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Eileen Barroso/Columbia University

The Program

Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences (QMSS) is an innovative, flexible, interdisciplinary social science Master of Arts degree program at Columbia University that focuses on quantitative research techniques and strategies. The program integrates the perspectives and research methods of six social science disciplines: EconomicsHistoryPolitical SciencePsychologySociology, and Statistics

QMSS provides students with rigorous training in quantitative research, with an emphasis on written and oral communication about research techniques and findings. These skills prepare QMSS graduates to enter (or further) an analytical or research career or to continue their education in a PhD program. 

Having drawn students in varied fields from more than 30 countries, QMSS students bring a unique range of experience and expertise to the program. Each year approximately half of the incoming cohort is comprised of international students. The majority of incoming students are returning to academic study after several years of post-baccalaureate work experience, but each year a handful of students join QMSS directly from undergraduate programs. While most students enroll full-time, some students maintain careers or other endeavors, completing the program on a part-time basis in order to apply the skills they acquire through the program directly to their work.

 

Reflections

The Student Body

Meghan O'Neil, Analyst - Office of Evaluation & Research, NYC Department of Social Services; PhD Candidate at State University of New York at Albany

The QMSS program at Columbia has opened up many doors for me as an analyst, allowing me to learn advanced statistical techniques and to perfect my scholarly writing skills. My internship experience, at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office evaluating program efficacy by means of my own dataset and codebook, was invaluable for my future career providing hands on research and analytical experience. The coursework and internship are not the only strengths of QMSS. The diverse group of worldwide scholars makes for a remarkable learning environment. The networks created through group work and extracurricular outings provide amazing resources in all fields from marketing to investment banking to criminal justice.

Program Flexibility

Robert Shapiro, Professor Political Science, Columbia University

What I like and find striking about the QMSS program is that it has been a program that effectively responds to current shortcomings and weaknesses in higher education in the United States: that universities are educating and training fewer students than they should in technical and scientific fields. While in the social sciences, programs in economics and political science are strong, the QMSS program has responded to and in its own way has created a demand for technical education for students whose interests do not need to fit squarely into a single social science discipline and who seek careers that require quantitative and communications skills but not specialization in a specific discipline.

Otto Miller, Senior Fund Analyst - Northern Trust

The program provided me with a foundation in Applied Statistics and Quantitative Research that is applicable across industries. In terms of bolstering my skill set, I feel as though I have learned a trade and not just a set of new tools. The expertise that I have developed through QMSS is highly prized in the Investment Research and Social Science Research fields alike. From a professional standpoint, the flexibility that I was allowed in complementing my core curriculum made it very easy for me to tailor my class selections to my career goals.

 

Ron Iammartino, Captain - U.S. Army

The QMSS program was one of the most dynamic, exciting academic experiences of my lifetime! In so many ways, students are able to leverage the flexibility of the program design to self-direct growth as a developing leader and manager. In addition, the foundational program courses and seminar sequence served to provide the basis for smarter, more informed decision-making and problem-solving in every area of my professional and personal life; to this end, students are given the statistical and analytical background tools to analyze problems in nearly any field. Through partnership and access to multiple CU schools, students are able to select from a diverse range of social science interest areas. The sky truly is the limit.

Careers

Matthew Williams, Manager - ZS Associates

After studying economics in college, I briefly worked for the Bureau of Economic Analysis in Washington, DC and then spent a year doing research at a European university as a Fulbright Fellow. As my research interests spanned behavioral finance, Social Security, immigration policy, and neuroeconomics, I knew I would need a multidisciplinary and flexible curriculum to explore these passions, which is exactly what QMSS provides. I took elective classes from the economics, political science, math, and statistics departments, as well as the Columbia Business School. I also found a work-study job under Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz – yet another reminder of the intellectual capital at Columbia. In exploring the job market, I found that a QMSS master's degree made me substantially more qualified than a typical bachelor's candidate. I was able to compete with Ph.D. students for research positions and MBA students for professional jobs. 

Helga Zoega, Research Scientist - Medical Directorate of Health, Iceland

My QMSS experience was superb and something I will draw upon for years to come. The QMSS program, ambitious and well organized, gave a solid theoretical ground in research methods and their application. I gained valuable training in how to read and evaluate quantitative research papers critically. For me, the greatest advantage of QMSS was the flexible framework and interdisciplinary approach that enabled me to pursue my personal research interest field. My thesis work opened doors to my present placement as project manager of the national pharmaceutical prescription database and a research scientist for the Medical Directorate of Health in Iceland. The task of analyzing and communicating research data, designs, and findings is an ability I carry out daily with confidence, thanks to QMSS. I look forward to building on this solid foundation during my PhD studies in pharmacoepidemiology.

Rumman Chowdhury, Political Science PhD Program - University of California at San Diego 

A Masters in QMSS is a unique degree that addresses the need for applicable quantitative analysis in the real world. What drew me to the program was not only its relevance, but the autonomy in choosing a curriculum. The interdisciplinary nature of the program allows you to tailor your degree to suit your career goals. QMSS has provided me with the analytical background to work as an Associate Economist at The Conference Board, and my research has earned me a PhD acceptance at the University of California, San Diego. My time at Columbia has shaped an exceptional career path that would have been impossible elsewhere.