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Which diploma, from which school, from which area of expertise is going to provide a short term advantage? a long term advantage?

Of course it depends on the career path. But I've read some articles saying that PhDs start their career much later, usually as a postdoc with a low salary, and by the time they get higher salaries, their colleagues with a master or MBA have already built a decent wealth. When you factor in the cost required to obtain a PhD, some people say it's not worth it if your goal is optimizing your total income over your lifetime. Of course there are other reasons to earn a PhD, and some (many?) PhDs on Wall Street or patent owners are financially doing very well, far better than most of their colleagues with a MBA or master degree.

What are your thoughts about this? In which circumstances would you recommend a young data miner / statistician to earn a PhD, a master or a MBA?

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For a young statistician, I would have to say Masters of Science or PhD., assuming that you truly enjoy the technical aspect of the work. If its the money and a career in management that you're after, I would say go for the MBA however, keep in mind that most reputable MBA granting institutions, on average, do not accept many candidates under the age of 27-28. Make sure you have solid work experience before pursuing the MBA.
For me my objective function for optimizing my total income over my lifetime includes non-monetary related variables => vast array of tangible and intangible knowledge. That's what characterizes me as a unique PhD holder.

Other than that, it really depends on your goal. I view PhD as an enlightenment journey that can't be bought with monetary transaction. Ok, sure you have to pay for tuition but I believe most PhD candidates are fully funded by at least one agency. It's really the process that matters and is so abstract to explain in simple terms.

My PhD goal was to prove to myself I can persevere through the 4 or so years of working on a research topic. And with a chance that there might be no solution to the topic to be investigated. It's hardly about monetary reward at the end of the journey. Besides if not now, when? I can't see myself some 50 odd years old and going back for a PhD.

Go with a PhD if you have a dying thirst to resolve a research topic. This is the only time when you are allowed to venture across disciplines and yes, you're allowed to make mistakes. And the topic may not be monetary reward driven. In other words, a topic that you know may never bring you monetary wealth but can potentially expand your horizons on understanding something so vivid yet so intangible.

But of course reality bites in that you might have financial responsibility that requires you to work in the industry sooner than later. Or like Vincent said "optimizing your total income over your lifetime". Then get a MSc and start working.

PS: my PhD is in Mech. Eng.
I would recommend a PhD because I have seen the breadth that people can use it for.

What are people's thoughts on the Masters in Advanced Analytics program at NC State. They have been saying that people coming out of this program will earn more than MBAs.
A dual degree program is also an option. At Cornell, you can earn a masters in engineering, say operations research or computer science, AND an MBA in only two years. There are other schools with similar programs, maybe Columbia and Penn.

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