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Posted: 2/26/2007 6:21:09 AM EST
[Last Edit: 2/26/2007 6:25:32 AM EST by MagKnightX]
If one intends to get a Ph.D., specifically in one of the hard sciences, is it generally advisable to try to get the M.S. first, or to apply straight to a doctorate program from the B.S.? As in, does having an M.S. give you a higher consideration over B.S.-holders in the admissions process and provide a better educational background?

Specific example is, if I can keep it together and don't suddenly start bombing out, I'm still considering between M.D. or Ph.D.-bio (both interest me a lot and I feel I could manage either, and I have a few years to work out which one, but anyway...), so I'm looking into Ph.D. programs. Most mention going in with either an M.S. or a B.S., but none mention whether they'd recommend having the M.S. or not.

Just curious.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 6:23:08 AM EST
I have no idea.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 6:23:40 AM EST
I have no idea. Just get both. Problem solved.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 6:40:54 AM EST
Having gone the M.Sc. PhD route, I recommend the MSc first. It gives you experience in research and defending a thesis. If done right, it should take no longer since a typical science Ph.D takes 6 years. If two diverse research projects are done, that will show your not too much of a specialist. Your plans may also depend on your post-graduate path, academic or industry.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 6:45:12 AM EST
There are very few PhD programs in hard science that accept those with only a single BS. Forget BA.

Link Posted: 2/26/2007 6:46:49 AM EST
On your way to a PHD, if you happen to get the MS degree, then you have the option of quitting whil you are ahead......
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 6:48:05 AM EST
[Last Edit: 2/26/2007 6:53:53 AM EST by KangarooAR-15A3]
Here in the states is a bachelors in Political Science a BS or a BA?

I got my degree overseas, they call mine an Undergraduate Licence Degree in Economic And Social Sciences...

ETA:

It is actually a combo of a BA in International Relations and one in Poli Sci.

My post was a bit of a joke.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 6:54:14 AM EST
[Last Edit: 2/26/2007 6:55:33 AM EST by The_Macallan]
It depends on the individual, the lab you're working in and the area of study. Myself, I entered under the Master's program and then switched to the Ph.D. program after about a year. Plenty of folks get their Ph.D. without first getting their Master's. One positive thing about getting the Master's first is that it allows you a quick "out" if it looks like funding is lacking, your goals change or if your mentor turns out to be a jerk to work with.

What's the field?

btw... one thing that really shocked me when I went into graduate school and even in the post-doc was how MUCH petty-politics and personal grudges dominates scientific research. I was naive.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 7:07:01 AM EST
[Last Edit: 2/26/2007 7:07:14 AM EST by NY1911guy]
Thesis programs for MA and PhD are very similar. If you can prove to your thesis advisors and department heads your thesis is capable of a PhD intensive program, a prior MA is not necessary.

When I got my MA there were 10 people in a MA program and 6 seeking their PhD. Two of the PhD candidates had no prior MA.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 7:32:27 AM EST
Are you asking about getting a MS somewhere and then applying to the PhD program somewhere else, or are you talking about at the same school?

If at the same school, I doubt there would be much difference between the two tracks. It might be the case that it's easier to get into the MS program and switch to the PhD later than getting into the phd program from the very start. The best way to find out is to do your homework and talk to the chair or other advisors and students first. You should basically know before you even apply where you stand and what you are getting yourself into.

And btw, check out Phds.org and click on the school rankings section. It's pretty helpful.

Personally, if my goal were a Phd, I would try to go straight into the program at the school you want to get it from. I got my MS and then later decided to go back to school elsewhere while working in between. That was a mistake- I ended up forgetting most of the material and I basically had to start all over again towards the Ph.D. now.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 7:54:58 AM EST

Originally Posted By MagKnightX: Specific example is, if I can keep it together and don't suddenly start bombing out, I'm still considering between M.D. or Ph.D.-bio (both interest me a lot and I feel I could manage either, and I have a few years to work out which one, but anyway...), so I'm looking into Ph.D. programs. Most mention going in with either an M.S. or a B.S., but none mention whether they'd recommend having the M.S. or not. Just curious.
Which one(s) will your employer pay for? See, it's quite simple. If they won't pay for anything, get the one that costs you the least amount of time and money so you can go back to earning a living instead of paying for someone else's living.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 10:03:36 AM EST

Originally Posted By Rockdoc:
Having gone the M.Sc. PhD route, I recommend the MSc first. It gives you experience in research and defending a thesis. If done right, it should take no longer since a typical science Ph.D takes 6 years. If two diverse research projects are done, that will show your not too much of a specialist. Your plans may also depend on your post-graduate path, academic or industry.


