I have a PhD in Neuroscience and am currently a postdoc. Until now, I have been pursuing a career as an independent investigator (PI) in neurobiology. I've had a change of heart because I don't want to manage people and when I think about the parts of my current position that I like the most, virtually all of these parts will disappear when I become the person in charge of a lab.

I think I would really like a career in biostatistics. Math was my undergraduate major and I have really missed rigorous, quantitative thinking since that time (my neuro work has not been computational; as an aside, I have considered this route but still run into the terminal problem of not wanting to run a lab). Most "how to get a career in biostats" advice that I've read have (understandably) been written for folks who do not yet have a graduate degree and typically advise seeking an MS in stats/biostats.

Is such an MS in stats/biostats necessary/worth my time (and $$$) if I have a PhD in neuroscience (and undergraduate math with a couple stats classes) and have used R for data analysis for years now? Alternatively, I've seen a fair number of graduate certificates in biostats that might get me up to speed and increase my employability without the time and financial investment that an MS requires.

  • I put this on Academia Stack because I'm asking if further education is necessary, but if anyone has ideas about other Stack sites that might get me more feedback, please let me know!
    – yelx
    Nov 8, 2020 at 16:10
  • The answer might differ depending on some details of your career goals. Academia or industry (or government or NGO or ...) ? If academia, what kind of department do you want to end up in? (My answer about switching fields might be useful: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/153694/… )
    – Ben Bolker
    Nov 9, 2020 at 0:41

1 Answer 1


Future learning may be necessary, but a formal degree probably is not. What you need is to have a position that gives you some flexibility in what you do and a base from which to do it. Your current degree is technically sufficient, if you can find the position.

From there you can learn what is necessary, start research in the new field and put together some papers.

But, in the short term you may be required to also produce in your current field to satisfy an employer and keep your base secure. This implies it may be necessary to morph over time, rather than to make a clean break.

It might even be that if you have a position in a large university that you can sit in on the occasional course in the new field to help you fill holes in your education that you might have. Even discussions with faculty in the other field can point you to a quick path to pick up what you need.

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