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Masters v. PhD level courses


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The Spring 2012 schedule has been posted at my school, so of course I have been busy planning my schedule for next semester :D I am a first-year Masters student in the humanities.

I know this is something that varies by school and by department, but what kinds of differences are there between Masters and PhD-level courses? I'll be taking one PhD-level course because the ONE professor who specializes in what I am studying will be teaching it. However, for my other classes I have a few choices and am wondering if I should tackle these higher-level courses or avoid them altogether in an effort to "ease into" grad school.

I guess I am just looking for differences in workload, expectations, etc. Things like that. Thank you!

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IME, students pursuing a M.A. were thrown into the same classes as those trying to earn a Ph.D. The students who were pursuing a master's did not always throw themselves into their work. Sometimes, it showed.

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At my school, MA-level (500 level) classes are usually open to advanced undergrads along with grad students. IME, as long as there are more grads than undergrads, the classes are fine. If there are more undergrads than grads, it's usually less productive/interesting. Nothing against undergrads... but you should check to see how cross-listed courses are handled at your school.

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At my school, MA-level (500 level) classes are usually open to advanced undergrads along with grad students. IME, as long as there are more grads than undergrads, the classes are fine. If there are more undergrads than grads, it's usually less productive/interesting. Nothing against undergrads... but you should check to see how cross-listed courses are handled at your school.

Well, currently I am in two MA-level classes (6000 level) that are actually cross-listed with undergrads (for them, it's 4000-level). I've definitely noticed a difference...nothing drastic, but there is a difference. So now I'm wondering if that same kind of difference in dynamic applies for the MA/PhD divide. Have you experienced this? I plan on talking to my grad coordinator at some point, but just wondering what you've seen.

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For our school, it's the same has been mentioned- 500 and 600 level classes are "masters" classes, but are also cross listed with 300 and 400 level undergraduate classes, respectively.

PhD students can't get credit towards their required courses from 500 or 600 classes- we can take them as electives, but not towards our core requirements. The "doctoral" level classes are 700 and 800 levels, and are never crosslisted, although occasionally an undergrad will want to take them and petition the instructor.

Masters students can get credit for either the 500 and 600 level courses or the 700 and 800 level courses, and tend to take some of each.

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My program has the same courses for PhD and MA students and it doesn't really change anything. The professors are aware of who's in what program and the PhD students I share classes with haven't started talking about theories and concepts that are incomprehensible to me, although this may be field dependent. I think PhD students have to write a longer paper for one of my courses, but that's it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, currently I am in two MA-level classes (6000 level) that are actually cross-listed with undergrads (for them, it's 4000-level). I've definitely noticed a difference...nothing drastic, but there is a difference. So now I'm wondering if that same kind of difference in dynamic applies for the MA/PhD divide. Have you experienced this? I plan on talking to my grad coordinator at some point, but just wondering what you've seen.

Most of the time I was in a classroom during coursework was in courses that were largely filled with undergrads, and even grad-seminar courses offered as explicitly-grad level often had a few undergrads. This led to the courses being undergrad-focused and concerned with "discussion"-style approaches to material, but administrators required attendance from the grads. I would really avoid doing this whenever possible, no matter how weak you are in the subject--go for the grad-level only course or take a tutorial or directed reading etc. At least for me, I became incredibly demoralized on account of feeling like I could have been in the library working, rather than spending half an hour on the road and going to classrooms at arbitrary times to listen to undergrads in their pajamas go through intellectual crises.

I don't blame the faculty for this because it was clear to me that the administration expected a certain format to classes and expected that the children of the wealthy have a chance to develop Real World Skillz like "How To Hide Behind PowerPoint Slides", but it certainly made it difficult to feel like I was unable to get a chance to interact with an actual expert.

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My department does not differentiate between MA and PhD classes. Our 500-level courses are cross-listed with undergrads, though, and the opinions I've heard on taking those classes have been in pretty unanimous: best avoided.

It may be different if 500-level courses at your institution were primarily grads with a few undergrads; ours are the opposite. As a result grad students get less out of the class and discussion, and are also usually asked to make extra grad-only meetings (so the class thus becomes more time-consuming).

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