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Help choosing between biostatistics masters programs


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Hi all, 


Fielding for some advice here. I am interested in pursuing a masters in biostatistics, and thankfully I have been admitted to most of the programs I have applied for. I am currently deciding between some highly ranked schools, and while money is not the be all and end all, I do need to take into consideration the debt I may incur from this degree and whether my income upon graduation would be commensurate with it. I am a married student (no kids yet) and therefore have to think about my family in the long run as well.


One of the programs I am considering is currently ranked in the top 4-5 for Biostats, and has offered me a full scholarship for the first year of my program, virtually cutting my potential debt in half, such that my debt would not be more than 30k by the time I graduate. On the other hand, I have been accepted into a top 2 school, but thus far I have not received any financial support and the tuition is quite expensive, such that my debt upon graduating would be closer to probably 90k. I am also considering another program ranked in the top 10-15, due to it's proximity to my husband's school (where he will be pursuing a PhD), and while I did not receive any financial support from them either, it is still more affordable than the top 2 school. 


I understand that within biostatistics the starting pay is higher if you graduate with a PhD vs. a masters degree. I may be interested in pursuing a PhD in the future, however I am currently content with attaining a masters and working in pharma post-graduation. 


So, just to recap:

School #1

- top 2 school
- ~90k debt upon graduation
- Visit family every other weekend


School #2

- top 5 school
- ~30k debt MAX upon graduation (may qualify for scholarship for 2nd year that would eliminate ALL debt)
- Visit family once every 3-4 weekends


School #3
-top 10-15 school
- ~60k debt upon graduation
- Live with family


There are two questions I would like to ask current students and biostatisticians in the industry:


·         Based on your experience and people you have talked to, what starting salary (or range of salary) can an MS level biostatistician looking to go into pharma expect? I have gone to all of the websites (glassdoor, payscale, indeed, salary.com, amstat etc...) to find averages and what-not, however these averages/ranges often include both PhD and masters level employees. 

·          Does school reputation/rank make a significant difference in what that salary would look like, or is it more a matter of opening doors, or does school reputation not matter at all at the masters level?


There are several other factors I am taking into consideration for my decision, including family and personal reasons, however finances are indeed a factor, and I would appreciate any and all advice/information you can provide.

Edited by biostat.2897
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