masters vs doctorate

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by keltka, Jun 15, 2019.

  1. keltka

    keltka the green and brown one

    I know this is hella major/degree/field/etc dependent, but I've heard it said both ways, like

    which is more worthwhile? from what I know/have been told (I have several relatives/family friends who work in college academia or are continuing their studies) the advice is...conflicting? some people go the route of "masters is faster and usually cheaper and easier" and others go "if you think you MIGHT want both do a doctorate because you'll get a couple of masters degrees along the way"

    and I have no idea who is More Right

    please help

    ETA PLEASE READ THIS FIRST: "cheaper and easier" is the advice I was given, but from further research, money is not going to be the primary issue/deciding factor in this for Reasons Of grants and other such help
    please do not send more advice related to money! it is appreciated, but unfortunately not as relevant to our situation
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2019
  2. Saro

    Saro Where is wizard hut

    In my field (biology), it really depends on what you want to do. If you want to go into higher-level teaching or intensive research, you probably want to get a PhD. If you're more interested in maybe a lower-level teaching/research position, or maybe want to do something like science communication or whatnot, a master's might be more appropriate. I've heard from people in my department who are pursuing a PhD and previously had a master's that they reached kind of a point at which they couldn't progress further in their positions without a PhD (research positions, not necessarily in academia).

    Important note: not all programs work the same re: getting a master's on the way to a PhD. Mine does not award an official master's while you're working towards a PhD, although I've heard that others do, so you'd definitely want to be informed as to what the particular program setup is.

    A master's is definitely faster, and probably cheaper, although it does depend on how your program handles the financial aspect of things. (My program waives all tuition fees for both types of student, so it's kind of a toss-up.)

    What are your specific goals?
    • Informative x 1
  3. keltka

    keltka the green and brown one

    this would be (for now) linguistics/translation/language region of things, and probably happening in Canada

    auxanges and I are discussing what we want to look into budgeting for in our 5-year and 10-year future plans, and as of right now she's Sort Of interested in getting one but not sure which she'd want to get

    I wouldn't mind looking into post grad stuff, but what I'd focus on...absolutely no idea, so far, I'm still trying to figure out what I should do with my current degrees
  4. Saro

    Saro Where is wizard hut

    I'd say, just from personal experience, I wouldn't recommend someone pursue a PhD unless they were very certain it was the way to get to where they wanted to go. Grad school is hard, and I wouldn't want someone to spend probably 5+ years in that environment if they could get to a place they want to be with just the master's.

    It might be worth it to A) find people who have jobs in the field/areas of interest and then research what their education background is. If all the jobs that they're interested in are going to people with PhDs then that might be a sign that a PhD is warranted, but if that's not the case, then, well.... Fuck the PhD, do something that won't eat up half a decade on average.
  5. palindromordnilap

    palindromordnilap Well-Known Member

    The advice I've always heard in college was "Don't even think about getting a doctorate. If you're the kind of person to get one, you won't listen to this anyway."
  6. seebs

    seebs Benevolent Dictator

    getting a doctorate without a master's is fairly unusual. it can happen, but it's not common.

    note also that the exact impact of a degree at all can vary by field. so, like. which field?
  7. keltka

    keltka the green and brown one

    @Saro it's less "directly blocks part of field away from you" and more "partner thinks they might enjoy spending a WHILE fucking around with this stuff and studying it"
    the job path my partner's on, either one would be an asset and probably open up a few different options, but it's nothing like...necessary? also as a side note, the costs are very much in the bounds of what we can afford/save for fairly easily

    @seebs posted this a few replies up from you
  8. seebs

    seebs Benevolent Dictator

    ... Yeah I read very well.

    I think the other thing I'd point out is: A lot of people will treat a Master's degree as "a competent specialist in this field", and a Doctorate as "has proven ability to learn shit". A master's degree in linguistics means you are probably a competent linguist. A PhD in any field, plus saying "yeah i've been doing work in linguistics lately", also means that. Similarly, a PhD in linguistics is a lot more likely to be accepted as a proxy measure for other fields, I think?

    I don't think I've ever met someone with a PhD that I didn't think was competent-ish in whatever they were doing now, even if it was unrelated.
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  9. keltka

    keltka the green and brown one

    reading comprehension is The Worst so I get that

    I'll let partner know, I don't know what in particular might be the interest and/or how long they want to spend on it? I think it'll depend on the abilities needed in each or uh...the do? or studying? oh god I need sleep.
  10. spockandawe

    spockandawe soft and woolen and writhing with curiosity

    The biggest long-term hazard you might encounter with a doctorate is that in some fields it overqualifies you for positions. That varies a lot by job area, but it was a hazard I narrowly avoided in engineering, so it might be worth asking any professionals you can find about that
    • Informative x 1
  11. seebs' mom

    seebs' mom Yes, really!

