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Fully funded MPP or expensive MS Stats/Econ?


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Ultimately, I would like to study decision sciences in the context of welfare or policy-related issues. I prefer a career in academia but would be happy with a nice research position at a think tank. While I was rejected from every PhD program this year, I am pursing a master's degree in hopes that it will train me well for doctoral-level analysis and boost my application for Fall 2014/2015 entry. 


I've been admitted to the following:

  • Harris, MPP, full tuition scholarship plus small stipend for both years
  • UofC, MS Statistics, standard 25% tuition waiver
  • Duke, MS Statistical and Economic Modeling, no word on funding (and I likely won't get any)
  • Columbia, MA Quantitiatve Methods in Social Sciences--no word yet, but I'm hopeful about getting in and not hopeful about receiving any funding

Although I know that quant-heavy master's degrees are generally much more marketable than the MPP, are they so much more marketable that they justify $60-100K of debt?


Has anyone been in a position to evaluate the qualifications of people with these different degrees, either for a research-based job or for a PhD?

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From what I've read Chicago Harris is really quant heavy and well respected on domestic issues. Here's the most recent thread on Harris from the Government Affairs forum: - I'd follow the money. Congrats.

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Thanks, ZacharyObama! And congrats on your acceptance to USC!! Great school!! On the Harris thread: the Harris people are lovely! I'm surprised anyone had a difficult time contacting them!


Following the money is definitely a good rule of thumb, but there's another consideration: because the MPP is two years while the MS Stats is only one year, I'd be out of the workforce for an additional year in the former case. Hence, the $60K UofC MS Statistics would not be that much more expensive than the MPP, assuming I make around that amount once I finally re-enter the workforce (with or without a PhD).


I mean, I'm quite debt averse, so the cost is not a negligible consideration, but the main question remains: which is better for a research career at the intersection of decision sciences and policy design/evaluation: the MPP or the MS Stats?

Edited by irishnyc213
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Thank you! You're welcome. It seems that the Harris Admissions Office has self-consciously improved their response time to inquiries compared to previous years. I think you probably should look at what type of employment you would like to re-enter the workforce into, a more purely stats position or policy where you're using lots of stats.


Where exactly do you see yourself working when you finish your masters? Are you set on trying to go onto a PhD and if so are you wanting to go immediately after your masters or work full-time for a few years and then go back? What type of PhD programs did you apply to? I think MPP's are pretty marketable, I don't know much about the marketability of Stats degrees.


Anyways, if you go to Chicago, I hope you like the cold! :P

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Haha; thanks! I don't like the cold, but I need to be studying anyway...


I would like to go directly into the PhD program. The PhD programs to which I applied this last year were all in public policy and decision sciences (e.g, Harris's PhD, CMU's SDS program). I plan to re-apply during the last year of the master's. I'm 29 and not getting any younger... So, I know plenty of people at this point who aimed for an academic career and either missed the mark or opted out for their own reasons. Hence, a strong back-up plan is really important. 


I'm contacting a few professors next week to get their advice, but if there's anyone who's been through a similar dilemma (MPP vs. MS Stats), I would really appreciate your two cents!!

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  • 1 month later...

Hi @irishnyc213!

Forgive my intrusion, but I'm curious about what you decided to do. I'm also hesitant about whether to do an MPP or a Ms in Statistics. I was admitted to top MPP (including Chicago).
What kind of PhD's do you think the MPP prepares you for (meaning, if you don't want to be stuck in PhD's in poli sc. or public policy, and want to do something like Economics)

Thanks! And good luck!

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No intrusion at all:) I ended up going with the MPP at Harris. The program is outstanding and flexible, and the faculty is great. I'm still a little concerned about the signalling from an MPP vs. MS stats, but I think it's the right decision overall. 


I talked to several people about the decision, including a few professors with whom I would LOVE to work one day. The MS stats does indeed offer a slight advantage over the MPP when applying to PhD programs of various kinds; however, it's not so much of an advantage that it's worth spending $40-60K more for the MS stats than for the MPP program. Also, Harris's MPP is flexible enough that you can take all of the courses required for an MS stats anyway.


From what I understand, an MPP prepares you for a variety of PhD programs; it just depends on what courses you take and what you do with your time there. One of the professors encouraged me to apply to marketing, OB, and decision and risk PhD's in addition to public policy PhD's. This is because my interests lie in applied behavioral economics (specifically to achieve social impact) so there are many PhD-paths to the same destination. The people I work with matter more than the program itself.


Another professor said that it would be possible to get into an econ PhD program but that it would be very, very difficult. His recommendation was not to work or do anything but take as many math courses as possible and get A's in all of them. Research at the master's level doesn't matter unless you author a paper. An MS stats might help a little more than an MPP if you're definitely interested in a PhD in econ, but you'd have to ace real analysis courses (and ideally higher-level optimization courses) which may be difficult to work into the stats curriculum, depending on where you go. (In any case, for other reasons, I've decided not to pursue a PhD in econ, so my advice to you there is limited.) 


What are your specific interests? 


Best of luck deciding!!

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IrishNYC213, for what it's worth I think you made exactly the right choice given the options presented.  Congratulations; Harris will be amazing.


From what I understand, an MPP prepares you for a variety of PhD programs; it just depends on what courses you take and what you do with your time there. 


Completely agree.  I'd also suggest that the non-quant classes to which you'll be exposed (qual methods, theory, management) may be a nice palate cleanser...that down the road could help you sharpen/improve your SOP.



 This is because my interests lie in applied behavioral economics (specifically to achieve social impact) so there are many PhD-paths to the same destination. The people I work with matter more than the program itself.


Again, completely agree.  Just bear in mind that having an interdisciplinary interest area can be both a blessing and curse.  It's a blessing because it can afford you the kind of flexibility you refer to above...ie, lots of different disciplines/programs that could work well for you and therefore lots of options.  It can be a curse, though, if you don't ultimately find a comfortable disciplinary home.  For better or worse, admissions and hiring committees like to put people in (disciplinary) boxes and you'll want to make sure that they'll be able to do that for you at the appropriate point(s) in your career.


Again, congrats!

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