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Ask Slashdot: Which Ph.D For Work In Applied Statistics / C.S.? 173

Posted by timothy
from the there's-a-spray-to-reduce-the-inflammation dept.
New submitter soramimo writes "I'm currently a Ph.D student in Machine Learning and Biology at a pretty good European university. As my lab is moving to the U.S., I have the chance to get my Ph.D from an Ivy League university instead of the one in Europe (without much additional work, as I'm close to finishing). However, I would be getting a Ph.D in Biological Sciences rather than Computer Science. As I'm planning to work as an applied statistician / computer-scientist / analyst in the U.S. after graduating, I'm wondering which path to take. Is a Ph.D in Biological Sciences frowned upon by technology companies, or is it out-weighed by the Ivy League tag? How big of a role does the type of Ph.D play in the hiring process in the U.S., compared to what you actually did (thesis focus, publication record, software)?"
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Ask Slashdot: Which Ph.D For Work In Applied Statistics / C.S.?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @01:33PM (#38137982)

    In the world of business, what you did is much more important. Your experience and actual outputs are far more important then the kind of Ph.D you have.

    • by nothousebroken (2481470) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @01:48PM (#38138256)

      That might be true at the bachelor level, but at the PhD level people hire you for your specialized expertise based on your degree. For example, no brokerage house is going to hire a biology PhD to do statistical analysis research. They're going to hire someone with a PhD in math/statistics. It might be somewhat different if you are going to work for a pharmaceutical or other biology-related company. But in general, don't expect to get a degree in biology and then get job offers from companies looking for a PhD statistician. In fact, I would suggest that you view the corporate PhD hiring process as being quite similar to the faculty hiring process.

      A PhD is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, employers immediately assume you are mature, intelligent, and highly-motivated. On the flip side, they are generally not willing to pay PhD salaries to someone outside their field of expertise. Put yourself in the employer's shoes. Why would an employer pay PhD rates for someone who doesn't have a PhD in the required discipline.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:13PM (#38138698)

        As someone who worked in High Finance, I can tell you that you are full of it. Most of the employees were science and liberal arts Ph.D's with very few of those degrees directly relating to what they were working on. My manager (I was doing fixed-income pricers) was a Chemical Engineering doctor, my partner on the project had a Ph.D. in english. There are other examples, but I'll stop there. All that matters is aptitude.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          if all that matter is "aptitude" why did you all have a PhD? You could hire a genius out of high school in that case.

          • by idbedead (2196008) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:53PM (#38139346)
            A Ph.D. like all degrees has very little to do with genius. It is a signifier of your ability to work independently for long periods of time (3-6 years), and adapt to changing circumstances. This is the kind of aptitude that employers in nearly any field look for. A high schooler, even a genius, remains unproven in that area. This is why many genius people don't get any degree's yet companies still like to hire Ph.D.'s (even though most of them are not genius).
          • by hrvatska (790627)

            if all that matter is "aptitude" why did you all have a PhD? You could hire a genius out of high school in that case.

            How would companies identify HS geniuses? Grades? SAT scores? Dissertation? Oh, that's right, they don't have one of those. Generally speaking, aptitude + a PhD is a better indicator of ability and potential performance than aptitude + a HS diploma. A person with a PhD has a much longer and better documented track record on which to judge how well they would fit into a job and an organization. There's more to aptitude than being extremely bright.

            • by tehcyder (746570)
              Someone with a PhD is also about eight to ten years older than someone who leaves school and doesn't go to university/college. So why not just hire a load of high school graduates and weed out most of them fairly quickly? By the time they're the PhDs starting age, they'll have had a huge amount of directly relevant experience.

