I attended a masters program in IT and completed everything except for my capstone. Its been almost 7 years since I started and 5 years since I moved out of college.

I now want to apply for a Ph.D.

In these 5yrs I have had one really good research paper published, one patent filled, and worked for two fortune 500 companies. I am presently working as a manager in the same discipline as my masters in a top 5 tech company.

What are my chances to get into Ph.D program? Also can I use coursework from the masters for a Ph.D?

  • Did you drop out because of time constraints or because you failed to pass some exam/thesis?
    – Raphael
    Jun 25, 2014 at 9:07
  • I think the answer to your question very much depends on the institute which would accept you into their PhD program and also the school you attended for the masters program.
    – Nobody
    Jun 25, 2014 at 9:09
  • @Raphael, because of time constraints, i was decent on my grades.
    – Chetan
    Jun 25, 2014 at 9:12
  • @scaahu i am looking at umich, GATech, VA Tech, IUPUI for my phd and my masters school is RIT
    – Chetan
    Jun 25, 2014 at 9:13
  • You might misunderstand my comment. I was not asking those info. I was saying the answer to your question depends on those schools and their policies. It also depends on what PhD program you will be admitted.
    – Nobody
    Jun 25, 2014 at 9:19

1 Answer 1


I assume you are applying for a Computer Science PhD. The following answer is based on my application process (Stanford, Berkeley, CMU, George Mason) in interdisciplinary departments that included CS. I had two interviews with Universities where I was not subsequently accepted, so I learned something about the decision criteria and process.

That you have Masters-level course work is a positive. That you didn't finish your Masters is probably neutral-to-slightly-negative. Your published paper is a positive, but your patent will be irrelevant unless it has relevance to research. Your industry experience is probably also irrelevant to being accepted into a PhD program in CS.

All of these are less important that other aspects of your application: 1) GRE scores (esp. Math), 2) your research goals and 3) recommendations (by one or more academics or researchers).

What I learned is that Math GRE score is a "hurtle" -- you have to have a score above some threshold level to be considered. They won't tell you what the threshold is, but you should assume that it is the average for their accepted PhD students.

Most important of all are your research goals (and your preparation to achieve those goals) and whether they are aligned with a particular professor in the department. Most PhD students are funded through Graduate Research Assistantships or Graduate Teaching Assistantships. In CS, it's mostly GRAs. Mostly, professors admit PhD students that they believe will be good "worker bees" to support them in their research projects. You may be the most wonderful, inspired, gifted, hard-working applicant in the World, but if your interests don't align with at least one professor who has research funding, then you won't get admitted.

Related to this is recommendations. Admission committees respond especially positively to recommendations from people who are important and relevant to the specific area of research. Glowing recommendations of your many personal and professional qualities will mean less than specific recommendations that substantiate your aspirations to do research in your proposed area from someone who is important and well-regarded in that field.

Finally, each University has it's own rules about whether they offer credit graduate-level course work. Mostly it's related to how long ago you got it and where you got it. Given that it's just 5-7 years ago, you should be fine. You can position this as: "My previous graduate course work will accelerate me through the PhD program, and allow me to focus time on courses that relate to my research focus."

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