Most likely academic.


Originally Posted By Keith_J:
There are very few PhD programs in hard science that accept those with only a single BS. Forget BA.



Believe me, I wasn't even considering BA. Spent about ten minutes last night mocking GMU's BA-Bio program with my science-major friends. I didn't even know you could get a BA-Bio. A BA in a science sounds like about the most useless degree you can get outside of, say, Women's Studies.


Originally Posted By The_Macallan:
What's the field?


Biology. Don't know what specialty.


Originally Posted By marklbucla:
Are you asking about getting a MS somewhere and then applying to the PhD program somewhere else, or are you talking about at the same school?

If at the same school, I doubt there would be much difference between the two tracks. It might be the case that it's easier to get into the MS program and switch to the PhD later than getting into the phd program from the very start. The best way to find out is to do your homework and talk to the chair or other advisors and students first. You should basically know before you even apply where you stand and what you are getting yourself into.

And btw, check out Phds.org and click on the school rankings section. It's pretty helpful.

Personally, if my goal were a Phd, I would try to go straight into the program at the school you want to get it from. I got my MS and then later decided to go back to school elsewhere while working in between. That was a mistake- I ended up forgetting most of the material and I basically had to start all over again towards the Ph.D. now.


Different schools. The college I'm at is likely where I'd go for an MS if I got one, but doesn't offer Ph.D. bio.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 1:38:58 PM EST

Different schools.


I'd definitely recommend that you talk to the people at the potential PhD school and ask about transfer credits, prelims, Comps, etc. Some schools would want you to retake everything with them to make sure you learn the material "correctly." Basically, just make sure that you're going to be getting credit for everything you do for the MS and that you don't have to retake anything.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 1:48:20 PM EST
I thought about getting a masters and/or PhD, but when I entered college I had 12 years of public government education, toss in 1 or 2 more for Kindergarten, that's 14 let's say, then 4 more of college for the Bachelor's degree, that's 18 years of school when you're about 22 years old.


My thinking was I don't want to spend the rest of my life going to school and having homework!

So I got my bachelor's degree and then got a job
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 1:56:33 PM EST
In the US, a Pol Sci degree can be a BA or BS depending on whether you take more languages or statistics, but the grad degree is an MA. Nothing wrong with MA degrees. Unless you are in the sciences.

On a side note, a prof of mine was talking about how it was wrong to give aid to other countries and attach conditions. She asked me if I thought it was right for a lender to take my choice of Political Science under consideration when they lent money. I told her that they certainly should.

<-------- Will be a great waiter some day.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 6:07:39 PM EST
I'd decide where you want to go and then optimize based on that.

Where I went (social sciences), my department had a strait-thru PhD and it was the way they liked to do things. You could get a MS anytime by submitting paperwork and a short research paper.

Another social sciences department on the same campus does things differently. They prefer a strait-thru PhD but if you get a MS it is almost as good as a PhD from some other departments.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 6:18:09 PM EST
[Last Edit: 2/26/2007 6:19:14 PM EST by fatk1d]
Look, I don't know about your specific question but as a holder with a BS degree in mathematics, I can offer you some advice. If you can at all stand it, at least enter the Masters program in the area of study you are pursuing.

I didn't. I regret it. Why? Well, a BS in mathematics is great and it can open a lot of diverse doors for you into the job market. However, I've found that with a BS degree, you're eventually going to wind up with a "routine" job with very little chance of getting into more "interesting" work later on.

I was oblivious to this fact because at the time that I graduated with my BS in mathematics, the IT field was booming (1996) and there were plenty of opportunities for interesting pioneering work in the field. Put another way: it wasn't boring. Now, the entire field as settled down and the tasks that I find myself doing are mundane and procedural. There's very little room for innovation unless you happen to know the right people (at least in the corporate world). I'm not saying that there are no more jobs available, I'm saying that all of the jobs left out there are driven by best-practices that have been refined since the beginning of the IT boom.