              This is how something like the accountancy profession works in the UK. After a couple of years of tedious work and a lot of additional evening/weekend study on top, you're left wi
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Special cases are just that, special cases. Sure, there are lots of PhDs working outside their degree field. But the reality is that most employers hiring someone fresh out of school are going to too look at what that person did in school, both in terms of the degree field and the dissertation. Companies generally don't pay PhD salaries to new graduates for aptitude. They pay for somebody who is highly educated in the desired discipline and who can hit the ground running. If you don't believe that, just loo

          • by kubernet3s (1954672) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @03:06PM (#38139532)
            I think what Anon was trying to say is that the PhD is not a vocational degree. It's actually sad how little people understand that. True, there are positions which require vocational experience, and employers will fill those positions banking on PhD applicants previous experience. However, the PhD is more than learning a set of specific skills: it is an experience which teaches a broad range of specific cognitive behaviors, many of which are extremely useful to many disciplines, not just the one on the degree. A PhD must by default be disciplined, skilled in problem solving, an excellent written communicator, and have modest experience giving presentations. STEM PhD's have to have experience with math up through linear algebra, possibly with partial differential equations, and often quite a bit more than that. They are able to think critically, organize projects, work in groups, solve problems, and moreover their degree now indicates that they have *expert level* capability in those skills. True, a pharmaceutical company isn't going to hire a philosophy major to fill a position requiring the experience of a PhD in biochemistry, but the facts are that industrial positions for specific PhD's are fairly few and far between: a lot of companies are just looking for PhD's in general. That would be the only explanation for Anon's English major friend, who I sincerely doubt was hired in the firm's "English department" before clawing his way over to financial analysis. That bloke was likely hired for his degree, and the aptitude it promises.
            • by Zadaz (950521)

              Exactly. A PhD is not a vocational degree. It sounds like the OP is doing it to get a specific job. In which case they're doing it wrong.

              Not that it's terribly surprising. Schools love PhDs, but if you're looking to get your money back on your investment sometime in the next 20 years then you're doing exactly the wrong thing by getting one.

            • by tehcyder (746570)

              That would be the only explanation for Anon's English major friend, who I sincerely doubt was hired in the firm's "English department" before clawing his way over to financial analysis. That bloke was likely hired for his degree, and the aptitude it promises.

              It's interesting though that everyone says how fantastically complex and brilliant the financial products and models are, and yet someone with (presumably) only a modest mathematical education can do it as well as someone who has studied maths for an extra ten years.

              The point is, I don't think the maths can be all that difficult. So why can't all the auditors and regulators work out what the banks and other financial institutions are doing?

          • As someone who hires occasionally, and has been responsible for evaluating candidates for job positions, I tend to treat post-graduate degrees a bit akin to work experience. I'm not troubled by a degree that is off-theme a bit. For example, the work that we do is computer-related. I'll take degrees in computer science, computer engineering, computational biology, computational physics, mathematics. Note the math thing. In that particular case I would be looking for a lot of evidence in personal initiative w

        • by tehcyder (746570)
          I don't understand the point of having a firm full of PhDs in random subjects. Why not just take bright people with a first degree straight out of college? What does spending another three years getting a PhD prove, except that you're not stupid, which is easy enough to tell anyway?

          I think first degrees in the US must be too easy if you can't use them to measure someone's potential. In the UK, if you want the sort of clever, hard-working drone who will work well producing the latest banking magic smok
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Your Ph.D. will be the name of the department you graduate from, but that says little about the work you do. I work in a Department of Anatomy, and some of our students do purely physics work using MRI technology to quantify signal intensities based on a chemical marker. Their Ph.D. will be in Anatomy, but their work will be in Applied Physics.

        Your C.V. should show your entire career trajectory, not just a single line with some name of a department on it. In fact, many people simply omit the department n

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        > That might be true at the bachelor level, but at the PhD level people hire you for your specialized expertise based on your degree.

        Every PhD that I have ever seen just says "Doctor of Philosophy" on it. You can claim any specialization that you want afterwords. It wont matter if he was in a bio department if he studied stats. He just says his PhD was in statistics, and his thesis will back up that claim.

