Post-grad studies like a master’s or doctorate degree are valuable assets for any professional. They raise your market value, open up career opportunities, and boost your confidence, among many other advantages. However, for many post-grad hopefuls, choosing which program to take is the first major decision they face. The endless debate of Masters versus Doctorate remains a popular question for experienced professionals looking to get that extra edge in the workplace or meet their career goals. At face value, the difference between the two seems negligible. Both offer the benefits of postgrad studies such as impressive opportunities and valuable knowledge to any prospecting professional. However, the comparison really isn’t as complicated as it seems. When deciding, ask yourself these three questions.
Do I have the time?
Anyone taking post-graduate education should be ready to commit time and effort into their degree. However, a master’s degree has a significantly shorter program length, ranging from one to three years. On the other hand, committing to a doctorate degree demands a staggering three to seven years. Program length is not the only consideration you need to make for time. Bear in mind that you will also need to account for the hours of work and research you need to complete your course requirements, on top of your day job and daily responsibilities. A master’s degree often requires a thesis dissertation, which entails plenty of hours spent researching and data-gathering. While a doctorate degree would require twice the amount of time, as completing the program requires passing a comprehensive exam as well as completing a dissertation.
Do I have the funds?
While your post graduate studies are an investment towards better opportunities, they are also a big financial decision. A master’s degree can mean up to three years of tuition fees, while pushing through with a doctorate is additional seven years on top of the prerequisite master’s. Depending on your career trajectory and field, a master’s degree can be more than enough to give you a competitive edge versus your peers. Don’t rush and play it smart.
Pro Tip: Take your time. You don’t have to shut your doors to a doctorate degree from the get-go. If at some point in your master’s program, you decide you want to keep going towards a doctorate, you can work towards achieving it. Just be sure to set aside the funds you need and start saving even while you consider your decision.
What are my goals?
One of the main differences to consider when choosing between a master’s and a doctorate degree is its scope. A master’s degree typically takes a broader lens on your field, providing useful theories that hold true for most professionals in your industry. It equips you with necessary skills and knowledge that lends a competitive edge against other professionals in your general field and rank. For some disciplines and fields of study, a master’s degree is the highest academic degree available in their field. This is especially true for fields of study such as art or literature. There are three main types of degrees to consider: research, professional, and terminal.
A research master’s allows you to explore academic pursuits through your dissertation findings. A professional master’s is a degree that qualifies you for practice in your profession in fields like education and engineering. Finally, a terminal degree equips you with the highest academic degree in your field – giving you the authority to teach students that are studying your respective field.
Because of its broadness, master’s degrees also tend to be more versatile than the highly specialized approach of doctorate degrees. This provides better career advancements and opens up channels for you to seek guidance from your program professors, who are seasoned experts in your industry.
A doctorate degree takes a more focused approach to your discipline, allowing students in the program to conduct in-depth research into topics that can contribute to the existing knowledge and conversations within your industry. A PhD is also necessary for practice in highly specialized professions, such as doctors and lawyers, who earn the titles of Medical Doctor and Juris Doctor respectively upon their program completion.
We hope these three questions helped you understand the difference between a master’s and a doctorate degree better. Take your time, explore your choices, and remember that it never hurts to ask your mentors and peers for guidance!