I will be applying to do a PhD in Applied Mathematics, and have been advised by some professors to consider doing a second masters degree if I do not get in. I have also approached researchers about collaborating on projects with them to improve my profile, and is currently working on one.

I was wondering: if I fail to get into a PhD program, would it be more beneficial for my next application if I enroll in a second masters degree, or would it be better to continue doing research projects?

Edit: Both Suresh and JeffE gave good advice, but I have some points to add.

  1. I am already actively doing research with the possibility of publication (will submit but peer review process is iffy).

  2. Of course, if I am already doing research with well-known faculty collaborators who will write strong letters of recommendation, there is no need to go for a second masters. But would it be realistic to count on a second masters for the opportunity to work with well-known faculty? (IMHO finding supervisors is quite a crapshoot)

I suppose there are quite a few PhD applicants like me: did a masters, but did not excel. Should they try to get research experience with academic collaborators or go for second masters? (there might not be a right or clear cut answer)

  • a second masters degree in a different discipline ? – Suresh Sep 8 '12 at 20:54
  • @Suresh : Are you asking about my intend? My first masters was in Mathematics and Computer Science. I suppose I would want to do my second masters in an area of applied mathematics (so it will be relevant), but it will unlikely to be also related to Computer Science. – Legendre Sep 8 '12 at 21:02
  • I don't know of anyone getting two masters degrees in the same field (mathematics). It makes more sense if the degrees are in different disciplines (say, business or music). – Joel Reyes Noche Sep 9 '12 at 5:54
  • @JoelReyesNoche : Although it is certainly uncommon, it isn't rare to run into people who did 2 masters in similar but not identical topics (e.g. pure math, then math & comp sci) before starting their PhD in my UK university. – Legendre Sep 9 '12 at 15:50
  • @Legendre Since you have some responses below that seem to answer your question, please consider marking one of them as ‘Accepted’. – Noble P. Abraham Sep 24 '12 at 15:07

The question is framed oddly. A master's degree without research experience will probably kill your chances for PhD admission, at least into the top programs.

Here's a better framing: Is a second master's degree the best way to get more research experience? Unfortunately, the answer depends on your personal situation. If you're already doing active research with a strong possibility of formal publication, with well-known faculty collaborators who will write you strong letters of recommendation, then a second MS is probably not necessary. If that doesn't describe your current research environment, a second MS might be the best way to find such an environment.

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  • Yes. Although there are some other rewards from doing a masters (grades from coursework, references etc), this is essentially a question about the best way to get more research experience. Thanks for the input! – Legendre Sep 10 '12 at 13:35

I don't know anything about applied math Ph.D programs. But extrapolating from TCS programs, getting more research experience (and some concrete results) would definitely help. While a second MS doesn't help directly, it helps indirectly because

  • you don't have a gap in your resume
  • you automatically are placed in an environment where you can approach researchers to work on projects with them.
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  • I am indeed worried about the gap in my resume caused by my current research activity. Thanks for the answer! – Legendre Sep 10 '12 at 13:36
  • Is it possible to get a second MS in TCS after a first in US universities> – user774025 Aug 4 '13 at 1:33
  • Why would you want to ? – Suresh Aug 4 '13 at 5:37

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