I am currently applying to a Masters degree in neuroscience (McGill, in Canada). In order to get in, I have to contact an advisor that is willing to fund my studies. If I fail to do so, I cannot enter the program. (This is apparently common in Canada.)

I have already contacted two possible advisors but neither of them responded positively, arguing they had no positions available.

Speaking with a friend researcher, he told me that it is less likely to get an advisor (and funding) for a Masters degree (even though the university is asking me to do so) and that I should better apply for the PhD program because researchers are not interested in investing money in a Master student.

Is this true? Do researchers reject master's degree prospective students because they do not want to invest money in them?

Thank you.

  • 3
    It's somewhat unusual for a masters program to require its students to be funded by their advisors (i.e. to disallow self-funding at the masters level.)
    – ff524
    Jan 5, 2016 at 19:08
  • Yes, it is in fact unusual and is stressing me out more than I expected because in McGill they make it clear that a Master student MUST have an advisor willing to fund his/her studies in order to start the program.
    – LenaMi
    Jan 5, 2016 at 19:17
  • 7
    Funding for masters of science at Canadian universities is very common due to its requirement for entry to a PhD program. Direct entry to a PhD program is possible in certain circumstances, but is much rarer. My guess would be that most PIs prefer to hire master students (funded), and then depending on their performance, offer them to convert to a PhD. This is a much less risky investment proposition overall.
    – user8001
    Jan 5, 2016 at 19:50
  • That presumably varies quite a bit between schools, (sub)areas, ... and perhaps even vagaries like the type and breadth of work the faculty requires from their graduate students at any given point in time. And obviously doesn't necessarily apply to any particular case, like yours.
    – vonbrand
    Jan 29, 2016 at 17:24
  • 1
    @ff524 I don't know that funding is the only issue -- equally or more important in this policy is that you need to have an advisor agree to take you on. I did my grad work at McGill, and every grad student is associated with a professor. You can't get in and then find an advisor - you need an advisor to get in. It sometimes happens that you switch advisors, but you're never without one. That said, I am adjunct at another Canadian school and I cannot take a grad student unless they have a scholarship or I can support them from my grants. It's not so unusual here.
    – Tyler
    Jan 29, 2016 at 18:57

1 Answer 1


You friend might be right as well as the advisors you have contacted with.

It is true that a master's student is less likely to be productive (in terms of publications) compared to a PhD student. Therefore, even if you are an above-the-average applicant, the advisor would not want to allocate funds for you. This is because when your time for productivity comes, you will finish your master's, you might go to another university for PhD. Therefore, allocating funds for a PhD student is more likely.

The advisors that you have contacted with might really have insufficient funds.

However, the solution for this problem, I think, is not applying for a PhD programme. Rather, you may state that you intend to continue your PhD in the same university, in case they do not want to invest into a master's student.

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