I was thinking about getting my masters in November 2015 or May 2016 (An 18 month masters) but I was wondering if its possible to start my PhD research from now, I have an idea of what my research would be and I think it will save me time when I actually apply for PhD, I understand that a lot of changes will come once i finish my masters and enroll for PhD, but the question is; is the research that ill start now would be acceptable and valid for my PhD?

  • What don't you do the research you want to do for your masters project, then continue when doing your PhD? – Dave Clarke Jun 12 '15 at 11:48
  • This will depend heavily on the university, department, and country in question. My Ph.D. institution basically didn't have "Master's" students. They were all technically listed as Ph.D. students, so that the Master's was more of a "you tried and failed, here's your consolation prize," or a "we knew this is all you wanted, but pretending you were a Ph.D. student who couldn't make it let us fund you" type of thing. So for those going for the Ph.D., the Master's was just this meaningless decoration you picked up when you eventually remembered it. I got mine months before the Ph.D. – zibadawa timmy Jun 12 '15 at 23:54

I actually did what you are proposing, skipped my MS and went straight for a PhD in genetics instead. Also, based on my experience I had a bunch of concerns for you but I can't post much - the program insists I have untoward motives because I don't know your income situation, not that I want to know at all! Great. Last time I'll post here.

There are positives and negatives to this decision and in the end, you may not think going straight for a PhD is worth it. First and foremost, will you be paid a stipend while obtaining a Masters? If so, will it be the same amount as you would make while working on PhD, and are he conditions the same, i.e. will you be a teaching assistant the entire time for both degrees or will the PhD allow you to focus mainly on your research with little other responsibilities for the stipend?

What they did to me was blatant "carrot" manipulation. I was offered a lot more to enroll in a PhD program and skip the MS. And hey, they had already accepted me as an MS candidate, they just targeted me as good slave labor :) I think I should have stuck to my guns and gotten the MS first. The classes in my case would have been identical and wouldn't have been repeated moving onto the PhD if I had stayed at the same institution - find out about that as well - what is the curriculum like between the two degrees? Will any classes have to be repeated, especially if you change institutions? If you have a good idea where you want to be as well as what you want to be doing (and you are stating that you do know what you want to study), ask the second institution (or the first one if you plan to stay) about repetitious classes.

As far as continuing on the same or similar track of inquiry, make certain if you plan on staying in one place they are good with that plan. But honestly, if you are getting two degrees, take advantage of the switch. Use your Masters to gain extra skills (by classes or experience) that you may not have planned on picking up if going straight for the PhD. The broader your education, no matter what the field, the better you will see the big picture and its underlying minutiae simultaneously. A broader knowledge base can only aid you in designing strategies to solve problems and make testable connections between superficially disparate subjects. If you switch institutions, you might find it even easier to stay inline with your original goal.

  • Sorry again for the awful post above. It is truly devoid of solid advice based on my own experience and absent a bunch of pros and cons for you to weigh, based on me not knowing your exact situation and common sense. Sorry and like I said this is my first and last time I will ever use Stackexchange for anything. – sillyfellow Jun 12 '15 at 14:26
  • I’m not sure why you feel such need to apologise. Answers giving personal experience are often useful, provided they are honest upfront that that’s what they are, as yours is. – PLL Jun 12 '15 at 14:29

There are advantages and disadvantages to each. I did the MSc first, researching a topic that I had been interested in for years. I never thought my topic would have any commercial appeal... but after my MSc I got hired by a company based on my research. So now I'm doing a PhD, continuing my research (much of it on company time, since it has applications for them), and am getting a nice salary (much better than a PhD stipend).

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