I enrolled in a PhD program after getting my undergraduate degree. The program's first 2 years are geared towards getting a Masters degree after which candidates can join the "proper" PhD program.

What should I put on my resume/ professional sites? Am I a Masters student, a PhD student, or simply a graduate student?

  • 4
    Officially, to the university, what are you? When in doubt, it is always safer to go with the officially provable Jul 25, 2016 at 15:21
  • Do you have an advisor? Sometimes the difference in a combined program is whether you have an advisor and are actively working on research vs. focusing on classes. If you have an advisor and are working on research, you could put PhD, otherwise you probably want to put Master's because your current work is more toward requirements/a Master's degree.
    – Zai
    Jul 26, 2016 at 5:00

1 Answer 1


To a first-order, you should say what is actually true. If you enrolled into a Master's program and that's the program you are in now, you should not try to indicate you are really a PhD student.

Past that, though, how exactly you state something which is otherwise true - how specific versus how vague, for instance - is a reflection of what you are using your resume or CV to actually do. If you are applying for an employment position, you should understand there is no such thing as a singular "resume/CV" - but a variety of versions which are all true, but emphasize different things and are more/less clear about some things, depending on the desired position. You are trying to tell useful story, and what's useful to someone hiring a staff researcher vs. an entry-level technician can be very different things.

Sometimes you'll want to be specific, such as when your education is a very specific and useful fit for the position, where'd you'd say something like, "I earned my Masters's in Basket Weaving and am currently working on my PhD in the sub-field of Applied Stained Wicker Fabrication Techniques." In a job where the details aren't so relevant, to save space you might just say "I'm a graduate student in commercial art."

But to reiterate, the reality of your program at your school is important to what you say. If your program has 2 years of coursework that is like a Master's program, but they have not explicitly granted you a Master's degree (you could not ask them for a physical copy of it because they haven't granted you one), then do not imply or say you have a Master's degree. If your program is for a Master's degree and then they technically choose or allow students to continue on to a PhD program, don't just say you are in a PhD program if you aren't. Other than for general reasons of honesty, you'd be one question away from needing to say something like, "well, technically..." and then you'll have to back-track and look like you could just be making up everything you've said.

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