Should You Choose the MPS or PhD Program?

A Stats student at computer

The Department of Statistical Science offers both an MPS program and an PhD program, which differ widely in their time to completion as well as the focus of study. The MPS program in Applied Statistics is a one-year professional Master's degree designed for students who want to specialize further prior to starting their career in statistics, either in industry or government work. Cornell does not offer a traditional terminal MS degree, but rather includes it as a preparation for the PhD program. Students interested in pursuing an academic career in statistics should consider the PhD option. 

The MPS is not equivalent to an MS in several respects:

  • The MPS program includes a large-scale data analysis project rather than a thesis or qualifying exam (which would be the case for an MS).
  • The mathematical probability/statistics component of the MPS is less than it would be for an MS, which is considered the first part of a PhD.
  • The admissions procedures for the two degrees are independent.  At Cornell, if you want to go on for a PhD after completing the MPS program, you must apply to the PhD program as a new student; you would be considered as part of the pool of new potential students. If admitted, you may be able to apply some of your MPS coursework to the PhD requirements, but there is no guarantee.  The PhD program in Statistics at Cornell enrolls about 4-6 students per year; the MPS, about 50 students per year.
  • The MS portion of the PhD prgram is primarily intended to be the first part of the PhD and typically involves two years of graduate-level coursework in statistics and probability.  The PhD program is intended to prepare students for a career in research and teaching at the University level, and requires writing and defending a dissertation.