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Doing Masters before PhD Admissions


SP123

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Hi, there are many success stories on gradcafe regarding how a low gpa undergrad did a Masters with thesis to improve on his/her gpa, published in international journals and conferences, and subsequently got into one of the top 20 PhD programs. Though doing Masters is a natural option for those with low undergrad gpa's, is a Masters degree before PhD admissions 'recommended' for those with reasonable (3.6-3.7) undergrad gpa's and reasonable-strong research experience? (I have heard that even those PhD programs that allow direct PhD admissions actually prefer post MS-applicants)

Also, may I ask those who have taken the Masters route to PhD admissions whether it was their graduate coursework or actually the research experience during MS that got them into PhD programs? Comments from people who will be or are pursuing PhD in math-intensive areas are really welcome.

Thanks for reading through :) I am an international applicant, if that makes a difference...

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Also, may I ask those who have taken the Masters route to PhD admissions whether it was their graduate coursework or actually the research experience during MS that got them into PhD programs?

Both. Getting my MS allowed me to demonstrate that I could do the coursework (4.0 GPA, including 3 graduate-level courses in environmental engineering) and the research (thesis). Plus, as a graduate student instructor, I'm on the second pay scale. Not much of a difference, but it's better than nothing. Of course, the other areas of your application should be decent as well--GRE, letters of rec, statement of purpose. Good luck!

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Thanks, that makes sense, doing good in Masters should get the message across that you can handle the rigors of graduate coursework - coursework that will allow you to do meaningful research in turn... Somehow, there seems to be too much bias over the importance of research experience over gradcafe and internet in general.

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It depends on your field. In one of my fields (public health) a master's before PhD is common and even the few direct-entry programs are mostly filled with people with master's degrees. In the other field (psychology), it's far more common to work as a lab tech or research coordinator and then go for the PhD if one has a lower GPA and not enough research experience.

If you have a strong GPA and research experience, and you know you want a PhD, apply directly to PhD programs and apply to some master's programs as well. In the case that you don't get into any PhD programs, going for the master's can be your backup plan. But I see no reason to go to (and pay for) a master's if you can get direct entry to a PhD program, if PhD is your goal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Somehow, there seems to be too much bias over the importance of research experience over gradcafe and internet in general.

Of course coursework is important, but bear in mind that a Ph.D. is primarily a research degree. The bulk of your time in a Ph.D. program will be spent on research to enable you to write and defend a doctoral thesis. The degree is awarded not based on how well you did in your classes (assuming you didn't fail), but on the fact that you've made an original contribution to your field.

I agree with juilletmercredi that applying to both types of program makes sense (also, sometimes Ph.D. programs will consider your application for a master's if they don't accept you immediately for a Ph.D.). Best of luck with your applications!

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Hi.

I did a masters before my PhD to improve my chances because i have a low undergraduate GPA. Most of the people in my Cohort do not. They primarly have a BS and directly went into the program. A lot of the people in my program have done this. Some people in my program ( classes ahead of mine) who are coming from different fields have completed some graduate coursework so they can get the necessary experience to be successful, but still had strong undergraduate course work.

What discipline are you looking to get int to? In the sciences, it is usually understood that people go directly from BS to Ph.D. with no break in between.

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