Master’s vs. PhD
The most pressing question to answer when considering graduate school is whether to complete a masters degree or continue through to a doctorate. Several things need to be kept in mind before making this decision.
Amount of Time
Any educational degree will require an investment of time. A student going to school full-time can expect to complete a master’s degree in about two years; a doctorate, on the other hand, will require at least four years to complete.
Not only does a doctorate take more time to complete than a masters degree, programs will often cost more. Of course, the cost of a doctorate is off-set for many by the expectation of a higher salary upon completion. In either case, a student can expect to pay standard school costs, such as books, tuition, and fees.
Debt Load & Financial Aid
While financial aid is available for both master’s degrees and doctorates, those working toward a doctorate need more financial help because the program’s length. Most master’s students can find scholarships to defray the costs. For the doctoral student, research grants are available.
Graduate schools are competitive and highly demanding. Students taking a full course load are still expected to teach classes, grade papers, and make ends meet at home. The same level of commitment is expected of masters students and doctoral students, though the doctorate does require more perseverance, since it takes much longer and can be more expensive.
Masters’ degrees are career-oriented while doctorates are research-oriented. Those who want a raise at work would be better suited with a master’s degree. Those who lean towards research and academics should aim for a doctorate. Both masters and doctorate degrees do allow specialization in a field of study, making it ideal for people who want to gain a new proficiency, or who have worked a long time in a particular career and want to advance.
Both masters’ degrees and doctorates can be earned through reputable online programs. Both master’s degrees and doctorates, however, are labor intensive and can be costly. Any school offering a degree for very little money and no work is likely too good to be true. Research any online school or degree program before signing on the dotted line.
More often than not, entrance to a doctorate program will require a completed master’s degree, ideally in the same or related subject matter. Some programs may offer programs or curriculums that allow students to simultaneously work towards both, but these are rigorous and highly demanding. Additionally, some credits in a master’s program may be applied later to a doctorate program. For those who enjoy research, want to teach, and hope to make a meaningful contribution to human knowledge, they should consider a doctorate.
Many students will continue on to a doctorate degree immediately following the completion of a master’s program, especially if they wish to teach at a collegiate level. Many others will not pursue a PhD, if they wish to jump into a career rather than academics. For those who hope to gain proficiency in a chosen career, change jobs within a given field, or win a promotion, a master’s degree is the better choice.