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Is it tough to get funding for a Masters in the USA/Canada? My undergraduate CGPA was 3.94, and I graduated last month, but I don't have any publications yet. My thesis was on VLSI, but I want to shift to data science for my Masters. I know that a Ph.D. has a lot of funding, but I don't want to commit to a long process of 5/6 years. So, will it be very difficult as an international student to get funding for a Masters and to shift fields?

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  • In what field? In mathematics, there tends to be a lot of funding sloshing around to pay TAs (since math departments in the US teach a lot of "service" classes). It is relatively common for there to be funding in the sciences (as there tends to be a fair amount of grant money running around), but this is often more closely tied to individual lab directors or researchers. In the arts and humanities, you might be very much out of luck, depending on where you are looking to go. Jul 20 at 21:24
  • It should also be noted that (a) very few American institutions expect incoming masters (or phd) students to have any publications, and (b) you can always apply for phd programs, and "master out" after two years (this is not universally possible, but is common to the point of ubiquity). Jul 20 at 21:25
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    @XanderHenderson, TA funding goes to doctoral students. Almost exclusively.
    – Buffy
    Jul 20 at 21:27
  • @Buffy Depends on the institution. At my masters institution, I was fully funded as a masters student. At my phd institution, masters students had better funding packages. Both in mathematics. Again, math departments tend to have a lot of undergraduate non-major students, hence a lot of money to pay TAs. But it is another variable to consider, I suppose. Jul 20 at 21:28
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    @XanderHenderson, my degrees are in math. All of the TAs were doctoral students. I'd be curious about what institutions you attended that did it differently. Rare doesn't mean that it never happens.
    – Buffy
    Jul 20 at 21:32

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In the US, funding at the masters level is rare. Unlike what it says in a comment, TA funding is available in many fields, but only at the doctoral level.

On the other hand, the US doesn't usually require a masters to begin doctoral study. So, if you are eligible, apply to doctoral studies with funding.

Note also that any funding package needs to include health insurance since health care is expensive here and isn't part of the general "social contract". TAs for doctoral students usually include this, tuition, most fees, and a modest stipend to cover living expenses.

Also note that lack of publications isn't an issue, nor is some shifting of fields, though the latter is because the US undergraduate program is very broad based. On the other hand, letters of recommendation are relatively important.


Part of the reasoning is that being a TA is considered valuable to begin a career in academia, whereas masters students here are often headed toward other careers.

Another factor is that it enables a doctoral student to be connected to the university full time which is a plus when it comes time to do dissertation research.

And, since funding is limited, the money is allocated to those who will be around longer and possibly contribute more.

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