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What are my chances of getting in to a Master's in Statistics program?

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Hi all!  I graduated with a BS in Physics in 2010, and I feel ready to go back for a Master's for a number of reasons (mostly lack of employability and dissatisfaction with what positions I am able to get, feels like I'm at a dead end with my current education / skills).  What subject to study has always been the difficult part for me, but I think statistics is "the one," if you will.  I've always been great at math, but I never was a fan of how theoretical it was, and I'd really like to learn an applicable mathematical skill that grants a much better income and in a growing field.  The BLS handbook has an amazing outlook for Statisticians, and everything else I read suggests that it's a very in demand skill.  Statistics seems to meet this blend of what I'm good at with what I'd like in a future career.  I actually took a civil service exam for a Statistician recently.  Afterwards, they sent a letter requesting my resume, and I was astonished at the starting salary of $87,500!  The most I've ever made was $47,000, with $31,000 and $37,000 positions as well (in the NYC metro area sadly).  I've been working mostly in laboratory testing, but unfortunately I discovered I have a good deal of anxiety working with hazardous chemicals.  I'd like to get more of a "white collar" position, even though my chronic wrist tendonitis is going to be a nuisance (hopefully workplaces would provide a very ergonomic setup).  I've decided that it's the lesser of two evils though.

 

After browsing some other topics like this, I'll try to follow suit and list applicable courses I've taken:

College

Overall Undergrad GPA: 3.76 ( 3.91 in junior / senior year though )

Calc I:  A

Calc II:  C  :(

Calc III (Multivariable Calculus):  A

Differential Equations:  A

Engineering Math / Fourier Series Transforms:  A

Linear Algebra:  B+

Computer Programming for Engineers (class was Mathlab and MatCad software): A

Programming Logic (class was an intro in programming logic using Javascript): A

GRE:  I've never taken it but am looking in to scheduling / studying for it now.

I have a published research paper (2nd author) in the Astronomical Journal working with a professor at my undergrad.  I won an award for it and gave presentations at a couple conferences and at my college to the faculty and students.  It involved analyzing / cleaning an image of a galaxy (we were looking in the radio wavelengths for Ultra-Dense HII regions, which are star formation regions) and comparing our radio images with images at different wavelengths to classify candidates.  Operated in Unix command line software and used LaTeX to make tables.  The summary of this research was my undergraduate thesis and was about a 30 page paper.

 

Possibly Relevant Work experience:

Job 1:  1+ year (Laboratory Analyst position)

·       Analyzed over 100 sets of raw test data using Excel calculations, formulas, and graphs (relatively small samples, ~2000-3000 pieces of data for each set)

·       Created over 100 analytical reports in Excel and Word

·       Prepared data for processing by organizing information, checking for any inaccuracies, and adjusting the raw data

·       Identified relationships and trends in data to draw conclusions of test performance

Job 2:  1+ year (Equipment Calibration position at a pharmaceutical company)

·       Analyzed raw data of approximately 15 validation cycles and calculated sterility assurance levels (relatively small samples)

·       Analyzed sets of raw data utilizing Excel formulas and graphs

·       Created over 100 reports in Word and Excel for performed calibrations

 

Questions:

1) I've never taken a statistics or probability course, how much will this hurt my chances at getting accepted to a statistics program?  I'm wondering if I should take a class or two at my local community college to beef up my qualifications?  For example, Carnegie Melon University has some probability and statistics classes listed as pre-requisites, so it sounds like my chances of getting accepted there are 0 atm.  Other universities have less specific requirements.

2) It's been 6 years since I've been in college, and I feel really rusty on my calculus and programming skills, which I haven't had to use at all since graduating.  Well, my programming skills were never above beginner to begin with.  Hopefully studying for the GRE will refresh some of it, but do universities look unfavorably upon someone who has been out of school for awhile?

3) I'm really interested in an applied statistics program, as opposed to a theoretical.  At this point in my life, financial and job security is my number one priority, and I'm concerned that a program that is too theoretical or geared for future PhD students isn't going to teach me the skills needed to secure employment.  What programs are out there that are more "professional" degrees?  Or does any Master's in Statistics program provide enough applicable training to secure gainful employment?  As I previously mentioned, CMU's one year Master's program was advertised as a professional degree, so it looked appealing.

4) Speaking of CMU, are there pre-reqs flexible?  It didn't sound like it.  :(

5) I'm very blessed to have enough money saved to spend $50,000 or so for a degree, but I'd rather not spend that much if possible.  What are the chances of full/partial funding for a Master's program?  I've read that UMass, Berkeley, and UNC are known for providing some support, are there any others I'm missing?  I haven't gone through each program on the rankings list.

6) Are there any online Master's programs for Statistics?

 

Thanks so much if you've made it this far lol!