There are a lot of new technologies coming out, sure. But, anyone who's half-conscious can (or they think they can) program in Java, design web pages, fiddle with access control lists and the like. I guess I'll stop here, I'm beginning to rant. I'm just incredibly bored with my current position.

How would having an advanced degree make things more interesting? Well, I'd certainly have a lot more options ... Teaching at a University, moving to applied research, working on interesting projects for the .gov perhaps? I think you get the point. If you can at all stand it, I'd say go for it. I'm certain there are those out there who would disagree with me and that's OK. I'm just giving it to you from my side of the fence.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 6:21:41 PM EST

Originally Posted By KangarooAR-15A3:
Here in the states is a bachelors in Political Science a BS or a BA?

I got my degree overseas, they call mine an Undergraduate Licence Degree in Economic And Social Sciences...

ETA:

It is actually a combo of a BA in International Relations and one in Poli Sci.

My post was a bit of a joke.


I begged UF for a BS in Political Science just so I could go around telling people that. Alas, there's a BA on my wall...

Here's the new question: now that everyone calls a law degree a Juris Doctor, can I be Dr. So and So in 2.5 years? teehee
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 6:34:25 PM EST
Hmm.. I'm graduating with a BBA (Finance) this semester, but back when I was in the College of Liberal Arts (econ major), most if not all of the liberal arts departments did not offer MA terminal programs to anyone other than special cases like people interested in becoming secondary school teachers. Everyone else was required to enter into a program that was PhD terminal in which you would be awarded an MA after a few years. Not sure if the College of Natural Sciences is different. The business school offers BBA, MBA/MPA, and PhD programs.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 6:37:47 PM EST
If you can't set my broken leg, you ain't no doctor!
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 6:45:01 PM EST

Originally Posted By MagKnightX:
If one intends to get a Ph.D., specifically in one of the hard sciences, is it generally advisable to try to get the M.S. first, or to apply straight to a doctorate program from the B.S.? As in, does having an M.S. give you a higher consideration over B.S.-holders in the admissions process and provide a better educational background?

Specific example is, if I can keep it together and don't suddenly start bombing out, I'm still considering between M.D. or Ph.D.-bio (both interest me a lot and I feel I could manage either, and I have a few years to work out which one, but anyway...), so I'm looking into Ph.D. programs. Most mention going in with either an M.S. or a B.S., but none mention whether they'd recommend having the M.S. or not.

Just curious.

My experience is second hand--I have a BA in Poli Sci, but my wife is working on a PhD in Pharmacology. Her department is one of the top ranked in the US, and she was admitted with just a BS. Would a MS have made here a stronger candidate? Probably, but it didn't matter. On the other hand, she was not accepted to the School of Public Health at the same university, in which most of the applicants had advanced degrees, so I guess the answer to your question is it depends on the school and program you are interested in. In this case, the school of medicine was top twenty, and the school of public health was top two in the US.

For a MS degree, would you have to pay tuition? My wife is getting paid (not much though) to attend the PhD program. That was a definite plus in my book, even if it will take her longer to finish.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 6:45:19 PM EST
This question should be directed to the people actually dishing out the program(s) you are looking at. Check for credit transfers and recognition of prior work before diving into a Masters.

If you are currently at university, check with some department heads that you know. Get their advice and move from there.


I am in the "I might get a PhD later" crowd so my Masters will be history by the time I get around to making the big decision. Chat it up with contacts you have at prior/current academic institutions.


- BG
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 6:46:04 PM EST

Originally Posted By fatk1d:
How would having an advanced degree make things more interesting? Well, I'd certainly have a lot more options ... Teaching at a University, moving to applied research, working on interesting projects for the .gov perhaps? I think you get the point. If you can at all stand it, I'd say go for it. I'm certain there are those out there who would disagree with me and that's OK. I'm just giving it to you from my side of the fence.


