To be (a Ph.D. student) or not to be (a Ph.D. student)

I kind of like the simpler Shakespearean form of this question - to be or not to be. However, lately it's been the phrase that titles this post which I've been thinking about. This issue is one that needs to be dealt with fairly shortly.

  • I won't have to take classes in January if I stay a Master's student, but if I do transfer then I think that I have a few more classes to finish yet before I get past that bit of the Ph.D.
  • Skipping a Master's degree is more risky - what if you decide later that you don't want to go through the hassle of getting a Ph.D.? There'd be no Masters degree to fall back on
  • Skipping the Master's degree means skipping the hassle of investigating and applying to other graduate schools
  • Transferring to the Ph.D. program would mean one flowing through one less school
  • Doing a Ph.D. can allow one to explore more research areas
  • If memory serves correct, statistically the average person with a Masters is making more money than the average Ph.D.-holding person
  • Not getting a Master's degree on the way should speed things up as there's one less thesis to write.
  • Transferring to the Ph.D. program would mean not having a shorter thesis as a "practice round" prior to a doctorate.
  • It's more common in places like Britain to do a Ph.D. straight away after the Bachelor's degree, but from what I've heard doing a Ph.D. straight away is relatively unusual in North America.
  • With a Ph.D. you run a higher risk of being considered overqualified when job-hunting
  • May need to worry more about funding my studies if I do a Ph.D. later somewhere else.


If "more school" was really an issue with you, I don't think you would already be in Graduate School. I think you should get your Master's, and then the question becomes whether to go for the Ph.D. right away or work for a while and make some money.

I think what Scott said is right... that just seems like a better long-term option. Plus you may think that more school is frustrating but let's face it: You are used to being in school enough to go to Grad School, plus you've always expected to go far enough to get a Ph.D. AFTER your Masters. I don't see any overwhelming reason to change your plans now.

Well, from someone who skipped the Master's degree, I would say you're in better shape than I was in that you are at least asking all of these questions. I don't recall it being much of an issue for me. I knew I wanted the PhD, and since I was married, and we were expecting our first child, I wanted it sooner rather than later. Best wishes in your decision-making!

r0sigma -