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I have a choice of Master's programs in statistics, one of which is formally a program in applied statistics, the other is formally in math with an applied statistics "track".

The courses in the 2 programs are about the same, so I am wondering how much the label of the degree really matters (I most likely will not work in academia unless I am doing contract work).

I know this is not technically a statistics question, but I feel the people in this group contain specialized knowledge that most likely I won't find elsewhere.

Thank you for any insights you may have,


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Are you aware of the academia site? This question half-belongs there, except that there may be three people cross-active on both sites... all of whom have probably replied already :) –  StasK Feb 26 at 17:49

2 Answers 2

It is my understanding that most employers focus on skills, not necessarily degree titles. As long as you will obtain expertise with the same/similar techniques and list them on your resume, it should really not matter to the prospective employer.

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I agree with you! Skills are more important than degrees. –  Yilun Zhang Feb 26 at 17:24
Get computer science and programming courses, or at least check which programs has better SAS/R/Stata courses. Software is the most important generalizable skill you can get while still in school. (Workflow and project management are some of the others, but nobody really teaches them well enough.) –  StasK Feb 26 at 17:52
My two cents - your comment is culture specific. In places like France, the name of the degree matters much more than in the US, where experience is more important. –  Drew75 Feb 26 at 19:06
@StasK: Computer Science? What 'Computer Science' courses consist of doubtless varies from country to country, but I understand it as being all about big O's, white-box testing, cyclomatic complexity, & the like: important stuff for software engineers, but tangential for statisticians, most of whom have to be only moderately competent programmers. –  Scortchi Feb 26 at 19:07
@Scortchi, the diploma follows you for many years after graduation regardless of the private/public split. This often means that you are denied accesss to the best positions in a company (say, the lead of a team of statisticians) because of the school you graduated from. Of course, there are some SMEs that are taking the style of "English companies," where they say they care less about your diploma. However, even there you often see people coming from top programs. Side note - I'm an American doing a stats masters in France. –  Drew75 Feb 27 at 6:44

Surely no-one cares what the degree's called, even in academia. (At least I can't remember ever coming across anyone who cared.) You say the courses are "about the same", so focus on the differences & think about (1) what would be useful for what kinds of job; & (2) what's going to be easy to pick up later if you want to, & what you'd do better to get under your belt now. These two can sometimes conflict rather.

† I live & work in England—see @Drew's comment.

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"Surely no-one cares"... If an HR drone is told to look for a "statistician", I'm not sure that a Math degree (with some kind of note that it's a Statistics "concentration" or "track") will be as obvious of a fit. That said, you'd never want to compromise your education on that off-chance, so I'd only consider this if I otherwise couldn't decide which program to choose. After I'd decided which institution was located near better restaurants. –  Wayne Feb 26 at 20:30
@Wayne: The drones don't parse sentences; they just search for key-words. And a lot of companies do look for Math/Stats graduates. –  Scortchi Feb 26 at 20:47
Not strongly disagreeing. When I put on my layman's hat, my connotation is that a "mathematician" is theoretical, while a "statistician" is applied. Not true, of course, but between that and an HR person being told that they need a "statistician", I think there could be a small point in favor of having "Statistics" in the title. As I said, I'd consider the quality of restaurants near the school before this factor, but I don't think absolutely no one cares about how something's named. –  Wayne Feb 26 at 20:54

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