A little bit of context behind this question: I was asked, during a student presentation, whether an en-route masters (usually awarded upon passage of quals in a direct PhD plan) really was worth the same as a terminal masters (with thesis), knowing the latter is the norm in Canada.

That physics undergraduate said that she'd rather earn a terminal thesis masters than an en-route one (although I feel that this particular undergraduate could be offered a direct PhD plan), because a terminal masters would signal that one is capable of completing a research project, while an en-route masters usually involves a failed, unfinished or downsized research project, since a person in position to take quals usually spent upwards of a year in a research project in the direct PhD plans I know about.

So are terminal research masters in physics regarded differently from en-route masters in physics on the job market?

P.S.: Perhaps the answer varies from a field to another, so what's applicable to physics may not be applicable to, say, chemistry or history.

  • What kind of job market are we talking about here? (If it's a job market not related to research or academia, we're not really equipped to answer it here, per the help center - The Workplace would probably be a better home for this question in that case).
    – ff524
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 3:50
  • If you're talking about industry job market, there is probably not much difference between terminal and en route. Both are masters, involved with some research project. Your student probably should pay more attention to her skills than her degree if she wants to go to industry. Academic career would be a different story.
    – Nobody
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 4:01
  • This begs the question: are the skills gained out of an en-route masters the same as the skills gained out of a terminal masters? Assume here that both formats are feasible with the same project under the same supervisor; the actual skills gained are highly project-dependent, though. Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 15:08

1 Answer 1


My understanding is that an en-route masters is simply a masters awarded with an understanding that the person will also continue onto a PhD. I don't think this assumption/understanding makes it any less of a masters. In other words, the masters is not conditional on work done in the PhD. My impression is also that the person would have needed to do several significant things to get the en-route masters, and the magnitude of those things is likely similar to the person who got a terminal masters.

So, no, I don't think en-route is viewed differently in general.

Note that I am Canadian.

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