One of the most common questions we receive from clients is whether they should pursue a Master’s degree or a PhD. This decision depends on multiple factors and is highly individualized, depending on both the professional goals and life circumstances of the client. In this post, we demystify the decision, by discussing the key differences between Master’s and PhD programs and offer additional tips to help you decide which to apply for.
Master’s Degree vs. PhD
|Time||1-2 years||3-8 years|
|Cost||Varies based on program, $30-70K/year x 1-2 years||Varies based on program, $30-70K/year x 3-8 years|
|Career Opportunity||Usually mid-level||Highest level of study, greatest opportunities for leadership positions in academia or industry|
|Protected Time for Research||Varies, traditionally 10-20% of your time||Varies, traditionally 60%-90% of your time|
|Salary1||Varies, $56k-$109k (median range)||Varies, $68k-$122k (median range)|
A note on salary. Earnings vary widely based on your graduate degree course of study, your prior experience, geography and the sector that you are working in once you graduate. Salaries are different in academia, the public, private, non-profit sectors. The career office of your target graduate program is a good source for salary information of recent grads. Professional groups and academic associations are other sources you can look to for salary information.
The biggest differences between a Master’s Degree and PhD are the time commitment, research training, and job prospects. Pursuing a PhD, while more time intensive, offers additional and rigorous training in academic research, a highly marketable skill for both academia and industry. While the cost can be substantial, do not let it be a deterrent for either degree program. There are often several scholarship or teaching assistantship opportunities available for interested students.
If you are still uncertain about which path you should pursue, ask yourself what your ultimate professional goal is. Have you ever wanted to “be the expert” on a topic, advance knowledge in a particular field, or become a college professor? If so, getting a PhD may be the right next step for you. If, however, you want additional training in a topic but do not want to engage in intense scholarly activity for several years, perhaps a Master’s is the best step.Still feeling anxious about your decision? Need help with your Master’s or PhD Application? The Art of Applying® is here to help. Our experienced team of consultants have trained at the top academic institutions in the world and more importantly, are dedicated to your success. To learn more about how we can help, schedule your Quick Call with our team.