While you’re working on deciding whether or not to go to grad school, you also need to consider if you should go for your M.S. or for your Ph.D.
There are a couple things to consider here.
- What’s your end goal?
Again, you have to have some idea for what career you want at the end of this. Make sure you know what degree is right for this career. Maybe having a Ph.D will make you overqualified (if you’re lucky, maybe having a master’s will).
- So you need a Ph.D. – straight through or Master’s first?
Let’s start this discussion with me saying, I skipped my Master’s. I’m not saying this is the best option- but it’s the one I chose. For example, I recently found myself listening to someone I respect a lot telling me that getting a master’s first is really the better thing to do. (Kind of awkward, yeah?)
When I applied to graduate schools, I applied to both master’s and Ph.D. programs. I knew I wanted my Ph.D. in the end, but I was completely comfortable getting my M.S. first if I didn’t get into a Ph.D. program. The way I saw it was that I was going to be getting 2 more years of an experience, another 2 years of learning.
The things this respected person was saying, was that they graduated with some publications from their Master’s and that gave them an edge in their Ph.D. Also, that a M.S. is a good way to figure out if you want to continue on to get your Ph.D.
If your goal is to remain in academia, and you know for sure that’s what you want to do, then getting a Master’s before your Ph.D. isn’t a bad option. If you just want a Ph.D to work somewhere else, then maybe getting in and getting out with a degree quickly is more important to you and you’ll want to focus on getting into those Ph.D programs.
Getting out quickly isn’t that important to me. However, I ended up getting into a Ph.D. program in the best possible place I could imagine for the field I’m in. So I went with it. It’ll depend on your situation, but don’t write off getting a Master’s – even if you know you want your Ph.D. in the end.