I was just wondering why most graduate programs in the US have no Master's programs. They mostly are PhD programs. Why is this the case? After obtaining an undergraduate degree from a Canadian university, what would be your advice about going straight to a PhD in the US? Do you gain the same knowledge en route to the PhD as you would in a Master's program or would it be more beneficial to do a Master's elsewhere first and then apply for a PhD?

  • 1
    Because US PhDs typically have one or two years of coursework leading to a Master's before you start research, so you don't need a Master's beforehand. – astronat Jul 27 at 23:39
  • 2
    I'm not sure it is even true. Lots of places award Master's. But many of those are awarded to doctoral students along the way. – Buffy Jul 27 at 23:42
  • 1
    Many math programs offer master's degrees as well as Ph.D.s Some students enter intending to get only a master's degree. Others enter intending to get a Ph.D. but decide at some point to stop at a master's degree. – GEdgar Jul 28 at 0:16
  • 1
    Many programs offer master’s degrees but prefer Ph.D. Students and admit very few students into the master’s program. – Brian Borchers Jul 28 at 4:47
  • 2
    Something that no one seems to want to say is that a master's degree in pure math is useless for anything other than doing a PhD in pure math afterwards (apart from the advantages that come from having a master's degree in any field whatsoever). – user2357 Jul 28 at 6:52
up vote 4 down vote accepted

If you are acceptable and accepted in to a doctoral program there is no reason to earn a Master's degree first. Many universities will give doctoral student a Master's along the way. For some (maybe not many, but I don't know anymore) there is nothing special to do but to ask for it. In my case I wrote a thesis, though not of the depth of a doctoral thesis.

If you earn a Master's at one institution you may actually have a problem in that what you did doesn't match up well with the requirements of the doctoral program you apply for later. This could actually slow you down. If you want both, it is advisable, if possible, to earn them from the same institution, perhaps with an "automatic" Master's along the way.

But for some, who don't want or need a doctorate for what they intend to do, a Master's can be earned. Some HS teachers do this. Some people are just not convinced that they want the commitment of a doctoral program after undergraduate. A doctoral program is a much bigger commitment than a Master's of course.

  • 1
    Mine was also a "got it when I asked for it" situation. Technically speaking I was awarded my Master's one semester before I got my doctorate. I'd completed the requirements years before that, but had just never filled out the paperwork. The department also had good funding, and so admitted everyone as a Ph.D. track student to give them a TA position. Even the students they "knew" were probably only going to earn a Master's. – zibadawa timmy Jul 28 at 0:11

Your Answer


By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.