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MA for testing the waters

Zahar Berkut

Whither the transitional MA?  

10 members have voted

  1. 1. Is a 1 year MA (if well funded) a good option for deciding between a PhD track and entering the work force?

    • Yes, if you wish it to be.
    • No, decide that for yourself outside of grad school
    • Only if it's fully funded
    • Only if it's at a prestigious school
    • A 2-year MA is better for that.

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I am currently researching abroad on a Fulbright, fresh out of undergrad. I am 70% certain I want a PhD in political science (IR/theory), but I have reservations about the academic job market, about having not worked a professional job for a whole year (I've done serious summer internships), and about whether I would really enjoy the rigors of grad school as much as I think I would. The MA in political science being a consolation prize, I am looking into a very small number of 1 year MA programs in IR or regional studies that offer a chance (just a chance) for nearly full funding.

Is it a mistake to go down this path as a means of "testing the waters?" I would not go without excellent funding, and I am currently viewing my very small application pool as one of several options for the following year. But is it worth it to even apply with these intentions, and if I get funded, am I kidding myself by doing this?

Any and all thoughts appreciated. Programs are Stanford regional studies-- thanks to FLAS; Chicago CIR-- no idea what "merit funding" means; and maybe Yale's IR MA-- also unsure about merit funding and FLAS availability. Unsure about 2 year regional studies MA's, even with FLAS funding, since I worry I'd depart too much from IR theory, where my regional interests intersect.

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I found my one year MA (CIR) to be useful for many reasons. It helped me get a better professional job, helped me get into PhD programs, and gave me a much better sense of what a career in academia would be like. I think CIR is particularly well suited for preparing people for a PhD, while still being versatile enough to be useful in the professional world. As for CIR merit funding, I know numerous students who received financial aid that ranged from 1/3 - 1/2 of tuition. I think a very very few students got more than that, but I don't have any update on current funding (I graduated in spring 2009). Good luck.

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I wouldn't do it without some combination of funding and assurance that the experience would position me better for applications. In other words, I think it would be a waste to pay full price at a mediocre school purely for the purpose of aiding your decision. You can always drop out after a year in your (likely funded) PhD if it's that bad.

In the interest of disclosure, I AM applying for one or two MA programs as a backup because I think great grades in a polisci MA might address weaknesses in my application. Clearly I think it's worth the investment in some cases.

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