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What's out there for an MA/PhD in Stat?

  1. Sep 11, 2012 #1
    What's out there for an MA/PhD in Stat??

    I'm in search of direction. My undergrad was in Math at a liberal arts institution. As such my studies in Math are based in theory.

    I have come to appreciate and revere the structure, challenge and beauty of higher mathematics. On the flip side, I find it somewhat self-satisfying and purposeless.

    I am considering graduate studies in statistics but I do not have a clear destination in mind. I have always been drawn to teaching which drives my quest for a PhD. However, this seems like a daunting commitment without a better sense of where I am going. An MA in Stat is more appealing in its manageability.

    My Academics are decent: 3.6 in Math. 159 V / 167 Q GRE.

    Currently I am teaching 6th-9th grade math at a large private school in Hanoi. I don't plan to enter grad school anytime before Fall '14. I want to take some time off to gain perspective and purpose. Please help guide me to resources, opportunities, or perspectives that may aid me in my journey.
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  3. Sep 12, 2012 #2


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    Re: What's out there for an MA/PhD in Stat??

    Hi devinedj. As someone who pursued a graduate degree in statistics, I don't necessarily think you need to have a clear destination in mind when considering pursuing graduate studies (in the sense that you need to know exactly what you will be doing upon completing your graduate program). I feel that what is more important is that you have an interest in the field of statistics.

    BTW, you state that you are teaching in a private school in Hanoi. Are you an American expatriate? If so, and if you are considering applying for graduate school in the US, I would suggest you apply for the PhD program in statistics, since completing the first 2 or 3 years will automatically earn you the equivalent of a MA or MS, in case you decide to leave the PhD program early (outside of the US, I would suggest earning the MS in statistics first, as that would you give you options to pursue a professional career early, as well as being a stepping stone to a PhD if you so choose).
  4. Sep 12, 2012 #3


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    Re: What's out there for an MA/PhD in Stat??

    Have you looked at actuarial science?
  5. Sep 13, 2012 #4
    Re: What's out there for an MA/PhD in Stat??

    Thanks for your input, StatGuy.

    My interest in the field of statistics is based on my conception that it is heavily in demand and widely applicable. Being somewhat aimless, these ideas appeal to me by assuring me that I will be able to find something that I consider to be ‘purposeful’ even without an apriori idea of what specifically that might be. Besides that, I love studying math and stretching my analytic abilities.

    In fact you are right, I am an American expat teaching in Hanoi . My plan is exactly what you suggest: to apply to American PhD programs because they are well funded and will earn me a MS in the first two years.

    Still though, there are so many branches of statistics. Each PhD program will be uniquely geared toward a few of these branches. I want to develop a better sense of what these branches are and where they can take me.

    @lisab: I have considered the actuarial route. I even went so far as to register for the P1 exam. I never followed through with it though since I accepted this teaching position in Hanoi. I have spoken with a few actuaries and from my impressions the job seems to offer a comfortable, albeit mundane, 9 to 5. Certainly attractive but not exactly inspiring. Of course, I welcome your perspectives on the field!
  6. Sep 13, 2012 #5


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    Re: What's out there for an MA/PhD in Stat??

    You are correct that the field of statistics is in demand and is widely applicable, and given the increasing ubiquity of "big data" and the need to analyze such data, I would foresee that this demand is likely to grow.

    Now as far as the different branches of statistics are concerned, most PhD programs in statistics (at least those which I'm familiar with that are available in various universities in Canada and the US) are fairly broad-based enough that to give you plenty of options to choose what area of research you wish to specialize in. The exceptions would be PhD programs in biostatistics (typically offered either in the Medical School or Schools of Public Health, and thus administered separately from Statistics departments) or econometrics (usually considered a sub-specialty within economics).

    I would recommend applying to a PhD program offered in a statistics department, or a broad-based statistics PhD program equivalent to what is offered in a statistics department (some schools offer a statistics PhD program as part of a graduate degree in applied mathematics or operations research).

    Hopefully my advice above is useful. Feel free to PM me if you have more specific questions.
  7. Sep 14, 2012 #6
    Re: What's out there for an MA/PhD in Stat??

    Is there something inspiring about statistics? You reject the null and the homeless person you just saved hugs you? A family whose breadwinner was saved by a drug you (and a large team of people) tested a decade ago bursts into your office to thank you?

    Honestly, in most math, statistics and financial disciplines you're pretty far removed from the results of your work.

    I don't find working as an actuarial analyst inspiring. But I do find it to be socially important, as well as personally and professionally rewarding work. I don't go home all giddy over the reserve I just set, but I'm certain the company's customers are better off because someone took the time to set it.
  8. Sep 15, 2012 #7
    Re: What's out there for an MA/PhD in Stat??

    Locrian, thanks for the response. To answer your question – no, there is nothing inherently inspiring about statistics (nor many other purely academic disciplines, for that matter). I’m drawn to graduate studies in math because I am stimulated by the challenge, beauty, and application of mathematics.

    The world demands quantitative analysts. Controlling risk and making calculated decisions lead to stabilized business and reduced uncertainty in markets and in the world. Certainly, actuaries provide vital reinforcement in this complex web.

    My hesitancies are therein that I will be stuck behind a cubicle all day crunching numbers. This fuels my desire to either teach or pursue a career in engineering. I would love to hear more about your experiences and the types of projects that you and your coworkers are working on.
  9. Sep 16, 2012 #8
    Re: What's out there for an MA/PhD in Stat??

    You're right to see that as a downside. I miss just getting up and wandering around the lab. Being on your feet all day teaching stinks, but I honestly think that in the long run it's better for your body than sitting at a computer all day.

    I'll drop you a PM in the next day or two and we can discuss if you like. Always happy to answer questions.
  10. Sep 17, 2012 #9


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    Re: What's out there for an MA/PhD in Stat??

    I think that this situation is the rule rather than the exception.

    Most people don't know what pretty much everyone else does and quite frankly they don't care, but it doesn't mean that the contributions aren't important.

    This reminds of what happened in a portion of New York City (can't remember which part) where they had a trash pile-up in the streets. The only time you really become aware of these things in when the person that is usually doing them stops doing them.

    What you do is important in the sense that the customers don't have to worry about one event decimating the company where it goes under just like everyone doesn't have to be concerned that their trash won't overfill on the sidewalk.

    Be happy (and proud if you like) of what you do and your own contribution, but I wouldn't get too down if no-body but you, your colleagues, some close family and friends know about it because this is how it is in most places.

    IMO it's always the people that can't STFU about what they've done and how good they are that don't really do that much, and it's also a really dangerous psychological precedent to have this kind of mindset because you are setting yourself up to crash and burn.
  11. Sep 18, 2012 #10
    Re: What's out there for an MA/PhD in Stat??

    I agree. And (sorry if I'm getting off topic here) there's (at least sometimes) a downside to jobs that are what I would consider inspiring. In jobs like my wife has (medical profession in rehabilitation) you get to see first hand the positive impact you have. But sometimes there's not much you can do, and sometimes patients don't care. Her patients range from the kind to the abusive and there's a lot of drama where she works.

    For better or worse, my job is largely drama free. At least at this time. . .
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