Well, as it stands, I definitely want to go for a doctorate, though as I said I'm currently majoring Bio with a pre-med track and trying to decide between going for an M.D. or a Ph.D. bio. Leaning more and more towards forgetting about med school and going for biology every day, but anyway... I know a lot of faculty at my current college teach a few classes and perform research as well... for example, my current bio professor teaches intro to bio II and invertebrate zoology, and according to his faculty profile "is currently using molecular and morphological characters to reconstruct the phylogeny of metazoan taxa" (for those not too up on biology, he's using biochemical and body-shape similarities to rework animal organism grouping; i.e. family, order, etc.; looking up articles, I find several published with his name (J. M. Turbeville), but they all seem to be from different universities... could be him, might not).


Originally Posted By 103:
I begged UF for a BS in Political Science just so I could go around telling people that. Alas, there's a BA on my wall...

Here's the new question: now that everyone calls a law degree a Juris Doctor, can I be Dr. So and So in 2.5 years? teehee


They weren't J.D.s already? Oddly enough, my mother's first degree was a J.D. (she got accepted into law school before finishing undergrad, which I'm sure is not common, but she was very determined to finish fast and pestered them until they let her do so). But generally, I don't think J.D.s are called "doctor" unless they teach. I think. And isn't LL.M. higher than J.D.?
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 6:49:38 PM EST
My friend is taking on a Ph.D in computer science with just a BS, but the BS is in physics where he graduated summa cum laude, plus did a year of grad study at Carnegie-Mellon and a lot of industry work experience.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 6:50:49 PM EST
It is fairly easy to get into a graduate program. I was accepted into several and I did't exactly have a 4.0 GPA. Do either a masters or a PhD, not both. The best thing you can do to get accepted is to have some actual lab experience. A year of 10 hours a week real experience will probably get you farther than a M.S. or a 4.0 GPA. Talk to your professors about getting some bench experience.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 7:07:39 PM EST

Originally Posted By MagKnightX:

Originally Posted By fatk1d:
How would having an advanced degree make things more interesting? Well, I'd certainly have a lot more options ... Teaching at a University, moving to applied research, working on interesting projects for the .gov perhaps? I think you get the point. If you can at all stand it, I'd say go for it. I'm certain there are those out there who would disagree with me and that's OK. I'm just giving it to you from my side of the fence.


Well, as it stands, I definitely want to go for a doctorate, though as I said I'm currently majoring Bio with a pre-med track and trying to decide between going for an M.D. or a Ph.D. bio. Leaning more and more towards forgetting about med school and going for biology every day, but anyway... I know a lot of faculty at my current college teach a few classes and perform research as well... for example, my current bio professor teaches intro to bio II and invertebrate zoology, and according to his faculty profile "is currently using molecular and morphological characters to reconstruct the phylogeny of metazoan taxa" (for those not too up on biology, he's using biochemical and body-shape similarities to rework animal organism grouping; i.e. family, order, etc.; looking up articles, I find several published with his name (J. M. Turbeville), but they all seem to be from different universities... could be him, might not).


Originally Posted By 103:
I begged UF for a BS in Political Science just so I could go around telling people that. Alas, there's a BA on my wall...

Here's the new question: now that everyone calls a law degree a Juris Doctor, can I be Dr. So and So in 2.5 years? teehee


They weren't J.D.s already? Oddly enough, my mother's first degree was a J.D. (she got accepted into law school before finishing undergrad, which I'm sure is not common, but she was very determined to finish fast and pestered them until they let her do so). But generally, I don't think J.D.s are called "doctor" unless they teach. I think. And isn't LL.M. higher than J.D.?


Greta van Sustern (sp) has an LLM.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 7:21:46 PM EST
B.S. to MD, but limited to Internal Medicne(?) B.S, M.S opens more doors.
Link Posted: 2/26/2007 7:25:58 PM EST

Originally Posted By BUCC_Guy:
This question should be directed to the people actually dishing out the program(s) you are looking at. Check for credit transfers and recognition of prior work before diving into a Masters.

If you are currently at university, check with some department heads that you know. Get their advice and move from there.


Good advice.

Also, if you can, talk to people who have been through the programs you are considering.

Good luck.

Mark (BS, MS, PhD)
Link Posted: 2/27/2007 6:04:31 AM EST

Originally Posted By Keith_J:
There are very few PhD programs in hard science that accept those with only a single BS. Forget BA.



