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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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I really, really don't think there is a real difference between the second ranked school, the fifth ranked school, or even the top fifteenth in terms of quality of education, connections, or job prospects. But, being able to live with your spouse is a huge deal. Withou the family factor, I'd suggest #2, but I'd personally believe that the extra $30k of debt may be worth living with who I love.

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Thank you for your response! I appreciate the input, and you do make a good point. It would be worth the 30k. My only other qualm with choosing the school close to my husband is that it would mean almost a 2 hour commute each way to get from his school to mine (as his program stipulates a local residency requirement so we would have to live on his campus). But I'm trying to be more open to the idea, and could use that time to study (once i'm not sleeping that is). 

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No I haven't done a long commute before. It's actually more like a 1hr 35min from when I first get on the train, but there's a 5-8 min drive to get to the train station first. Most likely i'll have classes 3-4 days a week, which isn't bad, as the classes don't last all day, although I would imagine it will get more difficult if I tack on a part time job on top of everything. 

Edited by biostat.2897
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