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Brack5

What are options for students finishing a Masters and then considering a PhD

7 posts in this topic

Hi,

First time poster here. I am a Chemistry major who wants to pursue Statistics graduate programs. I have a 3.9 GPA but little actual experience with Statistics. I plan on taking most important classes this upcoming year (my senior year).

Since I don't think I'll be competitive for any PhD programs, I'm curious about the process of completing a Masters and then pursuing a PhD at a different school. I talked to the Stats chair at my university and he mentioned that it can benefit the student to do a Masters at a school that doesn't offer a PhD because you will get more attention. If I take this route and then want to go for a PhD at a different school, will I still have an additional 4-6 years to complete the PhD or will the Masters help me jump the first two years. 

Sorry if this is a stupid question, I'm just a little confused about the process. Any insight would be appreciated. Thanks.

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Generally, completing a Masters before a PhD does not significantly reduce the length of the PhD program. Whether any PhD program requirements will be waived will depend on each PhD program. I'm not in Statistics, but the range in my field varies from reducing the PhD course requirements between 0-1.5 semesters (i.e 0-0.75 years). 

However, as you may already know, the part that takes the longest is not the coursework, but the research! Having experience with research in a Masters program can help  (e.g. if you do a PhD project closely related to your Masters work, you will already have a lot of the background reading etc. done). A Masters program can also help you adjust to the time management and help you develop valuable research skills that could make your PhD go faster than someone who enters directly from an undergrad degree. That said, in your case, since you will be using a Masters program to help you get caught up in Statistics compared to those who might be entering directly, you may not end up that far ahead of direct-entry students.

In your case, I think you potentially have another option. Can you also get a major (or at least a minor) in Statistics, extending the length of your undergrad degree as necessary? I am not sure what your school rules are but in Canada, this is very typical for students who change/alter interests after their 2nd year. It might be cheaper to continue on your BS degree for a 5th and 6th year instead of enrolling as a Masters student. But I know that at some schools, you aren't allowed to stay this long. 

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With a master's, you will probably be able to skip some or all of the first year of classes in the PhD program. I agree that it is a good idea to take up to a 5th year of undergrad to get your math core in. If you've already basically finished your major, one more semester is probably enough. Also, would recommend math minor over stat.

P.S. I actually studied chemistry too and made the decision to apply to biostat and stat phd programs in the spring of my junior year. By the end of senior year fall, I had done a calc sequence, linear algebra, one real analysis class, numerical analysis, probability, and a few applied stats classes. I was accepted to 1/4 stat phd and 4/6 biostat phd programs (all well-ranked). So coming from a science background, it may be a good idea to consider biostat programs if you have any interest in that.

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20 hours ago, TakeruK said:

Generally, completing a Masters before a PhD does not significantly reduce the length of the PhD program. Whether any PhD program requirements will be waived will depend on each PhD program. I'm not in Statistics, but the range in my field varies from reducing the PhD course requirements between 0-1.5 semesters (i.e 0-0.75 years). 

However, as you may already know, the part that takes the longest is not the coursework, but the research! Having experience with research in a Masters program can help  (e.g. if you do a PhD project closely related to your Masters work, you will already have a lot of the background reading etc. done). A Masters program can also help you adjust to the time management and help you develop valuable research skills that could make your PhD go faster than someone who enters directly from an undergrad degree. That said, in your case, since you will be using a Masters program to help you get caught up in Statistics compared to those who might be entering directly, you may not end up that far ahead of direct-entry students.

In your case, I think you potentially have another option. Can you also get a major (or at least a minor) in Statistics, extending the length of your undergrad degree as necessary? I am not sure what your school rules are but in Canada, this is very typical for students who change/alter interests after their 2nd year. It might be cheaper to continue on your BS degree for a 5th and 6th year instead of enrolling as a Masters student. But I know that at some schools, you aren't allowed to stay this long. 

Thanks for the reply. I could stay an extra semester and get an Industrial Math and Stats major. I do, however, already have all the calcs required and have time to fill in linear algebra and several stats classes senior year. My advisor didn't think it would be beneficial to stay an extra semester just to get that degree and then not be able to apply until the following year. Of course, I am open to hearing all points of view

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12 hours ago, edward130603 said:

With a master's, you will probably be able to skip some or all of the first year of classes in the PhD program. I agree that it is a good idea to take up to a 5th year of undergrad to get your math core in. If you've already basically finished your major, one more semester is probably enough. Also, would recommend math minor over stat.

P.S. I actually studied chemistry too and made the decision to apply to biostat and stat phd programs in the spring of my junior year. By the end of senior year fall, I had done a calc sequence, linear algebra, one real analysis class, numerical analysis, probability, and a few applied stats classes. I was accepted to 1/4 stat phd and 4/6 biostat phd programs (all well-ranked). So coming from a science background, it may be a good idea to consider biostat programs if you have any interest in that.

I feel like I might be in a similar position to you by the end of senior year. Do you think I should try and apply to some stats/biostats PhD programs even though I will be taking the important classes during/after the application process?

 

Also, how do you like Biostats coming from a Chemistry background? I'm still unsure if I want to go more of a Data Science route or Biostats route so I'm interested to hear your opinion.

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26 minutes ago, Brack5 said:

Thanks for the reply. I could stay an extra semester and get an Industrial Math and Stats major. I do, however, already have all the calcs required and have time to fill in linear algebra and several stats classes senior year. My advisor didn't think it would be beneficial to stay an extra semester just to get that degree and then not be able to apply until the following year. Of course, I am open to hearing all points of view

Well, what I mean is to stay longer, get more math/stats courses under your belt and then be competitive for a PhD program. Sure, it will take an extra year, but then you won't have to do a Masters first. During this time, you will likely not need to take a full courseload, so maybe you can also get some research experience in the PhD field. But whether this is actually viable really depends on how much it would cost you to stay for another year or two, whether this would invalidate any scholarships, loan deferrals, etc. If you're at a good in-state undergrad school right now, you might be better off staying than moving to another place for just 1-2 years.

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Brack5 said:

I feel like I might be in a similar position to you by the end of senior year. Do you think I should try and apply to some stats/biostats PhD programs even though I will be taking the important classes during/after the application process?

 

Also, how do you like Biostats coming from a Chemistry background? I'm still unsure if I want to go more of a Data Science route or Biostats route so I'm interested to hear your opinion.

Will you be able to take algebra, analysis, and probability? Linear algebra will probably be required. Analysis and probability will likely be somewhere between recommended and required depending on the school. Without these by the time you apply, you will not be successful at more competitive programs. I'd say only about half the incoming/prospective students I met at visit days were college seniors, so you definitely won't be out of place if you wait a year.

I was always pretty interested in biology / public health (was pre-med before). I worked pretty closely with some biostatisticians in research and currently doing a data science internship at a big pharma company. I don't think doing biostat rules out more data sciency careers in your future. A lot of biostats depts do interesting research in statistical learning and big data, and pharma companies are looking to upgrade their informatics/machine learning capabilities now so the outlook is good imo.

Edited by edward130603

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