The differences between a Master’s and a PhD explained

If you are thinking about graduate school, it is important that you know and understand the differences between a Master’s in your field and a doctorate or Ph.D.

Both of these degrees are obtained by attending graduate school and after obtaining a Bachelor’s degree but the two are very different in terms of the coursework that you will be required to do and job opportunities that you will qualify for after graduation.

Both degrees will help you to specialize in your field. Both provide coursework that will give you detailed training and education in your field but how useful each of these degrees is will depend on your career goals.

Generally, higher degrees take longer to earn which essentially means that you get more specialization with higher degrees. A doctorate takes a bit longer on average to earn than a Master’s so it may give you a bit more specialization.

A Ph.D. is essentially a research degree which means that you will be spending a lot of time researching and writing. Candidates for doctorates and those who have a Ph.D. typically look for careers that focus on research or instruction. They may work as professors in their field or go on to work for the private or nonprofit sectors in their field. A research doctorate is considered the highest academic degree that you can earn.

Depending on the doctorate program, students may be required to first obtain a Master’s degree before pursuing a Ph.D. The programs tend to be a bit smaller than Master’s programs meaning that there are fewer students involved in doctorate programs because of the nature of each specialization. Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) who look to broaden their professional horizons may learn on to get their Bachelor’s degrees in nursing and eventually study on for a Masters degree in Nursing as well.

Ph.D. candidates take courses, advanced seminars and design their dissertation research which leads to the writing of a dissertation and defending that dissertation. Failing to complete the dissertation satisfactorily could result in the Ph.D. not being awarded. If you feel like learning on to earn the highest possible degrees, you may well start out with getting your Bachelor’s degree through an online course and beat the competition and use this as a stepping stone for further specialization.

A doctorate can take up to eight years to complete while a Master’s takes anywhere from one to three years. A Bachelor’s degree is required to enter a Master’s program and the coursework and program requirements are a bit more relaxed than those of doctorate programs. In order to successfully complete a Master’s degree program, a Master’s thesis is required, depending on the actual program.

Students attend courses and seminars and those who complete a thesis are required to research, write and then defend their thesis. Some Master’s programs use exams and final projects in place of the Master’s thesis so it depends on the school and the program topic whether or not a student will be required to design a research paper based on their topic of study. Later in their career, when they’ve gained a lot of experience in their field, they may even go on and pursue an MBA degree. Nowadays, there are great online options for earning an MBA so students won’t be required to quit their jobs for some time.

Which degree is best really depends on the student. If you are planning to gain as much education and experience as possible in your chosen field then a Ph.D. may be your best choice. If you prefer to hit the workforce as soon as possible but still want a graduate degree, a Master’s may be the better choice. Online study options are also great to earn a Master’s or Doctoral degree, but please bear in mind that online study is definitely not for everyone. You will need to further research your options and learn more about what degrees are considered the best in your specific field of study and what delivery system (online or on-campus) is best for you.