I am a graduate student in Sweden, and will present my PhD thesis next semester, and have several articles accepted/published.

However, when I applied (and got admitted) I had only studied at the university for three years, and only written a bachelors thesis. Me being admitted was sort of an "error" from the department, (and I had no idea what really was the requirements, since my thesis advisor encouraged me to apply).

Might this look bad on my resumé when applying for a post-doc position? (Or is young age an advantage, in my case, 25)?

Edit: To follow up, I am now 32 and not as young anymore. I had no big issues finding post-doc positions, and I am still in academia.


5 Answers 5


In most places I know (Europe mostly, France and UK in particular), a Master's degree is nothing more than a tiny blip on your CV by the time you have a successful PhD (diploma, publication, good recommendations, involved in your community, …). Your lack of a Master’s degree will not hurt one bit (but it probably will come up in an interview, so you want to have something decent or funny to say about it). I suspect the same will be true in most places: by the time you are a post-doc, Master's degree is not a good predictor of your future success.

Regarding age, it's a very good question, and should probably be separate. As a post-doc, it shouldn't hurt your chances (I defended my PhD at the same age you are, so I have given it some thought!). For a staff position, things are very different.

  • 6
    In the US it is also common, as @Aaron has mentioned, for students to not earn a masters on the way to their PhD. I did not, and I feel no worse for doing so.
    – Ben Norris
    Commented Oct 14, 2012 at 23:10

In the US, nobody would even notice. It is common to enter a PhD program without a masters. A masters degree can be granted along the way to a PhD, but this is not universal, and it is not worth anything if you finish the PhD. In general, people look at your most advanced degree: if you have a good PhD, it would typically not matter if you did not have a Bachelors degree either.

  • 6
    Also, in the US, your age is irrelevant by law.
    – JeffE
    Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 15:18

If the admission was "in error," then you should get some documentation of this fact from your department stating such a fact, just in case anyone asks.

Unlike what F'x says, there could potentially be an issue in some EU countries if you have a PhD degree but don't hold a master's—provided your bachelor's education was also done in an EU country. In Germany, the lack of a master's degree for a PhD holder can raise a red flag. It did in my case, even though all of my schooling was in the US, where it is not at all uncommon to do a bachelor's followed by a PhD without a master's in between.

This may or may not be a problem for you elsewhere, depending upon where exactly you want to be. But it could also be a disqualifying issue (in other words, cause for termination) if you try to hide what happened and it gets uncovered later.


Just pitching in with my opinion from Japan.

In Japan everything is very structured, and everyone assumes that you either have a masters or spent a very long time in your PhD (if you studied in America).

The average age for a PhD grad is 28 years with a razor thin variance (unless you are a foreigner).

If you apply for a postdoc here you will be getting a lot of questions on why you got a PhD without the masters, since here the requirement to get into a PhD is to have a Masters beforehand. It may not hurt you if you have a good explanation though.


I see no need for you to mention the lack of a masters unless asked.

I would definitely not say your acceptance into the PhD program was a error by the Department. This makes your university look incompetent, and you, at best, as uncertain and insecure about your accomplishments. You could also be perceived as dishonest by accepting admission if you knew it was a mistake, but I don't know the full details of what actually happened and why you believe this to be true.

You applied, you were accepted, you completed the degree, you are published. Full stop.

You seem to feel compelled to explain something that doesn't matter anymore, if it ever did. If asked, just say you were lucky and got accepted straight out of undergrad. If anything, it makes you look like a wunderkind.

An important caveat: All of the above is predicated on my understanding of the situation through the lens of a person with a PhD from the US.

As others have said, a masters is not always required for acceptance into a PhD program in the US, especially in the hard sciences (I know much less about liberal arts), but one is bestowed on the way to the PhD. So you get your masters after you are in the PhD program.

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