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Weighing MS Biostat Programs

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Hello,

I got some really useful advice the last time I posted, so I thought I would ask for everyone's help again. I applied to five programs and have been accepted to: Columbia, University of Michigan, University of Pittsburgh, Boston University, and Northwestern. I genuinely did not think I would be accepted into some of these programs given my background, so I'm really grateful.

The tough situation I'm in is deciding where I should go. Although Pittsburgh is not my top choice, they offered me a really generous scholarship that would make it significantly more affordable than any other program. It would be amazing to go to University of Michigan, but it's also very expensive. It would also be a dream to go to Columbia, but there is the same issue of the amount of debt I would incur by going there (especially when taking into consideration cost of living).

My question is whether it's worth the debt to go to Michigan or Columbia when I likely will not pursue a PhD afterwards (not completely out of the question, just somewhat improbable). I know the biostatistics departments are highly reputable, but how strong are their MS programs in giving rigourous and practical training? Will my job prospects after graduation be improved in a meaningful way that would warrant going? Or should I just go to Pittsburgh because there won't be much of a difference?

 

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I'm not exactly sure about biostatistics jobs. But in finance, school names carry great weight for master/undergrad level jobs. This is called "target schools". If you are not from "target schools", your resume is placed into trash unless you have some connections in the firm. Even though people laugh at Columbia's master program as a "cash cow" but when I interviewed at banks in NYC, there are always severals students come from there. Some of those guys barely speak English and I suspect they are very good. But they are on equal footing with someone from Stanford, for example, when they got on-site interviews by Columbia name. On the contrary, I rarely see anyone from unknown state schools. It requires a great amount of networking to even get an interview if you go to Pittsburgh, which Columbia name will automatically grant you.

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Pittsburgh is a really good school - if it's significantly cheaper, go there, absolutely no question.  I don't even think Columbia necessarily has a better biostat program than Pitt in most people's eyes (I think of them as on the same tier).  Pitt has the health data science option which looks appealing for career prospects, and their MS placements seem similar to what Michigan grads do.  I don't see any situation in which taking on a significant amount of debt (>$10k) to go to Michigan or Columbia would be worth it, and I'm assuming the actual figure is much more than that!

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1 hour ago, DanielWarlock said:

I'm not exactly sure about biostatistics jobs. But in finance, school names carry great weight for master/undergrad level jobs. This is called "target schools". If you are not from "target schools", your resume is placed into trash unless you have some connections in the firm. Even though people laugh at Columbia's master program as a "cash cow" but when I interviewed at banks in NYC, there are always severals students come from there. Some of those guys barely speak English and I suspect they are very good. But they are on equal footing with someone from Stanford, for example, when they got on-site interviews by Columbia name. On the contrary, I rarely see anyone from unknown state schools. It requires a great amount of networking to even get an interview if you go to Pittsburgh, which Columbia name will automatically grant you.

This is field-dependent. For things like finance, investment banking, and management consulting, I can attest that there is a clear preference for graduates from Ivy League, Stanford, MIT, etc. for many entry-level jobs (I attended an Ivy for undergrad and about half of my graduating class went into finance or consulting). But in Biostatistics, UPitt would be considered quite good, and there is much less obsession with "elite" names in entry-level hiring anyway. In Biostat, the strongest programs are also not uniformly at the Ivies -- apart from Harvard and JHU, the top schools include a bunch of solid state schools like UW, UNC, Michigan.

Edited by Stat PhD Now Postdoc

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15 hours ago, DanielWarlock said:

I'm not exactly sure about biostatistics jobs. But in finance, school names carry great weight for master/undergrad level jobs. This is called "target schools". If you are not from "target schools", your resume is placed into trash unless you have some connections in the firm. Even though people laugh at Columbia's master program as a "cash cow" but when I interviewed at banks in NYC, there are always severals students come from there. Some of those guys barely speak English and I suspect they are very good. But they are on equal footing with someone from Stanford, for example, when they got on-site interviews by Columbia name. On the contrary, I rarely see anyone from unknown state schools. It requires a great amount of networking to even get an interview if you go to Pittsburgh, which Columbia name will automatically grant you.

Why comment if you don't know anything about what you're talking about?

Any of those schools would be great for you, I would recommend the one that you think is the best value and fit.

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