      • The faculty hiring process (at least here in Europe) really doesn't care what subject is listed on your certificate, as long as you have the right experience. The title of your thesis is much more important. In fact, people who cross subject boundaries often earn a little extra respect - it helps you to bring new ideas from one field to another. My prof is famous for his work in biochemistry, but his degrees are all in physics. It hasn't hurt him at all. I do not know if this works outside of universities
      • by pigwiggle (882643) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:43PM (#38139234) Homepage

        I second that - you are full of it. People are going to look at what a PhD did. I've personally seen brokerage houses recruiting out of computational labs at the University of Chicago. They were looking at people doing computer simulations of large biological systems, among other things. They wanted people with experience in statistical mechanics and and computer modelling. I had a former colleague with a PhD in Physical Chemistry go through the application process for a Quant position. His experience was that the prospective employers took his computational and mathematical aptitude on faith, given his schooling, and were only interested in asking question about what he had taught himself about economic and investment models.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          I had a former colleague with a PhD in Physical Chemistry go through the application process for a Quant position. His experience was that the prospective employers took his computational and mathematical aptitude on faith, given his schooling, and were only interested in asking question about what he had taught himself about economic and investment models.

          Then, at the end of the interview, he simply had to sign his soul to Satan in his own blood, like everyone else.

      • by idbedead (2196008)
        Yeah, as a Biology Ph.D. I have watched many of my friends go into finance and consulting and a number of other fields. No one gives a crap what your Ph.D. is in. They will look at your publication record (academic jobs) or just interview you to asses your specific skills/reasoning abilities.
        • by ScottyLad (44798) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @03:54PM (#38140116)

          Personally when I'm interviewing for staff (in the UK), I only look at what university they went to, not what they studied.

          I'm not sure what other countries are like, but over here everyone under 30 years old has a degree, so the only interest I have in their university experience is whether they went to a "Red Brick" (Ivy league equivalent) or a "modern" university (re-branded technical college or polytechnic)

          The fact you have a degree shows your ability to learn. What you learned in the past 4 years of University is of less interest to me compared to your potential to learn over the next 30 or 40 years of your career.

          I personally value the fact someone even managed to get in to Oxford or Cambridge higher than someone else's 2:1 "degree" from some "university" I've never heard of in the North of England. Sadly this is what happens when governments devalue higher education with misguided targets such as 50% of the population must have a degree.

          • by tehcyder (746570)

            I personally value the fact someone even managed to get in to Oxford or Cambridge higher than someone else's 2:1 "degree" from some "university" I've never heard of in the North of England.

            What a load of bollocks, a lot of the people who get into Oxbridge do so because they were born to well off parents who could afford to funnel them through the public school system. Yes, there are very clever poor students from inner city comprehensives at Oxbridge, just disproportionately few.

            Oh, and there are many other very good universites apart from Oxford and Cambridge, depending on the subjects you're talking about. It's not just those two or ex-polys.

      • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:47PM (#38139282) Homepage Journal

        I have hired five PhD's over the course of my career (maybe more, but five that I remember). All of the where hired based on what they did / what they could do and not on the basis of their theses. Granted my statistical sample is tiny, but there you go.

      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >>For example, no brokerage house is going to hire a biology PhD to do statistical analysis research. They're going to hire someone with a PhD in math/statistics.

        Given that some of the best stats guys I know where biology researchers, that's a bit of a stretch. (What do you think biology research IS, mostly? You have undergrads to actually work with the test tubes and mice, and grad students to oversee them.)

        Brokerage houses have been known to hire anyone, in the past, who are whizzes at math, and the

      • You hire Ph.D.s because they can put Ph.D. on their business card and make them sit in mundane, boring ass meetings with customers so that they'll think you have a bunch of smart people working for you. After all, if you can waste such a special person on a stupid sales meeting you must be overflowing with super smart people. The company I work for has already turned most of their Ph.D.s into little doggies to keep in the customer conferences. The masters on the other hand are doing all the research and dev
      • A PhD is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, employers immediately assume you are mature, intelligent, and highly-motivated. On the flip side, they are generally not willing to pay PhD salaries.

