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kcherven

Can you get into a North American phd with a uk masters?

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I have been planning on getting a taught masters in the uk (I'm Canadian). I want to study bioarchaeology, specifically ancient DNA and paleopathology. I mentioned this to a professor of mine, and she said it will be difficult to get admitted into a phd program in North America. So, I wanted another opinion on this. Do any of you have similar experiences ? 

 

thank you 

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I think it depends on the university where you are getting the taught master's. If it is a recognized name or strong in your field, I do not think it will put you at a disadvantage. But take that with a grain of salt as I only have a master's degree. However, I know individuals who earned master's degrees in Hungary, South Africa, Germany, and The Netherlands who were admitted to PhD programs in the US and Canada. Of course, that is anecdotal. I would recommend looking at the CVs of graduate fellows at universities at which you would want to pursue your doctoral work and see where they did their master's. You could also email the graduate program director and just ask - that is what I did for a program whose GRE minimum I did not meet but was a great fit. The director told me they make exceptions. I was admitted to the PhD with full funding and a recruitment scholarship. As I am learning, it comes down to what you did in your studies, the fit between your research and the program's strengths, and how you communicate it when applying to your PhD.

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I'm currently doing my master's in the UK and I've been accepted to PhD programs in the US. It probably helps that I go to a British university which is well-recognised internationally, so maybe bear that in mind. Otherwise it should be fine!

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Did you ask your professor what they mean? 

I am assuming a "taught Masters" means a coursework-based Masters, not a thesis one. In general, Canadian PhD programs expect thesis-based Masters so if you go this route and want to do a PhD in Canada, you may have to do a Canadian Masters with a thesis first (2 years, as you probably know, rather than typical 1-year Masters in the UK or USA). How true this is will depend on your field---in mine, there's only one program that generally accepts students right out of undergrad. 

However, for a US PhD program, they normally accept students from a Bachelors degree. A Masters in the USA means something very different than a Canadian or UK Masters. So you would have no problem getting into a US PhD program with a UK masters since you would already be eligible with your Canadian undergraduate degree. But maybe your prof knows something extra? Or maybe your prof means that since you will be physically removed from North America, it will be harder to visit North American schools and your letter writers in the UK will be less known to North American academics. This might be true, but I wouldn't worry about it too much for the MS->PhD stage. As @avraven said, it might also depend on how well known the UK school is. When I was in my (US) PhD program, there were tons of people with UK Masters, including Americans who wanted to do a Masters before a PhD. However, all of them were indeed from Cambridge or Oxford, i.e. the really well known English ones! 

To expand on this topic though, I do think that a UK/EU PhD would make it harder to get a postdoc/permanent job in North America, at least in my field. Here, your connections do matter more and the length of a UK/EU PhD is so much shorter that it would be hard to compete with North American students who had a couple of extra years to publish papers (of course, if you are very productive in the UK/EU, which you could be, since there are no classes and no teaching, then this won't matter). 

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My personal opinion is this; It doesn't matter from which university in the world you are coming from. It doesn't matter if it's from MIT or from a uni in Europe, Africa, or Asia. If you deserve it and can prove that you are good, you can get admitted anywhere. Science has not barriers and does not, for any reason, discriminate!

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