My ultimate goal is to get a PhD and get into academia. I have two options in front me:

  • 1 year MS at a university (whose department ranked #3 in world). The tuition is funded but there's no stipend for the spring semester (there's stipend for fall semester). But, one PI (unofficially) confirmed I can TA a course by him and that would give me enough living expense.

  • Regular PhD at a university whose department ranking is #18. They are paying me very high stipend + fellowship + tuition is funded.

Except the "ranking" and "school prestige" everything else seems to be same - The PI at both the university are quite famous in the field, I personally felt very connected with their research, the cities both are very nice to live in and any other factor I can think of.

Even if I don't get funded during my MS (which is very less likely) I would still be able to sustain myself. My doubt is here - This fall I had a very good admission cycle with multiple offers, what if I don't get good PhD offers after doing MS? Is it really worth taking the risk only for "university prestige and ranking"

  • 5
    I wonder about the precision of that linear ranking. If both PIs are respected and you think you could work equally well with both, perhaps take the guarantee of time and money. Mar 22 at 22:20
  • Agree with the above, but also: is this a field/country where you typically go straight from BS to PhD, and getting an MS will introduce complications? Or is this is a field where the MS is typically done separately from the PhD?
    – cag51
    Mar 22 at 23:25
  • This is US, in the first uni, direct PhD are rarely offered in the dept. In second, PhD admits does a masters on the way
    – Ziz
    Mar 23 at 15:46

1 Answer 1


There is less difference than you might think between #3 and #20 in terms of quality or any "boost" to your career. My advice is to ignore that distinction altogether and just choose on other grounds.

In the US, there is no need and might be some disadvantage to doing a masters at one place and then moving to another for a doctorate. In particular, if you have to pass comprehensives, then the masters might done elsewhere might not have prepared you as well as would have occurred if you start in the doctoral institution.

The value scale is yours, of course, but for most people, funding and knowing you don't have to apply yet again is a big plus. It also gives you a chance to shop around that faculty for the best advisor. With a masters you have less opportunity for that if you want to or need to start research quickly.

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