Biostatistics masters program choice/biostats industry questions

I'm stuck with a decision. And it's a pretty big one. I'll take advice from just about anyone, including strangers on the internet.

I applied to the masters program in biostatistics at the University of Michigan. It was a reach school. I wasn't really expecting to get in.

And then I did.

I really want to go.

It's really expensive.

Some background information: at this point, I'm really only interested in pursuing an MA and then finding a job in industry. I'm not ruling out an eventual PhD, but I have no interest in academia. I've also been accepted to a much less well known program (SUNY at Buffalo[and possibly Pitt, but SOPHAS is being dumb, so not likely]) that would be significantly cheaper (I would get in state tuition there).

So here are my thoughts: if I go to UM, I'm going to end up getting somewhere around $80,000 in additional student loan debt. However, I'll have a degree from a top 10 biostats program. If I go to Buffalo, I'll have significantly less debt. However, I won't have a degree from a top 10 program.

How important is the institution of a masters level degree in industry? Will it significantly affect possible starting salaries? Most biostatistician job postings I've seen say something along the lines of “PhD required, or Masters + X years experience.” Will only having a Masters significantly hinder my job search upon graduation? Or hinder me enough so that going to UM isn't worth it?

There are other, more qualitative reasons I want to go: I've only ever attended a small state school; I've never lived in a large city (I guess Ann Arbor isn't that large, but Detroit is); I've heard that Ann Arbor is just an amazing place to live. But ultimately, it's the financial side that gets the most weight. I'm trying very hard to convince myself that it's worth it, but man, that's a lot of money.

A tangentally related question: how transferable are statistics skills across fields? Say I get a masters in biostatistics and for whatever reason, biostatistics just doesn't work out. Would I still be a reasonable candidate for jobs that require experience in “statistics or related fields?”

Are there other considerations that I'm forgetting? Any other pros/cons?

Seriously, any sort of advice is appreciated.


Super Moderator
Do it.

Forget about all the additional question you have. If you really want to go, go. Life has a funny way of sorting itself out. Who knows what or when things will happen, about jobs, salaries experience everything. No one knows. No one. And if you dont go for it and take a risk, you will never know either!!

Grab this opportuity by its nuts and go with it. If you don't, someone else will.


Less is more. Stay pure. Stay poor.
What do you want to do when you graduate and where do you want to live?

I did a graduate program comparable to what you are describing, and the debt is massive (plus my wife also went to a private school at the same time). Not sure if I would repeat it or not. Lived in a great city, but then opted to do my doctorate at my state school. Unsure if my masters school got me any better opportunities or not - but it was an eye opener and the program was ranked for a reason, many opportunities and great classmates.

If it is just you, I would probably say, yes do it. My personal hindrance was my partner accrue a big debt as well getting her doctorate and the combination is pretty oppressive every month (just hoping to have it paid down by the time our children go to school). However, we both enjoy our fields, so I guess that component of life satisfaction is high.