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I would suggest you taking a probability class as soon as possible. I think you would be admitted, as you studied physics and mentioned your Math is good. However, a course in real analysis would be better, even if you only do a MAS. My friends in the MAS were suffering with their theory classes. You should look for MAS in different schools, OHio State is an option, Iowa State, Columbia (cash cow though), and some universities in Texas also have good programs, NCSU.

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1. Do you even like statistics?  I ask because you haven't taken a course in it and I think before investing all of this time and money it might be wise to maybe try out a CC course in it.  CMU is a 1 year program so you'll need a lot of prep for that.  In addition the math stat course they require is very theoretical which you said you don't like.That said Statistics as a professional masters degree is popular at the moment which means you can probably do this despite having no statistics courses.  For example Penn State has an online applied statistics masters.  The only listed math prerequisites are calc 1 to 3 and linear algebra.  I know nothing of the quality of the program I just found it and it seems like the type of thing you would want to research, it's the top google search result for "masters in applied statistics".

 

2. Your recent jobs used some mathematical skills, combine this with study for the GRE.  After the GRE start reviewing material that are listed pre-requisites for the programs you are apply to.  If you do take a stats class at a CC be sure to get an A.

 

3. Most of these professional type programs will be called either "masters of applied statistics" or "masters in statistical practice" or some combination of those word groups.  These programs often have some form of consulting component either with real clients or simulated clients to specifically train you for real work.  As with any professional degree they should be very focused on job placement by building connections with local business and putting resources into networking opportunities.  Simply put; the goal of an MS in statistics is to further your knowledge and study of statistics, the goal of a professional stats degree should be to get you a job in statistics.  These goals are not mutually exclusive and there can be lots of overlap.

 

4. I doubt it, there is not enough time in the program, see point 1.

 

5. I would be very surprised if the professional degree programs offered any funding.  Some MS stats programs do offer funding but even those are rare.  Most departments reserve funding for PhD students.

 

6. Yes.  google "online stats masters".  In addition some "online mathematical sciences" will have a statistics focus or option.

 

 

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41 minutes ago, crashtest said:

1. Do you even like statistics?  I ask because you haven't taken a course in it and I think before investing all of this time and money it might be wise to maybe try out a CC course in it.  CMU is a 1 year program so you'll need a lot of prep for that.  In addition the math stat course they require is very theoretical which you said you don't like.That said Statistics as a professional masters degree is popular at the moment which means you can probably do this despite having no statistics courses.  For example Penn State has an online applied statistics masters.  The only listed math prerequisites are calc 1 to 3 and linear algebra.  I know nothing of the quality of the program I just found it and it seems like the type of thing you would want to research, it's the top google search result for "masters in applied statistics".

 

 

Thanks for your response!  I know, thinking about statistics without having taken a course :P.  It's just that, when I think back to my previous employment, some of the work I enjoyed the most was working with data, trending / graphing it, and learning how to analyze the data to draw deeper meanings and conclusions.  It was probably fairly basic compared to what a statistician would do, but it feels like a natural step to me.  I enjoyed some of the laboratory work and generally like working with my hands, but there's hazards involved and that part makes me very uncomfortable.  But you're probably right, taking a course locally might be a good place to start.  I did take an accounting course after I graduated in 2010, and that gave me some good info that I didn't care for it that much.  Taking the GRE would be great too, as it's good for 5 years and I could see how I do on it.  Just take those two steps and take it from there. 

I'm unemployed at the moment, so I'm probably a bit in panic mode and not thinking clearly.

 

3 hours ago, Karoku_valentine said:

I would suggest you taking a probability class as soon as possible. I think you would be admitted, as you studied physics and mentioned your Math is good. However, a course in real analysis would be better, even if you only do a MAS. My friends in the MAS were suffering with their theory classes. You should look for MAS in different schools, OHio State is an option, Iowa State, Columbia (cash cow though), and some universities in Texas also have good programs, NCSU.

Thanks for the advice.  I looked at some of those schools, but it does seem that the lack of probability and statistical courses may exclude me from some of them.  Have to look in to this more.

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Hi again y'all!  This post is mostly me thinking out loud (which helps me process my thoughts).  So I ended up taking an Applied Statistics for Social Science Research course at a local college over the summer semester throughout August, and I really enjoyed it!  It wasn't calculus based (still computational though), but we did run all the tests we talked about in SPSS.  Got an A in the class.  So I feel pretty good about the topic and am fully on board with the application process.

I'm debating whether it's necessary to take another class in the fall.  Unfortunately there's only a few schools in commutable distance that offer an undergraduate course in Probability Theory, and there's an issue or two with all of them (some are in the middle of the day twice a week, so it would interfere if I found work, some are at a good time but the course is about $5,000 which seems too much for one undergrad course, some It's passed the registration deadline for the school itself).

I seem to meet the necessary pre-reqs for most of the programs I'm looking at (Calc 3, linear algebra, basic stat course, familiarity with programming), so I'm not sure if I really need to take another course.  I've started studying for the GRE and have it scheduled for Sept. 15th.  Asked a couple professors for recommendation letters.  If I'm only missing one or two courses as a pre-req, hopefully those schools would admit me under the condition that I take the one or two classes.  I'm in the midst of making a list of schools to apply to as well (will aim for the blend of safe, on par, and reach schools).

