University (19+)

You’re about to or have just graduated and now considering your options. This site will help you make informed decisions about what your options are for those considering a career in statistics.

There is a wide range of postgraduate courses involving statistics. If you already know what course, you wish to study – start your search now at:

  • Postgraduate courses - who is it for?
    • If your undergraduate degree contained only a limited amount of statistics, then postgraduate study provides a way of gaining a full professional training
    • Undergraduates wishing to study deeper into the subject to broaden their knowledge and skills 
    • Increase job prospects in the competitive job markets
    • Required as part of a research based statistical career.
    Types of postgraduate qualifications

    Taught courses

    Taught courses usually lead to a Master of Science (MSc) degree.

    Research-based courses

    Programmes of research usually lead towards a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) qualification, although there are also research programmes that are shorter or less intensive that lead to a degree that is often called an MPhil.

    MSc courses

    Extension courses

    These are designed for graduates who have already covered quite a lot of statistics in their undergraduate degrees, or perhaps gained a lot of professional experience in their work.

    Conversion courses

    These are designed for graduates from other disciplines (but usually in scientific, mathematical or engineering areas) who wish to learn about statistics.

    Course structure

    MSc courses usually last for one year of full-time study. Typically, the first eight or nine months are spent studying several units of taught material and the remainder of the year in preparing a dissertation. The taught material covers many aspects of theoretical and applied statistics. As well as formal lectures, there are tutorial classes and statistical computing workshops.

    The dissertation is your own work, studying a particular area of the subject in depth. A member of staff acts as your supervisor and quite often is based on a real problem. Some universities require you to give a presentation based on it.

    Part-time study

    Part-time study often consists of attending the university for the taught material for one day per week for two years. The examinations are then taken, after which the dissertation is spread over several months (but usually with an upper time limit of about a year), during which you gradually develop the work and make visits to your supervisor from time to time to discuss progress.

    Other versions of part-time study are also available. You might be able to arrange to spread the degree over more than the usual period by taking only one or two of the units of taught material at a time, completing the programme over an extended number of years. Another variant is evening study; for example, Birkbeck College in London specialises in running MSc courses by evening study, and it has an MSc in Applied Statistics and Operational Research.

    Distance learning

    This is becoming increasingly popular. It obviously removes the need to attend a university – except perhaps for occasional tutorials, which might in any case be optional – and it means that you can plan your studies so as to fit in with requirements imposed by your employment or any other aspects of your life. You must, of course, be fully aware that studying in this way is rigorous and demanding.

    Some university MSc courses have been formally accredited by the Royal Statistical Society. Among other things, this means that graduates from these courses are automatically eligible to apply for the Society’s professional qualification of Graduate Statistician. The list of accredited courses changes from year to year; the current list can be seen on the Society’s website. It should however be stressed that this accreditation is voluntary and there are also excellent MSc courses at other universities.

    PhD study

    The demand for good PhD-trained statisticians in and outside academia and other scientific research establishments is high. You can find more in-depth information about PhD’s on the findaphd website.

    In brief, a PhD usually involves:

    • Research-led study
    • Full-time study of at least three years, although it can be studied part time
    • Work supervised by a course tutor (although independent research is encouraged)
    • Work could form part of a team’s research project.


    Several universities offer research programmes that are shorter and lead to a degree called an MPhil (MSc is also quite often used; this should not be confused with the situation of a taught course leading to the MSc degree, as described above). These programmes might involve an investigation of some of the tools of statistics, or could be application-based, perhaps involving the analysis of complex datasets. Such programmes are suitable for students who have a reasonable background in statistics and who want to learn research skills by pursuing a full-time project, but who do not want to commit themselves to the time and intensity of a three-year PhD programme.

  • Applying for postgraduate course

    How do I apply?

    Unlike undergraduate courses which are done through UCAS, all postgraduate applications must be made directly to the university departments themselves. Simply contact the departments directly and ask for an application pack. When you return the forms, the departments will usually approach referees from your undergraduate course, particularly if your degree has not yet been awarded because you are still in the final year. You may be invited to visit the department. This is an excellent opportunity to find out in detail what is likely to be involved.

    Where can I search for PhD courses?

    If you are currently at a university, talk to the statistics staff there about postgraduate courses. They can help you identify a number of universities which are likely to offer research opportunities suited to you. Obtain information and prospectus’s from the university’s web site. Visit universities to find out what courses or research programmes are like and the people you could be working with.

    To start you off on your search, here are some useful websites:

    • Committee of Professors of Statistics

    Entry requirements

    All applicants need a very good command of written and spoken English. Students whose first language is not English require a minimum score of IELTS 6.5 or TOEFL 570 (paper-based) or 230 (computer-based).


    The entrance requirements are normally at least a second class honours degree in mathematics, computer science, or a mathematically related discipline, or an equivalent overseas qualification in a mathematical subject. If the course is an extension, your undergraduate degree will need to be in a mathematically related discipline.

    Conversion courses are designed for people whose undergraduate degrees did not contain much mathematics or statistics. If your undergraduate degree contained little or no statistics, you might need to take extra units at or before the start of the MSc to bring you ‘up to speed’. All this can be discussed with your course director/admissions tutor to help you get the best from the course, and will be happy to answer any questions you have.


    You would be expected to have a first or upper second class honours degree (or an equivalent overseas qualification) in a mathematical subject. In some research areas a background in physics, engineering or computer science is also acceptable. For PhD research programmes, it is not necessary to have an MSc degree (or an MPhil degree) first.

    There are Graduate Training Programmes available which provides subsidised places on intensive residential courses aimed at first and second year PhD students. The courses are there to help strengthen participants’ theoretical understanding. Information on Graduate Training Programmes are offered by some universities through their own website.

