I am not an American citizen but wish to pursue my degree in America. I am currently enrolled in a bachelor's program and I am expected to graduate in 2020. Do I need do a master's program in America to pursue PhD ? Or there is direct enrollment ? (In my country the understanding is first you do a bachelors then a masters and then pursue PhD. My area of interest is Virology.

  • What do the institutions, who have the program(s) you want, offer?
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 31, 2018 at 12:25
  • So I was just surfing web on elite American colleges. I found that almost all of them offered PhD and not Masters. It talked of GRE and TOEFL scores
    – user37060
    Jul 31, 2018 at 14:12
  • For example Harvard
    – user37060
    Jul 31, 2018 at 14:12
  • So what do you expect now? Decide which one you want and make sure you meet the requirements...
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 31, 2018 at 14:16
  • 4
    It's important to distinguish between MD programs (that qualify you to be a physician), PhD programs (that qualify you for research but not the practice of medicine and make it difficult to do some research that involves interaction with patients), and MD/PhD programs that qualify you for both roles and for research directly involving patients. Jul 31, 2018 at 14:43

2 Answers 2


For a student in the U.S. system, the common academic route to PhD admission in biomedical sciences is to obtain a bachelors degree and then to apply directly for PhD programs. For competitive programs, research experience is very important for applications, and so many applicants do additional research in between their bachelors degree and PhD applications: working in academic labs, participating in post-baccalaureate programs, or sometimes participating in a program that offers a masters degree (particularly if you are taking a more interdisciplinary route), but the masters degree is not usually a strict requirement for a PhD program in biomedical sciences.

Masters degrees are uncommon as a goal in biomedical sciences, and many institutions do not even offer them as a program that accepts applicants. Instead, masters degrees are sometimes awarded to PhD candidates who choose to end their studies early, or they consist of add-on programs (almost like a more developed 'minor') meant to accompany a PhD and are applied for simultaneously. Of course this can vary with the exact institution, and varies in other fields.

For a student outside the U.S. system, things can be more complicated. As discussed in the comments by BrianBorchers, U.S. institutions vary in how they treat bachelors degrees completed in other countries. A 3 year program (an actual 3 year program, not a 4 year program completed early) may not qualify. In that case, your best option may be to get a masters degree in the educational system you got your bachelors degree in, but this is something you should discuss with individual programs you may be interested in applying to in order to find out their specific rules: there is no guideline that will apply to every school or every program. Alternatively, programs may instead have a course of study in mind that you will have to have completed before your application is considered: it will be more important that you can show you have completed those courses in your studies rather than the specific length of your degree.

Most major PhD programs in the U.S. are going to have a web presence with rules and admissions requirements posted, as well as support staff for the program. You should read these as thoroughly as you can, and then ask additional questions to the staff.


You want to be a researcher and not a physician? Yes, there may be direct enrollment for bachelor's degree recipients into Ph.D. programs. When you begin in your final year, check the web pages for Ph.D. programs of interest to you to see what the requirements are.

  • I wish to pursue a career in development of anti viral therapeutics but not actually work with the patients themselves. Is it true that in America you need to have 4 years bachelors ?
    – user37060
    Jul 31, 2018 at 14:11
  • 1
    There's a separate question about whether a 3-year bachelor's degree is sufficient to get into graduate programs in the US. Some programs require a 4-year bachelor's or a master's degree and won't accept a 3-year bachelor's degree. Jul 31, 2018 at 14:41
  • @BrianBorchers What is even the difference? I did a 4-year degree in three years. Where are there programs defined as 3-year? Jul 31, 2018 at 23:03
  • I'm not trying to defend the practice, just saying that some universities in the US treat 3 year bachelors degrees from countries like the UK and India that have 3 year bachelor's degrees as not equivalent to a 4-year bachelors degree from a US institution and require students to have another year of higher education (e.g. a UK honors year or a master's degree) before admission to their graduate programs. Jul 31, 2018 at 23:18
  • My bachelor's degree is 3 year program. What kind of 1 year course could I do ?
    – user37060
    Aug 1, 2018 at 12:04

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