I am about to finish a master’s degree in data science/analytics. (Yes, I realize these are all the rage now, but let’s leave that alone for now.)

I have enjoyed the program and have learned quite a bit. However, I feel that overall the program is a survey of analytics/ML/AI techniques and there was little opportunity to truly dig deep into any of the topics that were covered.

I would like to find a way to continue my formal education and perhaps do some research, or at the least do a much deeper dive, into a more narrow field of study. However, I don't believe that a PhD program is right for me. I'm a father, a husband and a full-time employee. I'm not willing to give all of that up to pursue a PhD. (In retrospect, perhaps a thesis option in the masters program would have been appropriate, but it's too late for that.)

Is there something out there that's between a master's degree and a PhD?


3 Answers 3


I'm kind of in the same boat - I'm getting an M.S. Analytics but I'm in my first semester instead of my last and I am just so... undecided. Second masters? (edit: multiple advanced degrees is not as uncommon as you'd think) Ph.D? Statistics or Computer Science? On the bright side you shouldn't have any trouble getting good recommendation letters if you want to go the formal route.

I'm eyeballing UT Austin's upcoming online Computer Science M.S. via EdX (estimated 10k tuition total but hasn't launched yet). There's also the pricey but IMO high quality earn-your-way in Harvard Extension School where I'm eyeballing the Software Engineering Masters. A lot of our alumns and even PhD's I know really like coursera.

One strategy I use because I'm poor is scope out the textbooks in use at the programs I want to be in and just read them. It's almost 2019 no one can stop you from learning :)


I will answer your question in a few ways. First, I applaud you for your self-awareness because that's extremely important in your pursuit of personal and professional goals. Secondly, I have worked in higher-education for the past five years or so and have experience with this particular case. In your case, you could reach out to your local university and see if you can take courses as a visiting(non-degree seeking) student. Or you can see if a certificate in your field is offered at the graduate level. If you're not seeking to take the next step in academe, you can pursue a certificate. A certificate will give you additional knowledge and possibly a raise in pay in the work-force.

Also, it may be possible that your employer will pay for additional coursework (tuition reimbursement).

It is quite possible that you could network with people in your field, in your area and begin working to gain experience.

I'm currently at the beginning of my doctoral program in Education Administration and I am seeing the importance of placing yourself in the right crowd of individuals. You will learn a lot and gain a lot of valuable information when you are leveraging your education with people that are at your level or beyond.


Outside of what Lauren has suggested (auditing higher level courses, attaining a certificate, and networking with others in your field), I'd suggest a few more things. You mentioned that your program provided an overview of a number of subjects, but didn't go into a lot of detail. I'd start by assessing my weak areas and look for opportunities to build on those. If your coursework was heavy on theory and light on practical skills like programming, you might consider coursework or private study in that area. You don't necessarily need to pursue a certificate to do it, but it does provide documentation of your effort.

What are your interests and do they align with any of your instructors? If so, you might approach them about assisting them with their research or how you might extend research they've done in the past. If you are interested in getting published, be sure to iron out what would constitute authorship and how you can fulfill that prior to starting. Perhaps your interests are not academic -- find an open source project that you can help out with.

You might consider what have you built lately. If there's an area that has your attention, there's nothing better than trying it out. Besides, a project in your portfolio shows that you can do something and is sometimes better than having a degree or certificate. If the majority of your portfolio comes from your work towards your degree, depending upon the complexity of it, you may want to put more effort here. Also, do you have a GitHub account and is your work there?

Ironically, I'm asking myself these same questions. I'm also in a Masters degree program for Data Science and set to graduate at the end of this semester. Would also like to go on for a Ph.D., however, I have other obligations that are just as important.

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