        Potential employers do make immediate assumptions about an applicant who has a PhD on their CV for sure; however those assumptions are not always as positive as you suggest. When I'd completed my PhD the only jobs for which I could even get an interview were junior developer positions, same as I'd have gotten if I'd just come straight from primary degree to job market. The PhD counted for nothing & was in fact a bit of a sticking point. Interviewers seemed to think that getting a PhD involves sitting o

    • by Chapter80 (926879)

      Applied Statistics?

      Can I assume that the results of this Slashdot "survey" will appear in your dissertation?

    • I concur.

      But if you want personal insight (and associated ego with a PhD), I believe Computational Physics (@Columbia?) is your destination.

    • Foreign degrees usually get the stink eye in the U.S. -- too many shops in India and the like handing out PhD's whose recipients exhibit skills on par with one of our 2-year trade schools. A well known university (Oxford) gets respect but if the university is not known outside your country, don't hang you candidacy on the fact of having a degree.

      At the U.S. Bachelor's Degree level, the main thing companies look for is whether or not you have a degree in an accredited program. It is very common for computer

    • by superwiz (655733)
      Not at the fore front. Your experience is only important if you plan to do the same thing you have been doing. But if your work is less repetitive and more ground breaking, how much of your time you spent printing license plates doesn't matter a whole lot.
  • by ClickOnThis (137803) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @01:34PM (#38138002) Journal

    Employers will care about what you did more than what your degree is named. There are lots people working in fields that don't correspond to the subject-name of their PhD degree.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      I would caveat that - big business and government do have formal requirements for such things, and they sometimes DO get enforced even when they don't make sense. It could also affect your job classification (regardless of what actual work you do), which would affect your pay rate.

      I agree it won't matter in most cases, but to be on the safe side, I would personally rather have the CS PhD.

      • by reg106 (256893)
        I agree with this. Average starting salaries for a PhD in CS will be higher than for a PhD in biology. This could matter during salary negotiation.

        For BS and MS degrees, the name of the university is important, because there is generally no guarantee that you spent significant time with a faculty member. For a PhD, the name of your thesis adviser takes precedence over the name of the university, especially if the adviser has a respected name in the field. For these reasons, I would opt for the CS de
  • by NeumannCons (798322) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @01:39PM (#38138078) Homepage
    You're hiring a someone to be a computer scientist. Would you rather see them have a CS degree or a biology degree? Ivy League degree or Pretty Good European University? I think everyone is going to look at this differently. I know *I'd* rather see the CS degree. I wouldn't be overly impressed by Ivy League but I think a lot of others would be. I work in the the tech field along with people who have degrees in unusual areas (Dance?) but are technically top notch.

    BTW, these days it seems a lot of resumes are searched for key words. If they're hiring a computer scientist - guess what keywords they're going to look for?
    • by tixxit (1107127) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @01:41PM (#38138126)
      Usually jobs at the PhD level don't get hundreds of applicants and the resumes can be looked at a bit more carefully. Moreover, if someone is posting a position requiring a graduate degree, they're probably interested in your thesis and research, not what your degree says.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I've applied for many university faculty jobs (that require a Ph.D.) and they routinely had several hundred applicants.

        • by tixxit (1107127)
          Yeah, I'd imagine faculty jobs would. I was thinking of my experience in my previous job, where we were hiring PhDs to fill pretty specific slots. So, the job requirement wasn't PhD, papers, and lots of funding potential, but PhD with lots of research in this fairly specific area.
      • by bjorniac (836863)

        Last few jobs I've been involved with had around 400 applicants for a single place. Jobs at the PhD level are like gold dust at the moment.

      • by superwiz (655733)
        Nah. The only time people ask you to discuss your thesis it is to see how well you can introduce a new subject to the un-initiated. Most math and hard sciences PhD's are too esoteric to be of importance. Even people applying to postdoc positions are very often switching specializations.
    • You're hiring a someone to be a computer scientist. Would you rather see them have a CS degree or a biology degree? Ivy League degree or Pretty Good European University? I think everyone is going to look at this differently. I know *I'd* rather see the CS degree. I wouldn't be overly impressed by Ivy League but I think a lot of others would be. I work in the the tech field along with people who have degrees in unusual areas (Dance?) but are technically top notch.

