A little background on myself:

  • I am a senior in undergrad with a major in Neuroscience and Cognitive science and minors in biochemistry and math.

  • I switched my major fairly late and I never got the opportunity to work in a research lab, but I have a decent GPA (3.54) with a few outreach/community program participations.

  • I want to apply to Neuroscience and Psychology PhD programs, but I'm kind of unsure if it is a waste of time and money since I have no
    research or lab experience.

I'd like to know if it's a better option to pursue a master's first (which I really would like to not do) or if there is a better route.

  • Are you in the US or elsewhere? More important, where are you applying? US or elsewhere?
    – Buffy
    Sep 17, 2021 at 10:29
  • I am in the US applying to schools in the US
    – Simi
    Sep 17, 2021 at 11:17

1 Answer 1


Actually, applying to doctoral programs from a bachelors is the standard way to do it in the US. There isn't, normally, a lot of benefit of taking a masters first.

Most undergrad programs, with some exceptions, don't provide serious research experience, so it isn't normally expected. It is a plus if you have it. But the admission system is very broad based.

The first couple of years in a doctoral program are mostly advanced coursework leading to comprehensive exams. A separate masters may help you avoid that, or not, but it depends on a lot of factors. Better to stay in one program that is designed to get you to the point of doing the research that the doctorate requires.

Normally, comprehensives assure that you have a sufficiently deep knowledge of the general field that you don't necessarily get as an undergraduate. Hence, the advanced coursework.

Some doctoral programs start you out earlier with research so that you have the basic techniques down. Some will give you a masters along the way, perhaps just by asking, perhaps by writing a thesis.

One advantage of this path is that you have quite a lot of experience and contact with the faculty by the time you need to choose a research advisor for your dissertation. Having the right advisor is a big plus.

Some lab sciences are a bit different, but if they permit applications from undergraduates it is still the best course of action for most.

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