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MS vs PhD chances?


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I'm applying for graduate school for Geology/Hydrogeology for Fall 2013, and am wondering about my chances of getting admitted to a Ph.D. program. I was an Environmental Studies major/Biology minor in college and my undergraduate GPA is 3.2. GRE scores are in the 70th percentile for verbal and quantitative. I have a strong natural sciences background but have only taken 3 geology courses and a little math; however I have work and lab experience in water and natural resources.

Several geologists I spoke with advised me to take statistics and basic hydrology courses before applying for the Ph.D. in order to strengthen my CV; or to apply first for Master's programs before going for the Ph.D. and take the courses there instead.

Has anyone else had a similar situation in deciding to go for a Master's first or straight into Ph.D? Thanks!!

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heyy... I am also applying for 2013 fall semester and having the same problem. One of my friends who is about to receive his PhD degree advised me to apply for Phd because the majority of universities automatically consider you for master's program if they reject you for PhD. So applying for PhD makes a win-win position. But, check the universities' sites... good luckk...

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I'm not sure I'd call it a win-win...PhD programs in geology are generally funded, whereas this may not be the case for a Masters. Do everything you can to strengthen your application so you can get the all expenses paid version of grad school. That may mean taking courses this summer (if there is still time). I think research and letters of rec go a lot further than GPA and GRE, but they may not compensate for material that is considered the basis of your chosen field. And if you haven't taken much math in college, then not having at least a statistics course will most likely be a deal breaker for admissions. Doing a Masters first and then a PhD may not make sense depending on where you plan to apply. For example, my program does not give credit for any prior Master's work--you have to take all the same classes and do the same research progression as the students coming directly into the PhD program.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I went into a fully funded geophysics masters program with an undergrad in enviro sci and a similar situation as there were limited geology classes offered at my undergrad institution (earth sci, paleo, and GIS to be specific). I had a 4.0 GPA and good GRE scores with strong letters of recommendation. That being said I feel very lucky to have gotten in as I didnt have the ideal background and in all the schools I applied to that was the one thing that came up in conversation repeatedly with the faculty members I was in touch with. I was rejected by two of the schools, accepted to two without funding, and accepted (ironically and thankfully) to my top choice full funded so that of course is where I chose to go.

First question I would ask yourself is if you really want/need a PhD vs. MS degree. For me I want to work in industry and a phd just isnt worth it. Second, figure out if you can fund yourself if you get in but aren't funded. I dont know how your GRE scores are and I agree that it would be helpful to have more classes under your belt. At the very least you can buy some textbooks our use MIT open coursewhere and mention your dedication to self study in your communication with professors. That seemed to be beneficial when I was applying.

If you know for sure you want a phd then apply for phd programs, it doesnt really make sense to do a masters and then a phd that is twice the work. If you can carry on your future career plans with a masters degree it may be easier to get in that way. Apply to many places and keep up a quality conversation with the faculty member you wish to work under.

Good luck:)

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