      BTW, these days it seems a lot of resumes are searched for key words. If they're hiring a computer scientist - guess what keywords they're going to look for?

      I think a good way to put yourself in the employer's shoes is to look at the requirements stated in job postings. If the software job calls for hard-core CS work, you might see "PhD in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering or related field or experience" [emphasis mine.] For software jobs that involve a heavy scientific component (e.g., biology) you might see "PhD in Biology or Bioinformatics preferred; PhD in Chemistry, Mathematics or Computer Science acceptable; biology experien

    • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @05:11PM (#38140986) Homepage Journal

      >>You're hiring a someone to be a computer scientist

      No, he wants to work as a statistician. A biology degree is completely appropriate, as you basically have to be a SPSS whiz to do any research in biology these days. Undergrads actually handle the test tubes and mice, overseen by grad students. PIs get everything set up and then work mainly on the data analysis level. A lot also get involved in computer science for modelling and related reasons.

      That said, if I was hiring a computer science computer science position (you know, to have someone refactor code for me or whatever), I'd definitely hire a person with a CS doctorate over a biology one (or a CS person without a doctorate over a bio person), because I can basically guarantee you that no Biology single-subject major will have the necessary classes in software engineering. As someone who spent years working with the code created by biology people... well, that's why they hired me and other CS grad students to do the actual software engineering side of things for them.

      So, yeah. Basically it depends on what the ultimate nature of the job is. I'd hire a PhD in biology to do stats over a computer science guy, but I'd hire a computer science guy over a bio PhD for a software engineering job.

  • A few suggestions (Score:4, Informative)

    by codeAlDente (1643257) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @01:40PM (#38138108)
    Bio-informatics is a good place to be an applied statistician. There are also good opportunities in neuroscience, especially if you want (or are willing to) do experiments. Some of the data analysis and acquisition code is pretty sophisticated, and a grad student from my last lab got a good CS job by doing that. Further, any lab that uses super-resolution or EM microscopy is a good place to look. If you tell me which school, I can perhaps give you a few names.
    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      From experience with the bioinformatics field...

      not just sophisticated, but pretty damn fun too, once you get past the bits of manual labor involved. Or in my case, automate the hell out of many of them. I was such a lazy bastard, I automated everything I could when I worked in the group I worked in, and got done faster than most others.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        I was such a lazy bastard, I automated everything I could when I worked in the group I worked in, and got done faster than most others.

        You're hired. ;-)

        OK, so I don't actually have a job to offer you in bioinformatics (or any job, really) ... but on a recent project we took the opportunity to automate anything that allowed for it.

        Automating reduces manual errors, cuts down on human time, and means you have more consistently reproduceable outcomes. It also means you've thought about the long-term and realiz

  • Biological sciences (as you are probably well aware) involves a LOT of statistics, and a LOT of computer work. Ironically, in my experience, it is also heavily populated by computer-phobes.

    Would it be possible to add a statistical or computational focus to your Ph.D so it is mentioned on it?

    Then biology would probably not be a bad idea. One of the things many friends of mine noticed in undergrad, that people in the hard sciences were doing better at getting many CS jobs than people with CS degrees. You can

    • Mind you, that is from the undergrad level, the Ph.D. level could be very different.

      Yes. Yes, it is.

      A graduate CS degree is really a degree in applied math. If you have the background to get into the program, they assume you know how to code already. It's in the graduate work that you learn to understand why you code what you code.

  • by Matt_Bennett (79107) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @01:45PM (#38138184) Homepage Journal
    In my experience, the employers that really want Ph.Ds are educational and research institutions, and the odd technology company that wants to have some additional buzzwords to put on slides. It doesn't really add much for a technology company, unless your area of study is very specific to their business area. I'm kinda scared of any place that would do hiring based upon a degree or where it came from rather than what the person can actually do.
    • by Diss Champ (934796) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:03PM (#38138522)

      My employer historically has hired lots of PhDs; we design mixed signal chips. My own PhD has basically nothing to do with my job, but the sort of person who can make it through the PhD process in a hard (science or engineering) field has tended to do well here. That high % of PhD folks is changing a bit as we have been growing way too fast lately to not hire a larger % of MS, but when your bread and butter is to do chips that are "hard" enough to get decent margins rather than being commodity priced the ability to go figure things out that everyone doesn't already know is quite useful. Actually FINISHING the PhD is a lot better predictor than STARTING a PhD BTW.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Actually FINISHING the PhD is a lot better predictor than STARTING a PhD BTW.

