?

The applied statistics master's is a professional degree, intended for people who want to be statisticians in industry or government, or individuals wanting a background in statistical methods for use in connection with a PhD in another subject.  The highlight of this degree is the course STAT 2381 involving consultation under the supervision of a faculty member. Although one can go on to get a PhD in statistics after completing a master's in applied statistics, it takes an extra semester in comparison with getting a master's degree in statistics, because the applied statistics master's degree requires completion of two graduate-level courses in another discipline or disciplines.  The MA degree in statistics is primarily an academic degree satisfied solely by course work in statistics and thus can be completed while a student is in progress towards a PhD in statistics.