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Hey all,

Just got accepted to both SAIS and CIR for a masters in IR.  1/3 funding at Chicago, nothing at SAIS.  I'm willing to go pretty deep in debt for either, though.  Too shocked that I got into either to think clearly about my choice right now, so I could use some input:

I know that for policy focused programs, SAIS is near unbeatable.  However, I think I'm more interested in research/academia for a career, and I want to know which program would set me up better if I choose to go for a Phd.  I'm also interested in working for a FoPo think tank like the Atlantic Council or Brookings.  I'm attracted to Chicago because I enjoy the theoretical side of IR and that seems to be their focus (also, Mearsheimer).  However, SAIS is better ranked as an MA program (although that's for "policy programs"), and I feel like I could keep my options open career wise.  Any insights?

Also, before someone says CIR "isn't worth it" for future Phd, I'm coming from a no name undergrad school with no work experience.  I seriously doubt my chances getting into a top tier Phd program direct from UG, or getting an even halfway decent job given the low name recognition of my UG institution, which is why I want a big name MA.

Edited by Harrisite
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Hi Harrisite, so I think both degrees are great, and congrats on getting in. I will say, even though you probably don't want to hear it, that doing a masters just because you worry you won't be able to get a good job right away is not a good reason to do one. Neither of these are meant explicitly to be paths to a PhD program and it seems like going into so much debt for a degree that you don't really need is unwise. That said CIR is definitely the best choice for a future phd and is way more theoretical and intellectual than SAIS. I really think you are overestimating the importance of your undergrad institution. It honestly doesn't matter all that much, especially after a couple years of experience. I would also think about how you will repay that debt if you go into a phd and are out of the workforce for a while. I would however recommend considering applying to 1 year masters in Europe which would be so much cheaper and could just as easily pave the way for a big name phd program. If despite all this you really want to go do Chicago all the way. 

Edited by Ella16
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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Harrisite, 

I'm an alum of CIR. As you mentioned, it's a very academic-centric program. You have 9 months to take 9 classes and complete a thesis (most students spend their summer writing their thesis and thus graduate in August). If you're interested in exploring a PhD, it's a great program to see if you'd like to go into academia. You will have an opportunity to take graduate seminars with other PhD students and get a *real* experience of what graduate school is all about. Only about a third of CIR alumni usually go into academia (compared to much higher rates in other programs such as MAPSS or MAPH), but those that do get into great Political Science programs. 

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