        Well, yes, there aren't many jobs where an employer looks at all the stuff you've failed to complete or do properly and hires you on that basis.

        Cue inevitable slashdot "except in government LOL" jokes.

  • Art! Other than my first job out of school, i've worked as a software engineer. I've been in several interviews where i've expressed a feeling of inadequacy because my education is not in comp sci. 100% of the time, that is pish-poshed away by the interviewer. If you can prove you are analytical and smart, nobody is going to look down on a PhD in biology. I'd even go so far as to say many american companies love a candidate who is multidimensional.
    • by rk (6314) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:29PM (#38138986) Journal

      Some of the finest people I've worked with in software have degrees distantly related to computer science, math, or software engineering. Music, religion, "interdisciplinary studies", and an accounting dropout are included in that mix. They are right to pish-posh it away. Actually, as an art person, you wouldn't happen to live near Phoenix, know Java well, and be interested in working on GIS applications for remote sensing, would you? We have a good product that probably could use a techie with an art background to improve its UI.

      • ha! i might have been had i not just taken a new position on the east coast.
      • by GregNorc (801858)

        Some of the finest people I've worked with in software have degrees distantly related to computer science, math, or software engineering. Music, religion, "interdisciplinary studies", and an accounting dropout are included in that mix. They are right to pish-posh it away. Actually, as an art person, you wouldn't happen to live near Phoenix, know Java well, and be interested in working on GIS applications for remote sensing, would you? We have a good product that probably could use a techie with an art backg

        • by rk (6314)

          Actually, that is *my* background. But having had my head stuffed full of perception, human factors, ergonomics, and cognitive psychology has not conferred good graphic design skills to me.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        We have a good product that probably could use a techie with an art background to improve its UI.

        Use Vincent van Gogh's "Sunflowers" as the background image. Works every time, as everyone loves his stuff.

  • by vossman77 (300689) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @01:47PM (#38138234) Homepage

    In my experience when the lab moves the students either (1) get a degree from old university or (2) apply to new university and go through the qualification process over. I would check again, before assuming it is your decision. I even know a case, where a 3rd year grad student at Yale was turned down acceptance into Berkeley grad school

  • by Frightened_Turtle (592418) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @01:48PM (#38138260)

    Most of the Biopharmaceutical companies in the Boston area are going to look at your Ph.D. to determine whether it is relevant to the work they do. But it won't be the only thing they look for.

    Many biopharms are leaning very heavily on computer simulations to model various molecules they are pursuing as potential drug candidates. Having a an advanced degree in biology and the ability to prove strong computer skills might open vastly more doors for you than just having a Ph.D. in a relevant field. Having a programmer who can also intimately understand what the scientists are trying to accomplish is desperately needed by many companies.

    But don't sell yourself as a programmer with a doctorate in biology. Rather, sell yourself as a biology doctorate with advanced computer skills. If they think you are a programmer, they'll treat--and pay--you like one. Sadly, there are still WAY too many CEOs (and CIOs, CFOs, and COOs) who are still under the 1980's notion that "high school kids could do this work," and treat computer engineers like they are unskilled labor. As a "respected scientist" you'll be treated far more appropriately by management/business types.

  • If you want to do research/find a job in the biocomputing field (such as programming clusters or designing data analysis) either will work very well. PhD's in business, I don't know, not really a good idea as you'd be overqualified and the perception would be not practical enough to work outside of academia or the (again) medical/biology fields.

