Can I get a masters degree and a doctorate at the same time?

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Some doctoral students decide to pursue a second masters degree from a department other than their own. Although this can be advantageous, as it offers students more in depth training in a subfield and also expands networking opportunities, doctoral students should also be aware of any additional tuition costs and the extra coursework. You should carefully consider your options and reasons for pursuing a second masters degree en route to a PhD, which in itself is rigorous and demanding.

Pursuing a masters degree en route to a PhD

All doctoral programs award joint masters degrees to students as they pursue their PhDs. Some students, however, decide to pursue a second masters degree in a department other than the 1 in which they are receiving their PhDs from. For example, some students enrolled in doctoral programs in economics decide to simultaneously pursue an MBA. Others enroll in accredited online masters programs while they also pursue doctoral studies. Most students who choose en route options receive masters degrees in fields related to their original research.

Application processes for en route options differ, depending on departments and institutions. Some schools require doctoral students to go through the same application process as other applicants, while others have separate application processes for students who are already pursing their doctorates at the same school.

For example, Duke University has a distinct application process for doctoral students who want to simultaneously pursue a masters in economics. For these applications, doctoral students are required to write an essay that explains why they want to pursue another masters program in a different department other than their own and what the intellectual and professional connections are between these 2 fields. They also need to submit their transcripts and 2 letters of recommendation.

Pros and cons to earning your masters and PhD at the same time

Students who pursue an additional masters program while they pursue a doctoral degree often have a more specialized and narrow focus. For example, students who pursue a PhD in economics and simultaneously pursue an MBA program will most likely focus their doctoral coursework and training in business related issues. This can be advantageous for several reasons, including that it gives candidates more specific training in their respective fields.

Pursuing a second masters degree can also widen a doctoral student’s networking options, especially if the secondary field is not directly related to their doctoral work. On the other hand, pursuing a masters degree en route of a PhD can be overwhelming as it frequently takes time and work away from students’ original focus in their doctoral program. Even if the second masters degree is in a related field, students often find it difficult to simultaneously finish coursework in a masters and a doctoral program.

Making your decision

You should pursue a second masters degree en route to a PhD if the second degree relates to your doctoral program and if there are cross-listed classes in these 2 academic or professional areas, as this will allow you to complete both degrees faster. You should also pursue a second masters degree if it supports and expands upon your current research and adds other professional opportunities related to your primary academic or professional field.

Students should be certain that pursuing simultaneous degrees will not interrupt or change their funding packages if they are receiving full funding as doctoral students. If you need to pay substantial tuition fees in order to pursue an additional masters degree, you should rethink your options since you will not be able to work part-time to help pay for additional tuition costs.

Lastly, you should only enroll in a second masters program if it allows you to pursue training and coursework that is not available to you as a doctoral student in your original department.