Going to graduate school is a huge commitment. You are essentially putting off making money to extend your college years. Of course, it is much more than just that. Grad school is about learning more about complex problems and getting ready to tackle these problems when you eventually leave. So the question is, what grad degree do I want? A Master’s or a PhD?
This blog post will primary deal with research grad degrees. There are many professional doctorate degrees that you can get, but I won’t really touch on them. These include degrees in law and medicine. Here is a good reference to see the other professional degrees that are out there. I honestly didn’t know there were so many. I want to deal with either getting a master’s degree or going for the prestigious PhD! Actually, a master’s is pretty prestigious as well.
Which to choose?
This question should be on everyone’s mind when applying to grad school. What do I want to do and how will a graduate degree help me in the future? These questions are actually much harder than you think to answer because things change. One day, you may just want to make a ton of money so you apply for a master’s to get a pay increase. Another day, you want to work on really cool research for the rest of your life so you think “maybe a PhD is the right path for me!” I have been in both scenarios, so I know how difficult it can get.
First off, you need to decide what your ultimate goal is. For engineering, getting a PhD is almost overkill. Rarely do you see engineers getting doctorates unless they want to teach or do research. Many companies turn away engineers for getting a doctorate. It’s sad, but true. This is why getting a master’s in engineering is way more common than getting a PhD. You will get a pay increase and won’t really be turned away from engineering projects. But say, you are a biologist, getting a doctorate may lead to you become the lab manager at a well funded laboratory. Getting a master’s in biology won’t cut it, so you can see how you need to decide on your ultimate goal to make the decision for you. Find what you’re goal is and that can help decide what is best.
For the money
If you are in it for the money, I would say it’s probably best, in many cases, to just go for a master’s degree. Master’s degrees are usually 1 to 2 years of coursework and then you are free to call yourself a master :). You can often find that many jobs require a master’s degree and you’ll definitely have a competitive edge on everyone else. Plus, a master’s in some fields will get you a huge pay increase compared to just having a bachelor’s.
Going for a PhD may not be the most lucrative. Yes, you will get paid while in grad school, but hardly enough to survive. Some fields, such as engineering show that getting a PhD won’t really make you much more than having a master’s. Here is an article that shows the difference in pay for bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and PhDs. You can see in the table that many times getting a master’s degree is worth it for money and many times getting a PhD is better. Heck, sometimes just having a bachelor’s was enough.
I would say, if you are going for the money, getting a master’s is enough. Going for a PhD requires a lot more than passing exams and doing it for the money may cause you to be disappointed later on. There are other reasons to do a PhD that will be discussed.
For the Love of Research
If you are like me, you love, love, love research. I mean, I am constantly thinking about it, sometimes even when I am actively trying not to. If you have this mindset, a PhD is the right path for you, 100%. a PhD is all about pushing the boundary of knowledge and learning how to do independent research. A master’s can also accomplish this too, but often it is so fast that you don’t learn all of the skills you need to be a successful researcher.
This is a great path to go on if you absolutely love the field that you are in. You kind of need to love the field you are in so you don’t absolutely hate the next few years of researching that topic. If you don’t absolutely love the field you are in, I would highly suggest that you do not do a PhD. There is a reason why I have a whole blog on how to go through a doctorate program and reduce the effects and chances of a mental illness. It is hard work and exhausting.
What type of career do you want? Do you want to work in the academic field or maybe you want to do industry work? So for an academic job, especially being a professor, you’ll need your doctorate. If you want to just be a teacher, getting a master’s is perfectly fine and encouraged. The more education and knowledge, hopefully the better teacher you become. Also, if you want to teach at a community college, you will need at least a master’s.
Say you want to do industry work, a master’s is completely fine. You will find many job postings that you will be perfect for. Getting a PhD may be overkill for some jobs, as stated earlier. Also, getting a PhD may close the doors for some jobs that you may have wanted to do. It doesn’t mean that you can’t work in industry if you have a PhD, you will just be working on some other jobs. Some of these jobs you didn’t know existed.
For those that have gone to grad school, what degree did you get and what was the reason you went for that specific degree. For me, getting a doctorate was the right choice for me because I want to go into the research field after college. I tried engineering but research really stood out to me.
As always, I hope everyone found this blog to be insightful or at least just fun to read. If you haven’t read my blog about feeling stuck while doing experiments, go check it out here.