    If possible, get your degree from both places. If you're in a 'pretty good' EU University (such as Geneva, Italy, Paris or other well-known institutions) I wouldn't

  • If you went-in working toward a PhD in CS/applied statistics...shouldn't you finish with a PhD in CS/applied statistics? There would need to be a compelling reason to make a drastic change at the last possible second.

    (Of course, if the program you'd graduate under is closing...then the quality of it's name is uncertain. That might decide the matter in itself.)

    In industry, what you actually did probably matters more.
    It's the same thing in academia, only names of universities and where you've been published m

  • 1) Is a Ph.D in Biological Sciences frowned upon by technology companies, or is it out-weighed by the Ivy League tag?

    If you're applying for a job at a company where you don't know anyone, your CV will end up in the hands on an HR person. I'm not in your field, but I think there's a considerable chance this person won't be able to see how a PhD in biological sciences connects to a CS/applied math job. The Ivy League tag will (on average) give you an edge, I suspect that to the uninformed eye, it might still

  • by burnin1965 (535071) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:01PM (#38138464) Homepage

    From my experience in semiconductor manufacturing, technology companies frequently hire individuals with degrees and areas of research that deviate from the core function of the business. Be prepared to discuss the details of your research and work while pursuing your degree and you will do fine.

    Many of the skills utilized in your education are common across job fields and in some cases they are not utilized as often as they should in the work place. Some examples include...

    - The scientific process itself. A sound decision process is key to problem solving within technology businesses and all too often mistakes are made by "gut feeling" or "common sense" decisions that are followed far too quickly without proper critical thinking.

    - Understanding statistical significance and proper reading or presentation of statistical data. This is a hugely critical field to technology companies and at the same time a massive weak point in U.S. businesses. In my opinion there should be some basic statistics courses in K-12 education.

    - Working in groups. U.S. corporations spend millions in consultant and training fees trying to instil some group working skills into employees but from what I have seen it is very difficult, and in some cases impossible, to teach people to set aside their individualistic wild west cowboy mentality.

    - Communication and presentation skills. Meetings are frowned upon, partly due to the lack of group work skills, yet they are also necessary. You will quickly lose an audience that already doesn't want to be there so you need good communication skills to both keep the attention of individuals but also to transfer the information and knowledge effectively.

    There are many more, of course, but these are just a few that come to mind.

  • by cthlptlk (210435) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:08PM (#38138602)

    Bioinformatics seems to have an especially even spread of people over the continuum from comp sci to biology, so (from what I have seen) readers of C.V.s tend to focus on work and publications to figure out where you fall.

  • I don't quite understand this - When I was a youngun', not that long ago, I swear, Getting a Ph.D. was a terminal degree in a subject that you had spent enough time learning about and researching that you had purely mastered the subject of said Ph.D. Now a days, I guess it just says "HEY, I CAN HAZ DR!!!11". The purpose of getting that deep into a subject is because you want to be a master of that field and a thought leader when it comes to the subject matter, not so you can get a job working on PCs!~ Je
    • by Rakishi (759894)

      The same reason being a secretary requires having a Bachelors Degree, degree requirement inflation.

  • easy answer (Score:4, Informative)

    by Khashishi (775369) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:22PM (#38138872) Journal

    Biological Science. Any scientist these days is going to have to be proficient with computers and analyzing data. In fact, you'll probably be doing much more statistics and number crunching in biological science than in PhD level computer science, which tends to be in some theoretical study less focused on crunching of numbers. And biologist just commands respect. There's just no similar honorary title for computer scientist, and although PhD is different, it's hard to not associate CS with a factory-like undergraduate program, churning out low-skilled CS majors.

    • by RandCraw (1047302)

      No. I have degrees in biology and cs and work in a quant group at a major pharma. No one respects or cares about my background in bio. Large companies will look closely at your degree title. We probably would not even phone interview a bio major for a quant position. A bioinformaticist or biostatician would fare better. A computer scientist, computational biologist, mathematician, or any engineer is preferred.

