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Long-term, I want to pursue my PhD in Political/Peace Psychology. Looking through these programs, all of the current students have their masters degree and/or a few years of work experience in a field related to conflict resolution and international relations. 

 

So I've been looking into the masters programs in political science with emphasis or concentrations in conflict resolution, international relations or global affairs. However, I'm at a bit of a loss in terms of what kind of program would suit me best. A lot of these programs appear to be professional in nature, meaning that they seem to expect their students to get a job after the completion of the program. Would wanting to continue on to my PhD (with the end goal being a mix of academic research and field work) hinder my application in any way? Or are there programs which have more of a "research" goal in mind?

 

Secondly, when it comes time to actually apply I'm not sure what would make me the most competitive. I know how it works in Psychology (your past research experience and future research plans (i.e. fit with current POI) are really the only things that matter. Just about any other activity is best left out.)  What would programs in political science emphasize? Particularly at the masters level...

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Rather than make assumptions based on the average current student, I would suggest that you contact professors within the PhD programs that interest you.  Ask them these questions and seek their feedback on your compatibility in their departments.  It has always been my impression that programs prefer cohorts to be heterogeneous -- you do much of your learning from the students around you and it's not particularly interesting to be in a program where everybody has the same background and perspectives. 

 

Some students do a terminal masters prior to entering a PhD program, but they do so for varying reasons.  For some, it is a way to boost the viability of their application to compensate for another part of their file that may be lacking, such as a low undergraduate GPA.  Oddly, I visited two programs last spring as an accepted student -- at the first, there were only about three of us (out of 15) that did not have a masters.  At the second, higher-ranked program, it was the opposite -- only maybe three of the accepted students (out of about 15) were coming in with a masters degree.  

 

Anyways, for most people, a terminal masters prior to a PhD translates to a significant amount of debt and additional time to the overall duration of your schooling.  If you would already be obtaining a masters through a funded PhD program, it really doesn't make financial sense for most people to take on that additional debt burden on a future academic's salary who has also delayed other obligations such as retirement savings.  This seems especially true if you want an academic/research-oriented career and the MA programs you are looking at are professional in nature.

Edited by Quigley
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Thank you for your response.  Although I was not clear about it in my initial post, my desire to pursue my masters is not only based on seeing that the accepted students have their masters degrees. I have contacted a few of the programs and while I was told that a Masters degree itself was not required, the importance of relevant research and work experience was highly emphasized. What I took away from that was that it might not be mandatory to pursue a masters, but that attending these programs right after undergrad was unlikely. 

 

As it is, I am currently looking at a number of options including finding relevant work experience where I could be paid, rather than taking on debt.  I prefer the idea of continuing my education simply because I feel that could open more doors, jobs wise, should I not make it into the PhD level programs. (There are only four and I'm trying to be realistic)  As it were, my ideal master program is a fully-funded MA in general Psychology located only an hour from where I'm currently living. However, it is hard to find researchers in masters level programs in Psychology that are looking at relevant lines of research (and I'm not going to apply to only one program) so I thought to expand my search into other, relevant fields. 

 

However, I'm not terribly familiar with these types of programs so I'm just looking for a little guidance.

Edited by foolish.nostalgia
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  • 2 weeks later...

If you can find a fully-funded Masters program then why not, but most schools use Masters as cash-generators, I am afraid.

I think you're more likely to find funded fully-funded Masters' programs at schools without a PhD program. I don't really have any empirical evidence, but that's the sense I get after looking at schools/programs for my own application(s)

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