What are the Differences Between a Masters Degree and a PhD?

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We recently called your attention to the Campbell Doctoral Fellowship. That has led some students, practitioners and others to ask about whether they should pursue a Master’s or a dissertation. Here’s the bottom line.

from Campus Explorer

The progression of degrees in the United States goes as follows: diploma, certificate, career training associates degree, transfer associates degree, bachelors degree, masters degree, doctoral degree and professional degree. Each progressive degree is designed to provide the student with a greater amount of knowledge. Despite this, not everybody needs to obtain the highest degree level in order to be successful in their career.

Before the differences are outlined, let’s talk about the similarities between a masters degree and a PhD. Both are programs that are designed to provide you with a higher level of education in the field. In these programs, you apply the information that you learned to tangible reports or projects, depending on your major. In both graduate programs, you will be required to put in a greater amount of effort into your homework, research papers and projects than you did during your undergraduate education. Long gone are the days when you could sleep through class and get by with rote memorization tactics. In graduate school, it’s essential that you come to class prepared, with all of your work completed, ready to significantly contribute to the class discussion. In essence, it should be treated like a job. Your passion and sheer enjoyment of the subject is important whether you are getting a masters degree or a PhD. After graduation, both degrees will give you a better advantage over an undergraduate when applying for a position. Admissions to Masters Degree and Doctoral Degrees Programs Applying to any graduate program is going to be competitive. However, a PhD program is more competitive than a masters degree program simply because it requires a greater amount of work and time to complete. In order to make yourself stand out in either program, make sure you highlight your commitment to the field and do the best you can in your undergraduate studies. The amount of financial aid received is greater for a PhD candidate than a masters degree candidate because the time requirements are so much more intensive, that the government, schools and private organizations want to reward those students for taking on a higher level of commitment. Also doctoral programs are typically more expensive than a masters degree program, and warrant a greater amount of financial aid. There are two types of assistantships in grad school: a research assistantship and a teaching assistantship.

In both positions, the student is hired by a faculty member to assist them with teaching or research. They are paid a small stipend from the school that helps to decrease the cost of their tuition. It is more common for a doctoral candidate to receive an assistantship than a student in a masters degree program. Time Requirements for Masters Degrees and Doctoral Degrees The most basic difference in a masters degree and a PhD is the amount of time it takes to complete your degree program. A masters degree can be completed in two years if you are attending school full-time, while a PhD can last anywhere between five and nine years. The time commitment directly correlates to the amount of work you will be doing in each program. Careers Paths for Earners of a Masters Degree and PhD Many people pursue a masters degree in order to advance in their current careers, or to switch careers completely. A student may pursue a PhD to advance their career, but usually they are in the program in order to complete original research. They are expected to contribute new knowledge to academia with their findings. As a result, a masters degree is more geared toward students who desire more credentials and knowledge for their chosen profession, while a PhD is for academics who are excited about contributing original research to their chosen field. Graduate students who leave school with a PhD are typically going into a field of research, or plan to teach higher education.