    For MPhil, you will be expected to have studied a substantial amount of statistics already within your undergraduate degree.

    For mature students, universities often welcome such students because of their commitment and enthusiasm. If you are in this position, do not hesitate to contact universities that appear to be of interest and see if they can help.

  • Job opportunities

    Our list of Job Profiles can help you give you an idea of the kind of jobs available. Begin to look for job opportunities during your final year. Use the university’s careers service. Consider joining the Royal Statistical Society as a student member; this costs very little (free to final year students on accredited courses) and keep an eye on its jobs board. Full-time PhD and MSc students may be interested in becoming a full fellow member under the student concession rates. You will get the Society’s journal as well as the bimonthly RSS NEWS. Part-time students are always welcome as fellows at the usual subscription rate, as indeed are all people with an interest in our subject.

    For undergraduates

    The internet has a wealth of resources for job searches. Register your CV on job sites such as Monster and Guardian Jobs. Graduate placements or schemes are also a good way to enter any career.

    For postgraduates

    There is enormous demand for people with postgraduate qualifications in statistics. MSc degrees are highly marketable throughout industry, business and commerce. For example, there are very many opportunities in medical statistics, in medical research organisations and in the pharmaceutical industry in general. PhD students are also in great demand across the board. A PhD would in particular usually be necessary to pursue a career in university teaching and research. However, PhD students are also often snapped up by other organisations such as, just as examples, banks and financial institutions.

    For postgraduate specific jobs, these websites may help:


    Which course?

    There is a wide range of undergraduate courses involving statistics. There are many types of undergraduate courses such as:

    • Actuarial Mathematics and Statistics
    • Cyber Security & Comp Forensics with Statistics
    • Games Technology and Statistics
    • Geography and Medical Statistics
    • Geography and Statistics
    • Mathematical Sciences
    • Mathematics and Computing
    • Mathematics and Statistics
    • Medical Statistics and Applied Economics
    • Medical Stats & Applied Economics
    • Statistics and Computing
    • Statistics and Web Development
    • Statistics with Business Management

    Some courses provide the possibility of a year out in professional training by working for an employer in industry, business or commerce. These courses are usually known as ‘sandwich courses’ and are four years long altogether. In addition, some universities offer ‘enhanced courses’ that are four years long including an extra year where more advanced material is studied.

    Some university courses have been formally accredited by the Royal Statistical Society. Check the list of accredited university courses changes from year to year.

    Which university?

    Start your research a year before you wish to enrol at a course. Look at university prospectuses and brochures and attend general open days of the universities you are interested in.

    To find a university, go to the UCAS.
    You can search for courses on-line, by subjects or by universities or by geographical regions, on the UCAS web site. Your search will give you a list of courses, each with its own link to further web pages. You may also find that your school or college subscribes to some other national database services carrying this kind of information.

    You can get prospectuses by post from the university or by visiting your local Careers section of a library. Information is usually also directly available on the university’s web site. Information is usually available about the university as a whole and about the courses offered by the faculties and departments within it. In many cases, departments have their own information handbooks; try looking for an individual department’s web site, or writing to the Admissions Tutor of the department in which you are interested and asking for a copy of the course brochure. And do not forget the Open University. This is unlikely to be relevant to school-leavers, but perhaps important to prospective mature students who may need to study part-time by distance learning. The Open University does not provide statistics courses going up to full degree level, but it does have excellent introductory and intermediate material in statistics. It also provides a great deal of mathematics material, including full degrees in mathematics; this material, even if not taken up to full degree level, might be very useful in providing the mathematics background likely to be necessary in supporting the study of statistics. Finally, there are professional examinations in statistics offered by the Royal Statistical Society aimed at mature students or those looking to improve their statistical skills at work. The Society does not provide courses leading to these examinations, but distance-learning material is available from the University of Southampton.

    What to expect when studying statistics at university?

    Teaching and Learning

    Statistics like most science degrees will be typically taught through lectures with extensive practice assignments. You may be given a reading list prior to starting your course to help you prepare and during your course, however all required books should be available in your University Library.

    Top Tip: As soon as you get your library card (usually this is your Student ID card too), reserve or take out the books a couple of weeks prior to when homework or assignments are due. This will ensure you have a copy of the book(s) when you most need it. Some books however are on short loan (from 1-5 days) and cannot be renewed. In this case, usually one or two copies are available in the library (and cannot be taken out) for you to use. Alternatively, you can purchase your own copies but this is costly so consider Student Notice boards for other students selling second-hand copies.

    Lectures are further supported by regular small group tutorials in which solutions to problem sheets are discussed. This requires independent study and problem-solving through assignments in preparation for each tutorial. Some of the work will include output from statistical computing packages, and you will have practical classes in which you are taught how to use these.

    Methods of Assessment

    Most units or modules are assessed by taking an examination at the end of the semester. The more practical units of statistics or computing use a mixture of coursework and examinations, or coursework alone. Some of the assignments could also carry marks towards your overall assessment. These can be assessed individually and/or as a group.

    Some universities hold all their examinations together at the end of the academic year. It is also common now for the year to be broken up into two semesters, with examinations at the end of each.

    Many university courses also include project work. A project is your own individual work where you get to choose the subject related to the course to study in greater depth. The work is supervised by a member of staff such as a course tutor. Often these projects are in the final year, sometimes compulsory and sometimes optional to replace two lecture units/modules.


    The professional skills the student gains from a placement can be invaluable. It can also be a foot-in-the-door to landing your first job when you complete your course. Placement degrees or “sandwich-courses” are available in 4-year format with a placement in Year 3, either at a European university or in industry.

    Students who take industrial placements are usually offered jobs after graduation by their placement employers.