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bandanajack

Choosing Master's over Ph.D.?

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Posted (edited)

I also posted this on r/gradadmissions, but thought here might be more beneficial.

I got accepted to a small private research uni with 2 year master's T.A. position with great funding. (I am ecstatic)

To my surprise I was contacted by a DGS of a larger, public, research school with a good program ranking and they seem to be seriously considering my application for Ph.D. with possible funding based on the email (I applied way past the deadline for a master's, and now they are changing my app for Ph.D. to get funding).

While I have not been accepted for the Ph.D. I am hypothetically thinking what choice I would make. For personal reasons (money and proximity to family) I am considering the master's, but it seems stupid to pass up a Ph.D. funded opportunity.

If I accept the master's, I will apply again to Ph.D. programs and may be able to get into the same or better ranked programs, so that's also why the master's seems like a reasonable route. Academically/career wise, this is the crux. Get a Ph.D. at a Top 30 program, or do the master's at a well respected uni but lower ranked/recognized program, and then be able to shoot for Top 20 or Ivy League programs. 

Any thoughts on this? 

Edited by bandanajack

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I would go with the PhD if offered. In the long run, it will save you time and money. Most PhDs don't transfer over a lot of MA credits, and the cost of being in school for additional time will definitely have an impact on your earnings potential in the long run. 

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28 minutes ago, PsyDGrad90 said:

I would go with the PhD if offered. In the long run, it will save you time and money. Most PhDs don't transfer over a lot of MA credits, and the cost of being in school for additional time will definitely have an impact on your earnings potential in the long run. 

Those are valid points that I have not considered, but at the same time I don't really care about how long I am in school or my long term earnings. That probably sounds stupid, but as long as I have enough money to get by then I am happy. Though, speaking of money, the master's T.A. position is a generous stipend that will probably match or beat what the the other uni could offer.

It seems typical in the States to try to go for a Ph.D. track right out of ug, and I am wondering if there are career/academic advantages to this? I know it gives you a longer time to develop relationships with faculty and possibly focus on a research project for longer, but am I missing anything else?

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You may not care about this now, but when planning for things such as a growing family and retirement, that extra time spent in school can add up. 

What would the benefit be to do the MA and then apply for PhDs? PhDs are very competitive, and getting in 1 year may not necessarily guarantee an acceptance the next. Some of it is your CV and skills, and another is who is if your faculty of interest is taking a student that year, if they have funding, how you stack up against all the other applicants that cycle, etc. There are many unknowns in the process, so I guess the bigger question to consider is what advantage you get from holding off on the PhD and going for the MA. 

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Posted (edited)

Great question. So this cycle I only applied to Ph.D. programs ranked about 30th and got rejected because my SOPs weren't specific enough and up to caliber. 

So the advantage to a master's first is to hopefully apply to even higher ranked schools once I 1) sharpen my research focus 2) Have time to build more connections in the field 3)Conduct more research.

If I do the Ph.D. now then I am locked into a program with a decent ranking, but 30 years from now I wonder if I would look back and wonder if I could have done better?

But! You hit the nail on the head. I could not get into any Ph.D. programs for a plethora of reasons if I wait until after my master's. 

Edited by bandanajack

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