      You may want to odentify your degree on your resume differently than it reads on your diploma

  • If your real field is machine learning, it won't matter if the dept. is Biology or CS as long as you publish in machine learning conferences and journals (NIPS, ICML, Neural Computation, JMLR). When you're done, you should be able to get a postdoc/faculty/research lab position strictly based on your machine learning credentials because this is a hot area right now. OTOH, if you didn't actually work in machine learning but instead applied machine learning ideas in biology, then it is possible that you'll onl
  • If you get a PhD, early in your career the most important thing is who you worked for in graduate school. If the people who will be hiring you know who your boss is and know about his work (and like it), you'll do much better. If you work for a nobody or you're trying to get a job a bit outside of the field that your thesis adviser works in, my guess is that the closer your degree sounds like the job, the better. You might try a post-doc to fix that while the job market sucks.

    And, if they don't know a
  • Just so you're fully informed:

    Biology-specific [phd-survey.org] General [phd-survey.org]

    In short, the advice from grad students is, "if there is anything else in life that you would be happy doing, do that instead of getting a PhD."

  • by Smallpond (221300) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @04:06PM (#38140238) Homepage Journal

    Just choose one at random.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have been actively hiring PhDs to do analytics work for financial services for the last two years. We primarily use machine learning techniques to develop risk management tools. We prefer the applicants to have a PhD, although industry experience can make up for the lack. In general, however, we do not specify that the PhD come from a specific field. Indeed, we have a bio-informatics PhD in our group, and we have interviewed several others. I myself come from a physics background, and others came from eng

  • You should be asking in Academia circles, not slashdot.

    Your Ph.D will be worth exactly dick the instant you get your first job afterwords. PhDs matter to schools, in the real world, no one gives a shit.

    So, if you intend to stay in or around Academia, then your question is valid, but you should be asking around in the academic world, not slashdot.

    If you aren't staying in Academia, then drop out of your silly Ph D program and get a real job, the experience will be far more profitable for you in every way.

    Eit

    • by Rakishi (759894)

      You're an idiot who apparently has some very limited real life experience.

      I talked with a company a week back who does various machine learning/data analysis consulting for companies. They've got 100+ PhDs and without one you're not getting hired.

      Finance companies, which pay $$$$$, want a PhD if you're doing any sort of financial analysis work for them.

      Big tech companies love PhDs and will pay for them. If you're doing science at such a company (ie: algorithmic product improvements, machine learning, etc.)

  • A little late to the party, but a lot of schools have a policy of explicitly not admitting students who have a PhD in another field. For instance, here is MITs official stance on that [mit.edu]:

    10. If I already have a PhD, can I apply for another PhD in EECS?

    No, we will not admit an applicant who already holds a PhD degree (even if it is in a different area such as Physics or Math)
  • If you want to make good money go become a plumber's apprentice. Then open-up your own company, hire some skilled plumbers to work for you and live in a mansion. I know people who leave their Ph.D off their resumes just to get hired. Other comments are correct in that you will be hired based on your specialty or real-world experience.
  • Disclaimer, as I am not a PhD. Most of the comments here are very good. But to add my two cents, no matter what is printed on the piece of paper, you are what you are. Either you are comfortable in your own skin or you are not. A PhD won't change that. A PhD is a sign of experience and hopefully maturity, but it won't make you any smarter, or wiser and it won't make your penis grow. You can either solve technical problems, or you cannot. Almost all PhD candidates already solve problems before starting on th

  • Honestly this was a good decision to ask slashdot about anything in education. Especially about a Ph.D. Beside that, if you are a real Ph.D. student you know that it does not matter what's written on your degree document, as long as you can show what you really did and if it matches your next position. In the industry this is even less important. More important are contacts in the right places. And a nice resumee.

  • ...(although there are doubtlessly many others) is my predisposition towards people with a P.h.D. in Computer Science.

    I didn't use to have this bias until I worked with some of them. I have worked in 3 different corporations/companies that have had Comp Sci. P.h.D. personnel. Only one of them was in any sort of management position and he was seriously useless. The other interactions were with corporate research teams, which tended to have a large number of Comp. Sci. P.h.D.s attached, and some computer v

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