I'm also not as hung up on it being an Applied Statistics degree, as I see that a lot of Statistics degrees are actually quite applied already and/or intended as both a terminal degree or stepping stone to a Phd program.  A lot of the coursework for applied statistics vs statistics is pretty similar (and elective choices could bridge the gap in most cases).  So I'm feeling super pumped about it all!

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Researching these forums was super helpful to me during this process, so I thought I'd give an update for future people searching this forum.

I ended up applying to 12 schools (which is a lot, but I'm a pretty anxious person so it made me feel at ease).  They are as follows: (I also put whether I was accepted or rejected or pending, and they are listed in approximate rank order from best to least favorite)

  1. Colorado State University - Master of Applied Statistics - Pending
  2. Cornell University - MPS Statistical Practice - Pending
  3. Ohio State University - Master of Applied Statistics - Pending
  4. North Carolina State University - Master in Statistics - Traditional Track - Accepted! :D
  5. Univerisy of Illinois Urbana - Champaign - Pending
  6. Purdue University - Master of Applied Statistics - Rejected
  7. Florida State University - Master of Science in Statistics with major in Statistical Data Science - Pending
  8. Missouri University - Master in Statistics - Applied Track - Pending
  9. Kennesaw State University - Master of Applied Statistics - Pending
  10. Stony Brook University - Master of Applied Mathematics and Statistics - Statistics Track - Pending
  11. Bowling Green State University - Master of Science in Applied Statistics - Accepted
  12. Baruch College - Master of Statistics - Pending

I chose these programs based on the following criteria (in approximate order of importance)

  1. How much I would enjoy taking the program and classes.  I have issues with Major Depression and GAD, and I recall them flaring up when I was ending my undergraduate program, which was very theoretical, as I realized that I wasn't learning applicable skills to the workforce.  A curriculum based on applicable skills to the workforce, with as little theory as possible (but as much as necessary), is a top priority for me in making it through the program successfully.
  2. "The proof is in the pudding."  I asked each director of their respective program's "What is the job placement rate for graduates and what are their salaries?"  Now Cornell has a nice infographic on their website with this information for every graduating class, so they're at spot #2.  CSU is at #1 because their director said that of those whom reponded, 100% had jobs within 6 months of graduation, most within 3 months.  She personally recalled 2 people whom took near the end of that 6 month period because they were looking for positions in specific locations, which obviously makes the job search harder.  KSU claims 100% placement rate as well, but they don't track the salaries.  Stony Brook doesn't keep track of their Master's graduates after graduation (I met with her in person since I live about an hour away).  Other directors said their "graduates have no trouble finding jobs," but unless they could provide hard numbers (come on, we're applying to a statistics program here!), I remain hesitant about those programs.
  3. Mental health care in the vicinity of the school.  I see a psychologist and a NP, and I believe it's critically important to my success in the program.  Some schools really are "in the middle of nowhere," and they don't have many mental health professionals in the area.  I researched all available mental health professionals in the area, and I also looked up provider's on my current insurance's website.  I could have gone a step further and asked each school which health insurance provider their students get, but I felt like I had enough information based on the previous research.
  4. Tuition and Length of Program - These two factors often go hand-in-hand, so I'll combine the two.  CSU and Cornell are both 1 year programs, while some are 1.5 years or 2 years.  Some of the 1 year programs like CSU and NCSU are actually 3-4 semesters including the summer semesters.  This keeps the tuition down while also allowing me to enter my career quicker.  One extra year in school is one year of not earning money.  Some of the programs offer funding to a lot of students, and some offer none.  I wanted to give myself a variety of options.  Frankly, I'm not opposed to spending the $35k in tuition (plus living expenses, so another $10k-20k) when it means my salary is going to jump by $20k - $30k, I'll be getting out of a career I'm not a huge fan of for another one I believe I'll like more, and my general employability and ease of finding work are dramatically improved.
  5. Location - Of relatively little importance, since I would be prepared to relocate after graduating anyway.  I applied to Stony Brook and Baruch College mainly because they are within a commutable distance to me.  I'm giving myself the option of staying home just in case.  In an ideal world (since most of my friends and family are here), my favorite program would be here, and the cost of living wouldn't be so expensive here, but it is what it is.  Logically to me, I am more likely to find work geographically near the program I attend, so staying in the New York area when I don't care for it that much hurts some of the programs in terms of my preference (I avoided schools in California for the same reason, too expensive)

I got the NCSU acceptance today, so I'm super excited to have gotten in to one of my preferred programs.  Good luck to everyone else.

 

 

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Hey congrats on the acceptances! NCSU is a great school and one of my top choices as well! Depending on where you go maybe a change of location will help with your mental health!

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