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Math Applied math vs. statistics PhD - job prospects

  1. Oct 30, 2012 #1
    Applied math vs. statistics PhD -- job prospects

    I'm a math major considering pursuit of a PhD in applied math or stats when I graduate. I'm trying to ascertain the job prospects in these fields. Can anyone provide some information on how readily jobs are available in industry and academia in these fields, what the pay is like, etc.? Do those with a PhD in one of these disciplines fare considerably better than those with a PhD in the other? What are the pros/cons of the two degrees?

    I'm particularly interested in applications of math to biology -- bioinformatics, systems biology, etc. What postgraduate degree would be best for pursuing work in these fields?

    Any information or advice on these topics is much appreciated. Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 30, 2012 #2


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    Re: Applied math vs. statistics PhD -- job prospects

    As a statistician currently working in industry, I can definitively say that the job prospects for a statistics PhD are quite good (at least for now), especially in the emerging fields of data mining, analytics, and bioinformatics. At least anecdotally, I have heard that job prospects for academia are not too bad for statistics PhDs (at least compared to those of other disciplines).

    I'm not certain about the job prospects for an applied math PhD, however -- it would largely depend on which area of applied math you intend to specialize in, with those specializing in some form of computing having greater job prospects than others. Please note that in some grad schools, one can earn practically an equivalent of a statistics PhD while working towards your applied math PhD (both Cornell and Princeton are such schools).

    If your particular interest is in pursuing research in bioinformatics, I would think that a statistics PhD program with a strong emphasis on data mining/machine learning would be a good place to pursue your studies, since the methods developed in machine learning and data mining tend to be applied to large scale genomic and proteomic analyses.

    Now as a disclaimer, please keep in mind that what I have stated above applies to the job prospects for people completing their statistics Masters or PhDs at this time. While I do not personally anticipate that the situation will differ dramatically within the next 5 years (the time frame in which presumably you will complete your PhD), it is difficult if not impossible to say for certain what the job prospects of any field will be like within that time.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2012
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