I went to a non-PhD awarding university for my CS master's degree applied to the medical field. I treated the research very seriously and tackled multiple existing problems and original research. My thesis ended up being around 100 pages of high-quality content. I also have 3 technical peer-reviewed publications from the work and 5 medical peer-reviewed publications from the work. In my undergrad, I also had an additional 5 publications (although only loosely related to work or not at all). Additionally, I performed so well in my masters that they made an exception for me to teach as a full adjunct professor instead of a teaching assistant while I was still in the last year of my master's program (despite the master's degree being a requirement for adjuncts at the university). My students got higher scores on their final common exam than all other permanent professors.

This brings me to some questions:

  • Given my research experience, teaching experience, and publications, how would this impact a potential PhD thesis?
  • If I did a PhD, how long should it take to complete?
  • Could my experience have awarded me a PhD if I went to a PhD-awarding university?
  • Are you targeting any particular countries? Ones that require a master's before a PhD generally are 3-4 years while the US, even if you have a master's, usually require coursework so 5-7 years.
    – mkennedy
    Jun 25, 2023 at 15:35
  • My apologies for the ambiguity. I am looking to consider a US PhD.
    – Riley K
    Jun 25, 2023 at 16:02
  • My best publication in the most prestigious journal is taken directly from my MA thesis, so...
    – user354948
    Apr 10 at 12:51

1 Answer 1


That's a very impressive master's thesis performance! Generally, PhD's are supposed to be for the work you complete during the program, so on some level it won't contribute directly to your PhD. However, if you seek out the right advisor/program, you likely could graduate at an accelerated rate. Some things to consider for judging if this will be an option:

  • What course work does a program require?
  • What sort of qualifying exams do they require?
  • Is your advisor willing to support a continuation of your master's work?
  • Does your advisor/program value your master's work?
  • Is your advisor/program open to you graduating at an accelerated rate?
  • Would they consider continuations of your current work that are published during your time at the new institution as contributing towards your PhD?

Generally, the time to complete a PhD based on your current experience will rely a great deal on the answer to these questions.

Depending on the program, it's not out of the question that your work could already have warranted a PhD had it been done at a PhD granting institution with the support of the PhD program. That said, it's far from a given, based on your description and on how PhD programs vary from institution to institution. You can't let yourself be too disappointed about these things -- no work is every perfectly evaluated.

Although this does not directly address your question, I think it's very important to consider the question "why am I getting a PhD"? If your goal is to maximize your chances of becoming a professor at a top university, you likely will not want to graduate rapidly so that you can enhance your application. On the other hand, if there's some job you want that requires a PhD and can otherwise obtain, it may make sense to try to accelerate as much as possible.

  • Thank you for the thorough answer. I am just considering the option of the PhD, but I haven't looked at any particular places yet. I did enjoy teaching as a professor, but I am leaning more toward industry research positions requiring a PhD. It would be nice to retreat back as a professor once I cant keep up with the fact pace of industry.
    – Riley K
    Jun 25, 2023 at 16:03
  • "If your goal is to maximize your chances of becoming a professor at a top university, you likely will not want to graduate rapidly so that you can enhance your application." I disagree with this. There may be a step in between, however the CV of a clearly gifted young candidate with a good number of publications already will only look better if they also did their PhD quickly, assuming it turns out well. Jun 26, 2023 at 10:17

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