This is fairly inconsequential, but I'm not sure how people typically count years for graduate studies. In my case, having an MA means that I have fewer years to do in the PhD program. This is physically my first year at this particular university, but would I technically say I'm a 3rd year still?

Edit: This would be at a university in the US, although in my case, my MA was done in Canada.

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  • Was your MA done at the same institution? – E.P. Sep 6 '18 at 17:24
  • In what country? In most places a Master's degree is a pre-requisite for a PhD. – astronat Sep 6 '18 at 17:24
  • ... but more importantly: does it really matter? – E.P. Sep 6 '18 at 17:33
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    Why are you asking, is there something you're only eligible for in you nth year? – Azor Ahai Sep 6 '18 at 17:46
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    If I go back for a second PhD, would I start as a 7th year? Seems strange. – Austin Henley Sep 6 '18 at 17:54

This does indeed seem quite inconsequential, but usually first year would imply that it's the first year you're enrolled in graduate studies at that particular institution, or even a given program. In my experience, phrases like "first year, but I came in with a masters" get used if there's a need to make that distinction.

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    I'd add that if someone said they're a third year student, I'd expect them to know where to get whiteboard markers, how to use the printer, departmental folklore, which courses are good, etc. Obviously, these are things you don't learn from doing a masters elsewhere. – Thomas Sep 6 '18 at 18:38
  • @Thomas Yeah, that's a good point. There's always someone who will surprise you though... – Anyon Sep 6 '18 at 21:58
  • Yes, of course, not everyone gets to know the place. The point is that, in my understanding, "being a third-year student" corresponds to having spent at least two years at the current institution, as opposed to being a student generally. For example, suppose I you say you're a third-year student and then I ask you where the nearest stapler is. If you respond with "I don't know, I'm new around here", then I will think you misled me by saying you're a third-year student. – Thomas Sep 6 '18 at 23:18

This may also depend on your program. For example, where I did my PhD, coming in with a Masters (usually an MPH rather than an MA) didn't actually get you much of a "boost". Those that came in with Masters were in the same classes I was (I entered with a BA) and their time-until-graduation was roughly similar.

In that context, "Third Year" would imply several things about their progress in both coursework and various administrative milestones that weren't true.

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