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I applied for both masters and Ph.D. programs in the USA. I got rejected from all the masters programs because they were from a higher tier. The only Ph.D. program I got into is a low-tier university where I do not think I would be able to get rigorous coursework. So, I am thinking of applying next year again to only masters programs.

The professor that I am going to work under if I go the Ph.D. way is someone that I have worked with in the past and he is aware of my current predicament. He doesn't mind me quitting the Ph.D. program after one year if I can get a better masters admission. He just wants me to focus for a year and publish a couple of papers. The main intention behind this is that I would gain some research experience in a field that I am interested in and also complete coursework.

My thinking: I feel that publishing a paper or two would help me secure a better masters program if I apply next year. Moreover some of the credits that I do can be transferred saving me time.

My question: Is my thinking correct? Will the one year of Ph.D. work affect my masters application in away? Will the effect be positive or negative?

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My understanding is that there is an older generation of researchers that would raise their eyebrows at quitting a PhD to join a masters for reasons of prestige. So that type of person might not like this.

Now here are the facts of the case:

  1. You have the support of your PhD advisor to do this, that is the single biggest piece of support you could possibly have. At this point any concerns are much more minor. If you don't get into your target masters you have the option to NOT leave the PhD and try again another year.

  2. Applying for a Masters is going to be less scrutinizing than applying for a PhD. The type of person who might say "oh well they are already doing a PhD somewhere, transferring institutions like this is just not done!" is much less likely to be reviewing masters applications. Moreover most masters degrees are fee paying or at most scholarship offering, they don't pay a salary the way a PhD does so it is unlikely that this will be an issue. It will be strange though so you need to make sure you have a good statement of purpose explaining this decision to apply to a masters. It would make more sense if the masters was in a different field than your PhD.

It is worth noting, I know at least a couple people that have switched PhD programs in the middle of their program. So if that is possible there's no reason you can't change to a masters.

Now the question you need to ask yourself: You have a good/honest and open relationship with your current advisor. Is it really the case the two of you can't do good research together?

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  • Thank you for your answer. It clarifies a lot of my doubts :) May 16 at 11:22

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