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Doing a PhD after a semi-unrelated Master's Degree


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I am in the process of completing an MA in Middle Eastern History in Israel, where 3/4 of the coursework covers the Arab and Muslim world (Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Iran) and the remaining 1/4 is about Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict. At this point I am very interested in applying to PhD programs specifically in American and European Jewish history, and what I am wondering if how admissions committees will view the MA on my CV in relation to my proposed field of research. As a more general question, how related does one's MA have to be to the PhD field of interest?


On the one hand, it's not as if I did an MS in Neuroscience and then applied for a PhD in Classical Economic Theory. The MA I am doing covers material on Israeli (and therein Jewish) history, and I am interested in another aspect of HISTORY, not of a different field altogether. On the other hand, my PhD interests are not specifically related to Israel or the Arab-Israeli conflict but rather to the Jewish diaspora. I should also add that I have a decent level of Hebrew which is important to at least some Jewish Studies departments.

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Don't worry about it.  Just discuss your intellectual trajectory in your SOP.  What kinds of questions interest you that brought you to European/American Jewish history?


PM me if you'd like about JS depts :)

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If can depend on where you are looking to do a PhD. In the US, many programs are set up for people to get an MA en route to the PhD, so already having a semi-related MA is not necessarily a hinderance and can still be a help (especially if you would have a teaching comp field in Middle Eastern History).

In Canada, it might be a problem, but that can be addressed to your potential supervisor (whom you should line up before applying). I know one person who switched areas (a bigger switch than yours) and it was strongly suggested to do a second MA; in Canada the MA is pretty much always a separate program, unlike the US. 

In the UK, your PhD as I understand it is almost entirely research-oriented, and thus should not be a problem. 

I only have a smattering of knowledge about European programs, but from what I have read, it doesn't seem like it would be a huge obstacle in Euro programs i have read up on (mostly Scandinavian, but also Benelux and a few others).

And I have no idea how Israel works it.

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