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Masters vs PhD- A simple Guide To Help You Choose.

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Masters vs PhD.? which degree is the most suitable for your higher education?

These are thoughts that enter each candidate’s mind after completing their undergrad.

What After An Undergraduate degree?

With high school and college completed, most adults face the important question of what path to take if they want to pursue further education. It can be a confusing period and is an important choice to be made. Higher education requires significant expenditure and attaches great value to an individual interested in seeking skills relevant to their planned career path. Having a graduate education will set you apart from other students having only an undergraduate degree.

The most apparent conflict an individual often faces at this stage often boils down to this:

What does one go on to do from here– a Masters’s degree or a doctoral degree?

But to answer that query, one has to know what these terms actually mean.

A person’s academic career has three cycles. The Bachelor’s degree is the first cycle, the Master’s degree is the second cycle, and the third is a doctoral degree (the highest academic degree). The following discusses the key differences between the role and importance of these degree programs in postgraduate study.

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Master’s Degree

A Master’s degree is meant to continue in-depth study of a subject following a bachelor’s degree. A Master’s degree involves coursework structured around a specific module, with relevant exams and projects to enhance subject knowledge. This is often followed by a few months to complete attached research, which is important for gaining specialized knowledge about a subject of study. This can also prove very useful if a student plans to pursue a Ph.D. later in life.

Most Master’s degrees take up to 1-3 years to complete, and all compulsorily require possessing an undergraduate degree to be eligible. Some Master’s degrees may also involve students researching, writing, and defending a Master’s thesis. Professional master’s programs replace this thesis with examinations.

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There are several types of Master’s degrees to choose from-

  • Research master’s degrees are master’s degrees required for academic or applied research fields. Some of these also dictate that the holder pursue doctoral degrees later on.
  • Professional master’s degrees are master’s degrees that prepare holders for profession-specific requirements and inculcate professional and transferable skills.
  • Terminal master’s degrees are the highest degrees available in a field of study. These are the final level of accreditation that can be achieved in some subjects.

Doctorate Degree

A doctorate is the highest academic degree that can be rewarded to an individual. The Doctor of Philosophy or Ph.D. is regarded as the most common doctorate as this degree is a significant investment both in terms of time and financial resources. Typically a PhD. is seen as a higher level of educational qualification than a Master’s degree. Yet, it is also much more specialized in the field of study within a subject of choice and requires thorough and independent research on said topic. It typically takes longer than 3 years to complete.

Doctorate degrees usually involve extensive and independent research on a field of study and require one to make an original contribution to the relevant knowledge related to their field of study in the form of a research project, known as a thesis. Being research-focused, such a degree is highly specialized and specific to a theme or field of study.

Ph.D. programs are shorter since most of the work has to be completed individually. Yet, they also have higher tuition fees and involve doctoral students in completing their coursework. Students also attend advanced seminars and exams followed by researching, writing, and defending a dissertation. PhDs may also involve an individual teaching class at a university for some time. Usually, this involves some form of monetary reimbursements made on the part of the university.

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Masters vs. Ph.D. : Pros And Cons

Several considerations are to be made before deciding on what degree to pursue after attaining an undergraduate degree. Choosing between a master’s and a Ph.D. will essentially depend on the career paths an individual wants to go down on. Factors like finances, occupational goals, academic proclivities also play an important role in choosing which degree to go after. Here are some pros and cons of the two types of graduate programs to help you decide which one is right for you between master’s Ph.D.

Doctoral programs

Pros

A Ph.D. is the more valued and advanced degree level. Therefore it naturally will lead to a better-paid job. A Ph.D. is a must for becoming a university professor or a researcher since these jobs involve considerable research and writing skills. A strong academic background is thus preferred in candidates seeking to apply to these positions and attain research degrees.

Cons

Sometimes opting for a doctorate can even be negative as using it may lead you to be overqualified for a job. Therefore, many opt for pursuing a master’s first rather than a Ph.D. Yet, Some Doctorate programs require that one complete a Master’s program beforehand. Require more time and resources.

Masters Programs

Pros

A Master’s degree is more versatile and can be utilized in various related fields for occupation. A person already holding a graduate degree can pursue a career in an indirectly related field by choosing a relevant master’s program. For example, someone with a political science degree can pursue a master’s in international relations. Beyond the academic setting, a master’s degree with some work experience may be the way to go for many. Require less time and resources.

Cons

A master’s degree is less specialized and will pay less. For those wanting to pursue careers in academia or have analytical jobs requiring a higher skill set, a Master’s degree will no longer suffice. Moreover, Ph.D. theses are published in journals by universities and help make a name for oneself.

Here are some further examples to elucidate the pros and cons of each graduate degree and what career prospects that they offer-

There are two options for those seeking a degree in business administration- a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) or a Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA). An MBA is a very popular degree sought by those who wish to attain the skills to lead an NGO or a business enterprise. On the other hand, a DBA is ideal for those seeking to perform research and teach others about different business practices utilized.

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For those interested in social work and unable to choose the degree they want to attain, the role they would want to play is important. Those desiring to become a government agency adviser or a social welfare direct service provider should opt for a more diverse Master’s degree. On the other hand, for those wanting to ply their trade as social welfare scholars or researchers or social policy analysts, or faculty at a post-secondary institute, a doctoral degree will be better suited.

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How To Choose Which Way To Go In Graduate School?

To choose between a master’s program and a doctoral program, choosing your career goals is the first thing to do. The choice of a Masters’s vs. Ph.D. is an important one to consider for your career since it represents the skills you learn after an undergraduate degree. Thus, researching about desired career options and their requirements is important for choosing between what degree to pursue their higher education.

Help can be found from professors themselves, and most are happy to lend some advice to their students. There are also other means to help you decide, such as seeking professional career counseling. Research opportunities can also be had from professors by working with them as a research assistant in their work or publishing your work in academic journals. All this depends on the individual and can also be aided by interacting with professionals already working in your field of interest.

To conclude, choosing which direction to go from after completing their college education depends on the individual. Their own skills and career goals are vital factors to be considered and acted upon. Graduate school can be an expensive affair and must be planned for in advance. Financial aid, scholarships, student loans, sponsorships, etc., are important and should be sought by students. This requires prior research and timely planning as well.

However, there is no necessity to have a graduate degree either. At times and in certain jobs which require non-academic skills and practical rather than theoretical knowledge, sometimes pursuing a graduate program is not useful. Work experience and practice are more important here.

This article gives you a thorough rundown of the differences between a Masters’s program and a doctoral program, with their pros and cons to help you choose which degree is right for you in graduate school. The choice between a Masters vs. Ph.D. should be easier to make with this information.

Masters vs. Ph.D., which degree is more suitable for your vocation? Did you find this article helpful? What other advice would you offer to those pursuing higher education? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Here is a link to another article offering advice on what decisions to make and what directions to pursue after finishing an undergraduate degree from a college.

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