    [I started this and then went away for a while, so please excuse possible overlap with intervening messages]

    It's dependent on EVERYTHING. There's no universal "More Right." I have the dubious distinction of having dropped out of two doctoral programs, nearly 30 years apart, and I don't regret anything -- neither having attempted them nor of leaving them when it was time.

    But one difference between then and now is that I didn't have to go into debt. Times have changed, and that should be a major consideration. How much will it cost? (Don't forget to allow for the opportunity cost of delaying full-time work for several years.) How likely are you to finish your program? (That's a characteristic of the program, as well as of your qualifications.) What are the job prospects in your field, for recent graduates of the specific schools you're looking at?

    "usually cheaper and easier" and "if you think you might want" are not good reasons for making such a huge investment, years of your life and more years paying off student debt.

    [Backstory: I graduated from college in 1960, a math major, and headed off to grad school in math. I hadn't anything else in mind, and my husband was doing that. Math departments needs lots of TAs, and our stipends were enough to live on. I barely scraped through prelims (I was good in math, compared to the general population, but pretty much an also-ran compared with people who were going to be mathematicians. So I had a master's degree, but I had absolutely no clue how one invented new mathematics. We were offered teaching jobs at St. Olaf -- that's how we ended up in Northfield -- and Arthur finished his dissertation, he got tenure and I did neither. Then we went to Zurich for his sabbatical year, and I had a baby -- that would be the person known to you all as Seebs. I started and ran a small printing business catering to the antique-car hobby (Seebs grew up with in a household with eight Studebakers). St. Olaf had an exchange program with East China Normal University in Shanghai, Arthur was due for a sabbatical in 1987-88, and since no other faculty member wanted to live in Shangahi for a year, I got to be the Foreign Expert. In preparation, I took a year's worth of linguistics and ESL graduate classes. When we got back, Seebs started college and I enrolled in the Ph.D. program in linguistics. On a whim, I applied for a job on the student newspaper, and to my surprise fell in love with it. I had a paper accepted for my masters, I just needed to do the literature review part; I sailed through prelims without a care, and I had plenty of material for a dissertation. Then the university closed the linguistics department in a fit of budget-cutting, I was head-hunted for a job as an editorial writer and opinion columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News, and two weeks later I was in California. Never finished the literature review, because it was boring and nobody cared anyway.]
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  12. keltka

    keltka the green and brown one

    @seebs' mom debt is not going to be an issue! well obviously we'll have to worry about costs, but we're in Canada and also it's HIGHLY likely that partner's degree would be fully or partially funded if she can Prove it's an asset (which will apparently be STUPID easy to do, at least by the standards of "how hard is it to get money for a thing")
    based on our calculations it would be "we'll need to save for this for a bit before, and probably be careful about spending during", but it might not even get to that point if it's 100% covered

    the field is linguistics OR translation OR the general languages region of things

    there are other details I could get into but would prefer not to in a widely open thread, but I can DM them! but the mostly add up to money (for this specific thing) isn't high on the issue list
  13. keltka

    keltka the green and brown one

    oof, okay, good to know. I think the department for one possible field at aux's old university is hella tight knit so we could ask around...
  14. Chiomi

    Chiomi Master of Disaster

    So, where I am, you apply for the Master's, and you can choose whether to take the terminal degree or do a thesis, and then after that you go on to a PhD if you do the thesis and want to. If they find a program that looks interesting, it'd be super worth emailing their official contact person.

    It's also worth seeing if there's anyone in the department she'd want as an adviser. I just spent this morning helping my adviser pack books in his office and when I was panicking about my numbers I called him and then went to his house to talk about it. You will end up working pretty closely with your adviser in a lot of cases, so you want to make sure there's someone who does the kind of work you're interested in and whom you can work well with.

    Also stipend and benefits in whatever institution. Stipends are generally enough to live on, if not super generous, and generally you'll want to make sure that funding is guaranteed rather than just likely.
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  15. keltka

    keltka the green and brown one

    so far it's looking like the answer might be "Masters, then see where it goes"! thank you all so much for your help, partner is Hella Hype about our five year semi-plan
    • Winner x 3
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  16. TheSeer

    TheSeer 37 Bright Visionary Crushes The Doubtful

    Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely talk to people doing the work you're interested in. There are fields where if you don't have a PhD you can't get through the door (scientific research) and there are fields where PhDs are only for teaching and no one intending to do the work gets one (library science) and everything in between. I don't know your field at all, so I have no way to tell, though from the way you're asking I presume you're sure a Bachelor's isn't enough for what you want.

    Also, while many programs would prefer you to commit to one path or the other, it is often possible to start on a PhD track but then stop with just a Master's (I did that), or get the Master's and then decide to keep going. A well-run department will have a written policy on that, which it is okay for you to review before formally accepting an offer to attend.
    • Informative x 1
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