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Differences between your masters and PhD program


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I'm looking to hear from people who earned a master's degree before attending a Ph.D. program.

I am currently finishing up my master's, and will be moving on to a PhD program (within the same field, but at a different uni) this fall.

Other than obvious differences between these types of programs, I'm interested in hearing about any unexpected or surprising encounters upon entering your PhD program. Is there anything you didn't think about that you wished you had?

Thank you, and best of luck to everyone out there!

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There are quite a few existing threads that discuss your question from a general (not psychology specific) perspective. Here are a couple of links: 



For more general advice, check out (or search) the Officially Grads forum.

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Thanks fuzzy, I did see these threads, but they don't really relate to my situation. I've already been a "graduate student" for two years, and I would imagine my situation to be quite different from a first year PhD student coming straight out of undergrad, or even someone with a Bachelors that spent time away from academia and did not earn a masters.

I should probably add that I am an "older" student, so I would be interested in hearing from those who have had experience with that, too. Also, most of my graduate units are being transferred. I will be starting the program as an "almost a third-year" PhD student (if that's what I should call it). I will be in the program for 3-3.5 years.

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I did a master's at one university and my PhD at another, with no time off in between. I'm not in psychology but a different social science field, if that helps. There were several big differences, some administrative, some in terms of coursework, and some that were program-specific. (For reference, my MA and PhD cohorts were about the same size.)


Administratively, I had to get used to how things were done differently. The biggest difference was the number of credit hours required to be full time, which was lower in my PhD program than it had been in my master's program. Because I didn't realize this, I took way more graduate seminars than I needed to graduate. So definitely pay attention to specific requirements. In my case, I could've easily shaved a year, if not a bit more, off my program had I realized what would transfer and what I needed to take. At the same time, my focus area shifted so it might've been a good thing that I took extra courses in my new areas. There were also major differences in how TA assignments were given out. I spent the first several years of my PhD program wishing it were done the way it was in my MA program but, that was not to be. In my PhD program, the grad secretary gave the best assignments to her favorite students. If you weren't on her good side and/or you didn't lobby for yourself, you were guaranteed to get stuck with a crappy assignment. 


In terms of coursework: I was in the same field so the basic general "Intro to Field" course was really easy the second time around. Other people were struggling or complaining but, it wasn't a battle for me. I also found that the grad seminars I took as a PhD student were often easier (assigning less reading, allowing you to write grant proposals, book reviews, or practice comp essays in lieu of final papers that would be a dead end), but this could have been because I was already really used to doing graduate work.


Personally, I had a harder time making friends as a PhD student, at least at first. Some of that was because there was a much wider age range and most (more than 3/4ths) of the students in my cohort had already lived in that city and/or been a student in the department before we started. They already had friends and a network so it was hard to break into that. In the end, I didn't and those of us who moved there ended up bonding as a separate group (we got accused of being a clique but that really wasn't what it was). 


I hope this helps, dragonage.

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