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Accelerated Master's Program VS Phd

  1. Mar 3, 2014 #1
    I've heard that often in the sciences(in my case, physics), that students often go straight from their undergraduate degree to a Phd. I've a also heard that this saves some time and money as you basically earn a masters as you go while being funded. Now at my school there is an accelerated master's program that allows you to finish your master's in just one additional year. My question is, would finishing an accelerated master's program and then completing a Phd be quicker than just going straight from undergrad to the doctorate program? I'm sure it would cost more, but I put more of a premium on my time than money. Also, isn't a safer bet to get a master's? I don't plan on flunking out of a physics Phd, but there is always that doubt of whether I am competent enough to complete one. Not to mention any number of life issues could arise.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 3, 2014 #2


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    Advantages and disadvantages...

    I guess the first question is what country/system you're in. In Canada, for example, it's more typical to go from an undergrad to a master's degree and then to a PhD, but the master's degree typically comes with a stipend/TA, in which case the option of paying for it doesn't seem fair. In the US, I think it would be more of a question of whether you would get credit for graduate classes taken as a part of your MSc, applied to your PhD. If this would cut down your PhD course work, it might be worth it. I'm not sure how the European or UK systems work, but for some reason was under the impression that completing a course-based master's out of undergrad was fairly common.

    You might also want to factor in the value of a course-based master's degree in physics. I'm not sure what major advantages this is likely to give you in the job market - particularly if your plan is ultimately to pursue a PhD. If you plan to go into education, having an MSc can definitely help you. With a professional program such as engineering a course-based MSc can lead to more job options, better pay, etc. If you conclude that for you, it would simply be a notch in your belt, then it may not be worth a year of your time.
  4. Mar 4, 2014 #3
    Well, first off I live in the United States. Secondly, I was sorta under the impression that when you pursue a Phd you have to complete Master's coursework anyways. So my thinking was that perhaps by doing an accelerated master's I could actually shave off some time coursework-wise. I've often heard that the actually Phd part of the coursework is around 2-4 yrs, whereas the master's part of the coursework is around 2 years. Bringing the total time on average of a Phd completion to about 4-6 years. So my thinking is if I can 2 year's worth of coursework in only 1 year with an accelerated master's, I save a year's worth of time. Perhaps this is some misunderstanding of how Phd coursework works?

    The other issue is one of practicality and uncertainty. I know everyone likes to say believe in yourself, yada, yada, etc... The cold hard truth is that I may not be able to cut it for a Phd(i'm not counting myself out, but you never know). So I'm thinking that a master's is a good fall back option. Ideal I'd like to work in academic research, but I've also heard some horror stories about the stress of academia. To be honest, I'm not into ultra-competitive one-upmanship. And I've heard that exists in a very nasty way in academia. So, again I may decide the stress of a Phd isn't worth it. With a master's I could probably work in a community college at least, and I would think that some industry jobs would still be open to me. Besides all that blather I just typed, I'm really just curious if the accelerated master's could save me time. Also, i'm curious if it would increase my chances of getting into a Phd program as well. And one last question, is it true that some universities give you a master's degree if you fail to complete a Phd program successfully? I've read that happens in the humanities, but I'm not sure about the sciences.
  5. Mar 4, 2014 #4


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    Well.... most people who start a Ph.D. don't finish it. Also, a university won't "give" you a master's. You will have to file for it (including a thesis of sufficient scope to be worthy of a master's, or if you're doing a coursework only master's you need do pass the courses). I got my master's along the way but it took three years (and six total post-BS for the Ph.D.).

    One last thing to keep in mind (and this varies from school to school) if you enter a Ph.D. program with an MS, you still have to take a lot of courses... you might be able to get out of some of them but they won't let you reduce the required units one-for-one.

    My guess is that the accelerated MS degree won't get you a Ph.D. any faster, but it will give you more flexibility and it will be easier to leave the program if it isn't working out for you.
  6. Mar 4, 2014 #5
    Thanks for the reply. That pretty much answers my question.
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