# MS and PhD Programs

• Programs
I have a question on applying to PhD programs. If an MS student who received good grades in graduate school applies to a PhD program, how easy is it to get in versus applying straight to a PhD program after getting a BS? If an MS student passes the PhD qualifying exam, does this guarantee admission into a PhD program, or is there still some subjective competition involved?

I'm asking because I recently graduated college, and I've applied to both MS and PhD programs. I've been admitted into an MS program so far (which has some great research opportunities), which is why I'm starting to think about this. Anyway, I'd appreciate comments from anyone who has experience here. Thanks.

## Answers and Replies

Come on...anybody?

sorry I can't answer you're question since I am also currently applying to grad school. I was just curious whether or not you have to pay your way for your MS or did you get an assistantship?

If you go strictly the MS route first and then apply to PhD, they will probably see that you can handle graduate level work and so that would certainly be an advantage. If you plan to apply to a PhD after finishing the MS though, don't be surprised if you'll have to repeat a number of courses. I've heard transferring credits can be difficult. Of course, if you apply to a PhD program at the same school as your MS, I imagine most if not all would transfer.

Good luck!

edit
Also, as hinted in the post above, it can be difficult for MS students to get funding. Its definitely something to consider.

Last edited:
Dr Transport
Science Advisor
Gold Member
At many schools a masters is considered a consolation prize.....Apply for the PhD then if you want to get out, leave.

Thanks everyone for the replies.

If you go strictly the MS route first and then apply to PhD, they will probably see that you can handle graduate level work and so that would certainly be an advantage. If you plan to apply to a PhD after finishing the MS though, don't be surprised if you'll have to repeat a number of courses. I've heard transferring credits can be difficult. Of course, if you apply to a PhD program at the same school as your MS, I imagine most if not all would transfer.

I see. Perhaps I can ask a more specific question as well. The department I've applied to has said that after completing the MS program, I can take the PhD qualifying exam for other schools. Assuming I pass this test, does this more or less guarantee admission, or is it still competetive? As I said I've also applied directly to PhD programs. But the advantage is that the MS program I've applied to is with a rather small department, and it is much easier to get involved in research early on (in fact they've already offered me summer funding for this year). At the same time, my ultimate objective is a PhD, so I'm not sure what the best move is here.

When I do a PhD, it'll be at a different campus of the same school. Even so, I wouldn't mind if I had to retake a few classes, a few GPA boosters and extra review can't hurt.

sorry I can't answer you're question since I am also currently applying to grad school. I was just curious whether or not you have to pay your way for your MS or did you get an assistantship?

Nope, you don't have to pay your own way. This department offers TAs and RAs, but I'm not sure about fellowships. Getting a TA or RA waives your tuition, you also get money and health/dental insurance. They've given me a TA. I'm not sure how much I get paid (since they're sending the details by snail mail). From what I've seen, a typical stipend in the midwest is $17,000/year. Depending on where you go, they adjust it according to cost of living. I have a friend who applied to a math program at NYU, and they're offering$30,000/year.

A related question... is it possible to apply for a PhD program and then when you get there decide to get an MS instead?

I see. Perhaps I can ask a more specific question as well. The department I've applied to has said that after completing the MS program, I can take the PhD qualifying exam for other schools. Assuming I pass this test, does this more or less guarantee admission, or is it still competetive? As I said I've also applied directly to PhD programs. But the advantage is that the MS program I've applied to is with a rather small department, and it is much easier to get involved in research early on (in fact they've already offered me summer funding for this year). At the same time, my ultimate objective is a PhD, so I'm not sure what the best move is here.

I don't know your exact details obviously but I would imagine that they mean that once you complete the MS and get accepted at another school, you'd take their qualifier as soon as possible. I don't think you get to take other schools qualifiers before getting accepted. When it comes down to it, the first two years of a PhD and a MS are basically the same classwork. If you're going to do the PhD at the same school, why not just apply to the PhD directly?

mathlete said:
A related question... is it possible to apply for a PhD program and then when you get there decide to get an MS instead?

Many schools will allow you to receive an MS in route to a PhD. It provides people who, for whatever reason, don't wish to continue to the PhD something for their work.

Dr Transport
Science Advisor
Gold Member
A related question... is it possible to apply for a PhD program and then when you get there decide to get an MS instead?

If they offer a masters, you have that option. Apply for the PhD, work on it, if you decide to leave.......