Graduating students in Statistics appear to be at a substantial handicap compared to graduating students in Machine Learning, despite being in substantially overlapping subjects.
The problem seems to be cultural. Statistics comes from a mathematics background which emphasizes large publications slowly published under review at journals. Machine Learning comes from a Computer Science background which emphasizes quick publishing at reviewed conferences. This has a number of implications:
- Graduating statistics PhDs often have 0-2 publications while graduating machine learning PhDs might have 5-15.
- Graduating ML students have had a chance for others to build on their work. Stats students have had no such chance.
- Graduating ML students have attended a number of conferences and presented their work, giving them a chance to meet people. Stats students have had fewer chances of this sort.
In short, Stats students have had relatively few chances to distinguish themselves and are heavily reliant on their advisors for jobs afterwards. This is a poor situation, because advisors have a strong incentive to place students well, implying that recommendation letters must always be considered with a grain of salt.
This problem is more or less prevalent depending on which Stats department students go to. In some places the difference is substantial, and in other places not.
One practical implication of this, is that when considering graduating stats PhDs for hire, some amount of affirmative action is in order. At a minimum, this implies spending extra time getting to know the candidate and what the candidate can do is in order.