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I am from engineering, and I would like to know if I am able to find a job in industrial research lab after finishing my master, will there be any advantage or disadvantage compared with entering the same lab after finishing PhD? Possible advantage may be that I have more industrial experience as I enter the lab earlier, and possible disadvantage may be that without a PhD position I cannot be promoted to certain senior positions or lead a project. Are these true? Are there more advantages or disadvantages for this?

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    What country are you in? – mhwombat May 7 '14 at 17:23
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For many research positions in industry, a PhD is a requirement to apply for the job. With just an M.S., you simply cannot be considered for these positions. Some research jobs I have seen in industrial labs are available to candidates with either a PhD or an M.S. with several years of industry experience, but I don't see as many of these.

Industrial research labs often also have non-research positions (e.g., staff programmer) that do not require a PhD. However, these positions tend to not be on the research "track": you cannot easily be promoted from "staff programmer" to "junior member of technical staff" in many companies. If you are interested in doing creative research, staff programmer jobs are not a direct path to research scientist jobs.

Smaller companies tend to be more flexible, so that it may be easier to get a research job without a PhD in a tiny company than a large global one.

Of course, this can vary by industry and geographic region. (My experience is in the field of telecommunications and computer networks, in the United States.) You can find out more about your particular field of interest by going to the "Careers" page of the labs you are considering, and looking up the requirements for the jobs that you would like to do.

However, as a rule, if you are interested in doing creative research (and not just working in a support position in a research lab), you will have more opportunities available to you with a PhD than without one.

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These are some experiences I've seen with people with similar dilemmas. In my area, computer science, many people used to go to Yahoo after their Masters or BS, and for a time it was well.

After the Yahoo huge layoff, I met many people who were being denied high level positions because they did not have a PhD, we are not talking entry level position, but people with many years of experience in the industry.

I do not think a PhD is essential to move ahead in the company, but it sure is a huge help if you have one. Also, I'm not sure the research experience you will have in an industrial research lab will be comparable to the research experience you will have as a PhD student. Not that one is better than the other, but Grad school has certain liberties that industry does not.

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