Best Master’s Degrees?

Best Master’s Degrees?

What The ‘Experts’ Say

While reviewing articles on best master’s degrees, I found the Forbes’ article about Best and Worst Master’s Degrees for Jobs (2016). Especially interesting are the degrees that made the “Best” list.  According to the article, the Forbes’ ranking considered pay growth through mid-career, job satisfaction, stress, meaning derived from the work, and the projected employment growth of jobs associates with each degree. The number one best master’s degree for jobs is Biostatistics.

How common is the Master’s in Biostatistics?

Per the National Center for Education Statistics, there were only 646 master’s degrees reported in Biostatistics in 2015. For comparison sake, there were 108,493 MBAs reported the same year.

Columbia University, University of Michigan, Boston University, and Harvard University were the top producers of these degrees. Each of these universities granted more than thirty degrees that year. There were 56 total universities that reported awarding master’s degrees in Biostatistics. Most awarded a very small number of degrees (11.5 degrees per university, on average).

Is It Right For You?

What exactly is Biostatistics? The mid-career salary of $108,000 sounds impressive! So, I went to Columbia University’s website to learn about their Master of Biostatistics program. This program graduated the most Biostatistics master’s degree students in 2015 (fifty master’s degrees awarded).

Here’s what I learned:

  • Columbia’s website indicates that typical applicants are people with science backgrounds and/or experience in health, medicine, or science-related fields. This is important to consider, because you may have some prerequisite courses to take before you can enroll.
  • The Master of Science in Biostatistics at Columbia has five tracks (degrees) to choose from. These are: Accelerated Predoctoral Training Track, Clinical Research Methods, Patient Oriented Research, Pharmaceutical Statistics, Statistical Genetics, and Theory and Methods. You can also get a Master of Public Health in Biostatistics. I could not find the courses for these programs listed on the website, so it’s hard to know the difference between them.
  • The program website recommends that you start the application process one year in advance to allow sufficient time to compile materials and references. You must submit 3 letters of recommendation, GRE test scores, a current resume, and a 500-word personal statement.  These must be submitted by December 1st to be considered for the program that starts in the Fall of 2017. There isn’t a minimum GRE score requirement. But the ‘average scores’ of admitted students in last year’s program are provided for reference.
  • The MS in Biostatistics at Columbia costs $1,624 per credit hour (36 total credits), which is a total tuition of $58,464.

So, to recap, if I go with the ‘best’ master’s degree for jobs (according to Forbes), I’ll likely need to:

  1. take a few prerequisite courses
  2. jump over several key application hurdles (standardized testing is among the competitive entry requirements)
  3. pay upwards of $60,000

This program may be too difficult to enter and is pricey. So just to be sure I apply to the right programs for me, I better look at other programs too.

Finding one program’s details = one hour of your precious time

It took me about an hour to gather the information on the program at Columbia University from the website. Now, how long would it take to gather information for the remaining 50+ programs that offer this degree? And, importantly, which of these programs is online for working students who need to keep working to pay bills?

A quick google search indicates online master’s in Biostatistics programs at University of Florida (new in the Fall 2017) and Texas A&M University College Station.  A quick review of the available online program details in the Online Degree Database indicates that there are at least seven online Master of Public Health degrees with concentrations in Biostatistics. These are Johns Hopkins University, Loma Linda University, University of Memphis, University of Nebraska Medical Center, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Texas A&M University, and University of Southern California.

Gathering all of the details for these programs takes a full work-day’s effort…

There is a better way

Lists of best and worst master’s degrees from notable organizations (like Forbes) are helpful if you’re a prospective student.  But these lists are based on only a few considerations and data points.  It takes a lot of effort and careful thought to pick the right field for master’s study. Forbes only considers a handful of programs in their limited analysis. See my earlier blog posts for more ideas and a richer discussion on how to approach finding the right field of study for you.

Once you’ve decided on the best field of study, the Online Degree Database has all the information you need to create your short list of potential programs. Search for the degree types that are most relevant to you and download your Free Report.

Use our interactive tool to select program characteristics such as total tuition, delivery modality (100% online or low residency), admissions requirements, location, and more. Then download your free report which gives you the university name, degree name, and links to the program’s website so you can continue your search on the programs that fit your criteria.

Using the Online Degree Database is the smart way to go when shopping for the right online master’s degree.  It’s like using Carfax before buying your used car, or joining Angie’s List to find a reputable contractor for major home improvements!

Check out our Free Reports today!


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