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Choice Between Two Departments at Same University


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I've been accepted into two different programs at the same university. Either program will allow me to work with the same professors, take the same classes, and access similar resources. Both depts have a focus on what I want to research and would allow me to use the same methodology. Program A is a terminal MA program, funded for two years, in an interdisciplinary studies dept. Program B is a PhD program in which I would be guaranteed funding for 5 years in a social sciences dept. Neither program would shorten the ultimate amount of time it would take to get my PhD- Program A would mean 2 years in dept A, then 5 in dept B; Program B would mean 7 years in dept B, getting my MA along the way. The ONLY tangible difference I can think of is that Program A would require me to include some form of comparative study in my thesis, which relates to my interests so I don't mind, while Program B does not have that requirement.

If the funding offers are the same in terms of stipend and work required, what are the pros and cons of accepting one offer over the other? Nothing I can think of truly makes me say "I need to choose this program/dept over the other!" and I was hoping to bounce ideas off of the gradcafe community to see if we could come up with anything I hadn't thought of.

Program A would mean I possibly could have guaranteed funding for 7 years (if Program B funding situation stays the same). It would mean that I also have to reapply to Program B down the line. Program A would also allow me to save face if I felt I couldn't handle a PhD or unforeseen circumstances happen and I just don't apply to Program B again/apply to different schools. However, Program B would be nice to stay in the same dept for 7 years, and stay with the same program coordinator/program logistics. So far, Program A seems to be more an option of flexibility, while Program B is more an option of continuity.

Do any of you have stories of a situation similar to this that would sway you one way or another? Any input? I appreciate your help! I know that this is a great problem to have.

Edited by intrastellar
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Some circumstances you describe are field specific, so if you state that clearly, you might have more appropriate comments.

One point to consider is that when choosing among equals for objective, I'd choose the one with the lesser constraints/commitments. You say A would require you to do some work, while B would not - in which case B is by default better since your interests could change. For example, you may realize that you don't want to do that comparative study, in which case B will be better. If you still want to do it, I'd assume B will allow you to do the same. Hence B is at least as good as A.

However, if you feel that you are not 100% sure about doing a PhD, or doing it in B, then A is a safer option. It would give you an easy out option if you realize your calling for something else later. Of course, you would have to reapply, and there is no guarantee that you will get the offer from B again. There is nothing else people here can offer you. You need to figure out the probabilities for the above scenarios, and choose the option which would hedge your bets wisely.

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This is an interesting one. I don't really understand why it would take 7 years either way and why none of the time spent doing a master's would lead to a shorter PhD program. It's also bizarre to me that two different programs/departments would have identical coursework which leads to degrees in different fields. 

Some considerations:

- Is there any value in having the interdisciplinary MA on the job market? It's hard to know without knowing the specific area but, could you see yourself applying for jobs where the interdisciplinary MA would be helpful?

- Would you/your project benefit from having an interdisciplinary perspective? Would the committee for the MA program be exactly the same as it could/would be for the PhD program? If not, could the differences be ones which enrich your project?

- Are you guaranteed admission with funding to Program B upon completion of your MA? If not, then you're taking a gamble by not going directly into the PhD program.

- How certain are you that your interests won't change?

- Is the stipend the same for each program?

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Thank you for your responses!

I feel I should add that the curriculum wouldn't be exactly the same. The interdisciplinary dept has categories that include a lot of classes from the social science dept, and if I wanted to, I could take most of my classes from the ss dept (however, I feel that would defeat the purpose of having the interdisciplinary option for the degree). That said, thank you @rising_star for your input, because it made me think about the value of an interdisciplinary degree and perspective. I had thought about the possible detriment of having a MA that was not in the same subject as my PhD, but hadn't thought through the positives of having that background. I also think you provided an excellent point about enriching my project with different faculty members, and the interdisciplinary degree would provide me with what I feel are more options for the committee. I feel that gaining an interdisciplinary perspective and then narrowing that perspective to the social science discipline for my PhD would be a good way to progress. Thanks again.


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