In the USA, many universities enroll PhD students with BSc degree. I think this is the classical scheme, which remained in the US universities. In many countries, it is almost impossible to enroll in a PhD program without MSc degree.

I am curious how is the trend for MSc programs?

At least in the USA, do more universities allow PhD enrollment with BSc degree or those allowing are shifting to MSc requirement?

  • I'm not super familiar with the mechanics, but I always heard that the master's degree was traditionally the "booby prize" awarded to students who had failed to complete the PhD. Apr 20, 2014 at 4:49
  • @PaulProgrammer: Not so, in most of the cases I know. Stopping at MS is often the additional-study-but-not-pure-research path, engineer rather than scientist. And in some fields, an MS is considered a Terminal Degree.
    – keshlam
    Apr 20, 2014 at 15:46
  • 1
    PaulProgrammer, with regards to master's degrees being "booby prizes" that's pretty rich for someone with an MBA listed on their website resume. ;-)
    – grauwulf
    Apr 20, 2014 at 16:33
  • 1
    @PaulProgrammer Maybe in the US, but it's generally impossible to get into a PhD program in Europe without having your master and doing your PhD is really only done by the small handful of people who actually want to go into research. Having a PhD won't help you much if you're looking for a job outside of research or academia.. having instead 3 years of actual work experience will be much more valuable.
    – Voo
    Apr 20, 2014 at 20:00

3 Answers 3


At least in my field (mathematics), every US PhD program I know of accepts students with a bachelor's degree. I see no sign of this changing.

  • 5
    Same in computer science.
    – JeffE
    Apr 20, 2014 at 1:27
  • 2
    Same in physics.
    – user1482
    Apr 20, 2014 at 3:34

In physics, doctoral programs typically admit students with bachelor's degrees. Some programs will award a master's degree partway through, usually upon completion of coursework and successful defense of a research proposal. A master's degree is also a graceful way for a student who wants to leave a PhD program early to do so.

  • I disagree with the statement that a MSc is some kind of a door prize. I'm sure that this does happen but I don't think that it is set up that way. A certain amount of coursework is required as a part of the doctoral evaluation. A subset of which generally overlaps with the requirements for the related master's degree. Conferring the master's just recognises the work that has been done.
    – grauwulf
    Apr 20, 2014 at 16:30
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    I didn't mean to imply that an MS is a "door prize." There are respected programs in physics that end in a master's degree, and some students leave one doctoral program with a master's because they are interested in working with a professor somewhere else. However students who get an MS and PhD from the same department typically earn both degrees for research on the same topic.
    – rob
    Apr 20, 2014 at 16:45

In the field of biology they don't require a Master's. When I interviewed with top Universities, it was pretty uncommon for the candidates to have a Master's degree. Everyone did have a Bachelor's though.

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