Wrong. at least for anything in bio-science. I went from a BA to a PhD. Many other people did too. Having a masters will be a help in admissions, but its not all that common. It also really depends to which schools you are applying.
Link Posted: 2/27/2007 10:43:51 AM EST
Also, If I were you I'd carefully consider your job prospects. As an MD at least you have an almost guaranteed job (though dealing with tons of BS and questionable pay). Currently in bio-science jobs are hard to get and academic funding is getting to be nonexistent due to lack of NIH funding by the fed gov. Perhaps in 5+ years when you get out it will be better. However realize you will not be making any money during grad school or your postdoc (~8+ years) and you may well end up with student loan debt. And then entry level bio-sci positions (assist prof/starting researcher) are at best like 50k and do not go up alot unless you get real lucky. I've seen plenty of people become "perma-postdocs" that make less than 50k a year and work 12hr+ days for the privildge. It isn't really all that rosy and it isn't getting better since academia is pretty much "full" and the commercial and govt sectors are too. What you will hear is alot of rhetoric about not having "qualified" people etc. to do science. Realize that this is BS from companies to enable them to raise H1B visa limits to get cheap labor. When I talked to the VP of Mercks R&D program he said they were having trouble finding PhD's in pharmacology who also had veterinary degrees (My immediate thought was "Really? No shit? You can't find people who have been in school for 15+ years getting degrees that have little to do with each other? I'm shocked.") I told him as much.

Anyhow, if you have questions I just recently graduated with a PhD in the area you are looking at, so if you have any questions let me know.

Link Posted: 2/27/2007 11:53:19 AM EST
[Last Edit: 2/27/2007 11:55:57 AM EST by MagKnightX]

Originally Posted By Harlikwin:
Also, If I were you I'd carefully consider your job prospects. As an MD at least you have an almost guaranteed job (though dealing with tons of BS and questionable pay). Currently in bio-science jobs are hard to get and academic funding is getting to be nonexistent due to lack of NIH funding by the fed gov. Perhaps in 5+ years when you get out it will be better. However realize you will not be making any money during grad school or your postdoc (~8+ years) and you may well end up with student loan debt. And then entry level bio-sci positions (assist prof/starting researcher) are at best like 50k and do not go up alot unless you get real lucky. I've seen plenty of people become "perma-postdocs" that make less than 50k a year and work 12hr+ days for the privildge. It isn't really all that rosy and it isn't getting better since academia is pretty much "full" and the commercial and govt sectors are too. What you will hear is alot of rhetoric about not having "qualified" people etc. to do science. Realize that this is BS from companies to enable them to raise H1B visa limits to get cheap labor. When I talked to the VP of Mercks R&D program he said they were having trouble finding PhD's in pharmacology who also had veterinary degrees (My immediate thought was "Really? No shit? You can't find people who have been in school for 15+ years getting degrees that have little to do with each other? I'm shocked.") I told him as much.

Anyhow, if you have questions I just recently graduated with a PhD in the area you are looking at, so if you have any questions let me know.



As far as student debt goes, M.D.s aren't exactly deficient in that area. I've never heard of a medical assistantship, and medical schools are usually very, very expensive. You have no surplus time to have a job, either... from what I understand, it's incredibly rare to graduate medical school with less than $50,000 debt.

Anyway, medicine is actually looking less appealing to me and biology more and more, which would present a problem with medical school... personally, I'd rather have a somewhat lower-paying job in a field I very highly enjoy than a higher-paying job in one that I don't like so much. My father has provided a direct example of somebody who went for money instead of enjoyment, and he doesn't even make that much money for the area we live and he absolutely hates his job.

If you don't mind my asking, what school did you get your doctorate from? What specialty? Just curious, really.

Thanks for the info.
Link Posted: 2/27/2007 12:02:06 PM EST
For hard sciences you can go straight through if you're very sharp and focused. But the MS route is typically safer.

You'll start off a PhD program with a bunch of academic classwork that mostly parallels the MS classwork. Since you'll be in almost all the classes anyway, the only delta is doing an MS thesis, and that's a good dry run for the PhD thesis. It gets you introduced to the researchers, and if you wind up with a total asshole for a thesis advisor the pain is shorter lived for an MS. It also gives you a relatively safe escape hatch if you decide more grad school isn't for you, and you can eject after two years.
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