Master's Degree before they get a PhD?

  • #1
Math Is Hard
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Do people always get a Master's Degree before they get a PhD? I have noticed that some people will list in their credentials 1) the university where they got their undergraduate degree, and then 2) the university where they got their PhD, but there is nothing listed for the M.A. or M.S. I always thought it was required to do the Masters first, but maybe it varies from program to program? Or maybe they just didn't bother to list where the Masters degree came from if it was from the same institution where the PhD was received?
 

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  • #2
Moonbear
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Nope, it's not required to do a master's first. Some programs are even just dropping the master's degree as an option, or leaving it as a fallback plan for those who start grad school and find they can't really cut it. I would still recommend it for anyone who isn't completely sure of what they want to do for their PhD. It gives you a chance to spend just a short time getting your feet wet, figuring out if you like a field, learning a little about how to conduct research, and giving you time to find out whose labs are the best ones to work in before you make a long-term committment to a PhD program.
 
  • #3
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Thanks, Moonbear. I was really curious about that.
 
  • #4
Gokul43201
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Mostly the pure sciences tend to avoid having a masters degree. You're more likely to find someone with a masters degree in engineering or the arts.
 
  • #5
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Math Is Hard said:
Do people always get a Master's Degree before they get a PhD? I have noticed that some people will list in their credentials 1) the university where they got their undergraduate degree, and then 2) the university where they got their PhD, but there is nothing listed for the M.A. or M.S. I always thought it was required to do the Masters first, but maybe it varies from program to program? Or maybe they just didn't bother to list where the Masters degree came from if it was from the same institution where the PhD was received?
I know for some programs at certain Canadian universities you can go directly into the PhD program IF you are an exceptionally bright student with very good grades.
 
  • #6
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another route people often take is to start off in a Master's program, and then switch over to a PhD.
 
  • #7
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Wow! I had absolutely no idea. I was thinking, "How did all these people cut in line and get away with skipping the masters program?"
 
  • #8
Moonbear
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imabug said:
another route people often take is to start off in a Master's program, and then switch over to a PhD.
That's what I did. When I started, I didn't want to lock myself in because I wasn't totally convinced I didn't want to go to med school yet, then after the first year, I realized I was going to stick with the program, and switched to the PhD program. Most of the master's student were either just killing time until they got into vet or med school, or pretty much just getting additional training to get a good job as a technician.

For my sister, she's a social worker, getting a masters is more useful than a PhD. A PhD is pretty meaningless in the field, but the additional master's degree was almost essential to qualify for any decent paying job.
 
  • #9
Gokul43201
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In most big universities, the only way to get a Masters in the pure sciences is to join a PhD program and quit in the middle.
 
  • #10
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Oh, another question I had. I see a lot of UCLA teachers/T.A.s with a "CPhil" as their degree. Does anyone know what that means? My chem teacher had this degree, but I also see this associated with programs like geography and language studies.
 
  • #11
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BEst i can figure is that it is some credential degree, the only referencei've seen to it is in a lsit of california university degrees offered, and universities out here have huge teacher credential programs
 
  • #12
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franznietzsche said:
BEst i can figure is that it is some credential degree, the only referencei've seen to it is in a lsit of california university degrees offered, and universities out here have huge teacher credential programs
True. Bet you're right on that. From what I hear, it takes about as long to get the teacher certification and credentials out here (I'm in Los Angeles) as it does to get a masters degree. There must be different levels, though. Most of my teachers are PhDs or PhD candidates, so I thought the CPhil would have something to do with enabling a person to teach at university level (since my UCLA chem teacher had the "CPhil" after her name).
 
  • #13
Moonbear
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I've never seen anyone use such a designation before. Since it seems to be for your TAs who are in PhD programs, the best I can guess is that for some reason they are adding letters to show they have advanced to candidacy for their PhD (Candidate for Philosophy instead of Doctor of Philosophy?) Must be a quirky thing at UCLA, because I've never seen anyone tack letters onto their name for that since it doesn't really mean anything other than internally...if you drop out at that point, you don't get to continue calling yourself a candidate. In a PhD program, you usually don't advance to candidacy until you've put in at least 2 years of coursework and passed a candidacy exam that shows you're competent enough to remain in the program and continue on to get your PhD. In depts that don't offer an actual Master's degree program, those who don't pass the candidacy exam after two or three attempts, depending on the individual dept rules, are the ones who are handed a Master's degree as a consolation prize.
 
  • #14
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Its a degree offered at UCSD, its listed under "other/degree cert"
 
  • #15
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I know that in some places you may start a Master of Literature(MLitt) from which you may be transfered to a PhD-programme if what you have is approved by the Department concerned.
 
  • #16
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CPhil

OK, I got an answer on this:

It means "Candidate in Philosophy." A person with this award has completed all of the work needed for a PhD (including the award of Masters degree), but has not yet defended his/her dissertation.

Moonbear, you nailed it. :smile:

So, what happens if you don't successfully defend your dissertation? Do you get to try again?
 
  • #17
Moonbear
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Math Is Hard said:
So, what happens if you don't successfully defend your dissertation? Do you get to try again?
By the time you get to your defense, it's almost a formality. Your mentor and dissertation committee shouldn't let you defend until they are certain you'll do well. I guess there are some people who are stubborn and refuse to accept they aren't cut out to ever get to that point, so they more or less get strung along until they hit the maximum time limit allowed (that's consistently been 10 years everywhere I've been, I'm not sure if there is any variability in that in other institutions), and are then told to accept the masters or start over. I've never really known anyone who didn't get the message long before that.
 
  • #18
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So if your defense is not good enough, you will never get the PhD-title? All those years and all those money for no good?
 
  • #19
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study Phd in USA is tough, it takes 5--7 years
 
  • #20
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I always thought that you had to go in sequence. Bachelor's, Master's, and then a Ph.D
 
  • #21
Moonbear
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Thallium said:
So if your defense is not good enough, you will never get the PhD-title? All those years and all those money for no good?
In US science graduate programs, you don't usually have to pay for a PhD. You actually get paid to do it, not much, but enough to live on. But, yeah, technically, you could give a horrible defense and not get your degree, though it's almost unheard of for someone to get that far if they aren't already showing ability to make it. But you'll be warned long before that not to keep wasting your time, take the master's and leave. Usually someone likely to be that bad gets stopped at the qualifying exam stage (also called the candidacy exam), only 2 years in, so not too much lost.
 
  • #22
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I hope I can get a Ph.D in math/physics but I don't know what subject in physics I really want to spend 5+ years of my life studying. I don't even know if I'm smart enough or have the will power to get one. Right now I'm having trouble just getting into a decent university. My sophimore year of high school is really coming back to haunt me...
 
  • #23
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study psychology/psychiatry better,
if you got a phd in psychiatry, open a clinic,
modern people got many mental problems,
you will earn big money
 
  • #24
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Saint said:
study psychology/psychiatry better,
if you got a phd in psychiatry, open a clinic,
modern people got many mental problems,
you will earn big money
You need an MD to do clinical psychiatry. A PhD just lets you do research, and you'll need to work with someone with an MD if you want to include human subjects.
 
  • #25
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Moonbear said:
In US science graduate programs, you don't usually have to pay for a PhD. You actually get paid to do it, not much, but enough to live on.
Do U.S. PhD candidates typically get their sponsorship by teaching for the university where they are pursuing the degree, or is the sponsorship in the form of a private sector job/research position?
 

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