Looking for advice on making a decision between studying for a MSc degree versus PhD. My thoughts are going around in circles to the point of decision paralysis. The main contingency is that I am reliant on government loans in either case.

  1. PhD: I have a very specific research proposal of my own design that I desperately want to work on. As a self-funded student, I would have the unusual luxury of academic freedom. Owing to financial circumstances, I would need to work part time & study part time over 6 years. The main problem is that I don't know if or when the government doctoral loan will be rescinded. A snap election could overturn this policy As such, the uncertainty makes me inclined to apply asap as doctotal accreditation is extremely important for my professional development. However, my project would require intermediate coding skills including machine learning. At present I have taken beginner level short courses online.

  2. MSc: Computer Science or Bioinformatics. This would give an intermediate grounding in coding necessary for my PhD project. Again, I would need to study part time, over 2 years. Since PhD completion rate is only 75% or so, a Masters degree is a safer option as a bridge to doctoral study. However, I don't think it's likely that the current doctoral loan will still be available in 2 years' time. With the state of the global economy, I think it's impossible.

Should I (a) risk taking multiple online short courses in coding & apply to the PhD program (b) study a Masters and risk never being able to pursue my specific research question or never studying at PhD level?

I know you may think either way it's a significant debt burden but I am not looking to ever start a family or own a home, I just want to pursue Science.

Best wishes



From my personal experience. Which is (working from 17 years old, doing studies and work together). I have a Bachelor, Msc and now i am a Phd Candidate (i am at 3rd year and my phd will take a lot more time with my current progress rate).

Firstly i would like to point out that your answer is clearly personal. Also you must consider if you want to follow academic career or go to industry.

I understand the financial difficulties you might face but if you want my opinion, i would suggest you to take your Msc first. Why?


  1. It is much more easier than a Phd. ( I tell to my friends i would do 2 Msc in 4 years than 1 Phd in i dont know years).
  2. Msc will open your mind. You will take a pick, about 20% ( of what a Phd is).
  3. Also i condider working experience is much more better than academic. In your case you need money. It would be better to take the Msc, find a job and then after you take a little bit taste you will consider if you want to follow academic or industrial career.

I would continue to tell you more reasons, but i think you should go for Msc. You will also learn how to write papers etc etc. It will make your Phd (If you follow after) much more easier.

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  • Thank you, that is probably wise counsel. – Asymptotic_Tri Oct 18 '19 at 6:56
  • @Asymptotic_Tri I can say 100 reasons and more. And for last it is better to take a Msc, cause you have to face the probability of NOT completing the Phd for many reasons....... And this will make you feel guilty. Take certifications step by step. – George Stavrou Oct 18 '19 at 7:36
  • Thank you, I think you are right & I will take your advice. If I try running before I can walk with programming I am liable to fall flat on my face lol. MSc will be a bridge & also I can use it to try out my research proposal in a safe environment. So if I get the chance to study my particular research question in more depth in the future, I will know the likely scope & stumbling blocks in advance. Thanks for your reply. – Asymptotic_Tri Oct 19 '19 at 8:18

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