For most people, a bachelor’s degree just isn’t going to be enough. You might be able to scrounge up a job with it if you’re lucky, but for most people that just won’t cut it especially when you look at the current state of the job market. Given all that, it makes sense to invest more time in your education by going post-graduate, which will offer you not only valuable experience in your field but also allow you to choose your specializations in said field.

During those years where you plan out your postgraduation journey, there are two words which you will come across the most-Masters and PhD. Now, there’s a lot of questions in regards to those two words-what exactly are they? What do they entail? Is it better to do one or the other?

In this article, we’ll be going through all of the basics in regards to those two terms and answer the most frequently asked question of them all: should you study your Masters first or immediately jump into a PhD?

What are they exactly?

PhD

As stated before, both the Masters and PhD have a lot of overlapping similarities in terms of functions-their main goal is to serve as postgraduate education intended for you to expand your knowledge on the field and show employers in the job market that you really mean business. Let’s say, for example, you pursued a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. All well and good-almost everyone nowadays seem to be talking about how that major is a good money maker-but whereto from here? Sure, you could probably get a decent paying job as some coding monkey at some obscure company somewhere, but what if you want the jobs that come with prestige and a fat paycheck? The software developer position at Apple? The machine learning expert at Google? Well then, that’s where the postgraduate education comes into play. You take it, you expand and your knowledge and choose your specialization-software development, artificial intelligence, machine learning, whatever-and then you graduate with your new degree and title that’s sure to impress any employers you will come across. While there are a lot of differences between Masters and PhD, the important one for now is the time it takes to be completed; Masters take about a year or two while with a PhD you’re looking at about five to seven years.

What experiences do they entail?

Masters

Ok, so I’ve talked you off about what postgraduates are and why people take it but the question that people are mostly interested is; what is taking a postgraduate degree like?

One thing you should know immediately is that postgraduate and undergraduate education are completely different beasts altogether. Don’t think just because you breezed through your bachelor’s degree that you’ll fit right into a Masters or PhD program. There’s a lot of radical changes to the program that can slap you in the face if you’re not mentally prepped up for them.

-Differences between bachelors and Masters:

  • Niche and specialized content: As stated before, masters programs are more suited for those looking to specialize in their field. So it’s unsurprising that masters degrees tend to be more focused on one particular area of a subject.
  • More flexibility: I cannot stress this enough. The time management aspect of bachelors and masters programs might as well be white and black. In bachelors, you don’t really have a lot of freedom-you’re given a schedule, you’re expected to follow that schedule and damn you if you can’t. With a masters program, however, it is the exact opposite. Your schedules don’t have a fixed time frame-hell, most of the research you’ll be doing will be completely on your own time. As a result, masters are much more flexible than bachelors.
  • More intense and faster-paced: This one’s a given. A master degree is half the length of a bachelor degree so naturally they’re going to burn through the material a lot quicker to get it done.
  • Smaller class sizes: Not everyone will be into the same specialization as you. Expect a smaller class size. Also expect the social aspect of university to die down a bit in your masters stage, if you care about that type of stuff.
  • Cheaper: Again, this is self-explanatory. You’re doing less years, so you pay less money. Depending on whatever scholarship or financial aid you get, you might not even need to pay money at all.

 

-Differences between Masters and PhD:

  • Time: Masters degrees only take about a year or two to finish. Most PhDs take about six or seven years.
  • Structure of learning: Master programs usually consist of courses followed with a single semester dedicated solely for a thesis. PhDs also have the courses, except that their thesis is a three to five year long dissertation. Expect to be doing a lot more research.
  • Geography: Those intending to study in America should note that most postgraduate programs deal solely in PhDs, not Masters. For those who want more options with Masters, check out European programs.
  • Cost: Masters may be cheaper than bachelors, but you still have to pay for them unless you find some financial aid. PhDs, on the other hand, tend to almost always have their financial fees waived by whatever university you’re at, as well as a living stipend offered by the university to the student.

Should I take a Masters or PhD?

Now we’re getting to the real important questions. Some students are looking at their life path and they don’t really know if it’s a Masters or PhD program which would fit them best. Given all the information we have gone across I’d put it like this:

PhDs is what you should take if:

  • You want a field in academia-research, teaching, all that stuff.
  • You are very much into research and the idea of discovering answers to particular questions.
  • You are truly committed to this endeavor and willing to spend years of your life dedicated to the craft, despite whatever obstacles or roadblocks you may come across.

Masters is what you should take if:

  • You want to continue studies in your field, but aren’t as passionate/dedicated to it.
  • You want to develop your professional skills for a more white-collar type job in the market.
  • You want more freedom and flexibility to do things other than study-relax, take up hobbies, get a part-time job, that type of stuff.
  • You are willing to pay upfront costs for your postgraduate education.

To simplify it all, the PhD is for the bonafide egghead while the Masters are for those who think its just a paycheck.

And there you have it-everything you need to know about Masters and PhD in order to make an informed decision. If you’d like to do more research on the matter (or just university stuff in general) be sure to check out Udrus.