I do not plan to stop at an M.S., I want to pursue a PhD program at a top tier university. In regards to graduate admissions, how does me applying into a PhD program with a Masters from another school look like?

My biggest issue with accelerating myself to the program is that I would miss out on a bunch of classes that I would like to take.

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  • Further details on this degree and quality of courses is required to make this question answerable. – Coder Jul 7 '17 at 21:41
  • Does it cost more? – Anonymous Physicist Jul 8 '17 at 0:49
  • @Coder I don't think that is necessarily true. There are some significant disadvantages with accelerated masters programs or the similar separate course-based masters if they want to pursue a PhD. Very roughly in STEM with everything else the same I would say: (BSc no research < accelerated MS ~ course-based MS no research < BsC with research < project-based MS with research + publications). School ranking and class details are not irrelevant, but is still much less significant than having research experience. – user58322 Jul 8 '17 at 8:31

This can depend greatly on the discipline, as well as the target university. However, it's been my experience (in Computer Science) that having a Master's before applying for a PhD is considered a benefit, but not a necessity. I've found this to be true of most US universities, specifically from a CS PhD point of view.

Keep in mind that you can always do a Master's after your Bachelor's, so do that which you think will make you happiest, so choosing not to do the combined program certainly doesn't limit your options.

  • 1
    Note that in many parts of Europe it's more than just beneficial to have a Master's degree- more likely it will be a requirement for admission. – astronat Jul 7 '17 at 21:53
  • The discipline is in Chemistry, I should have specified, but I appreciate the reply – Jack Jul 8 '17 at 0:59
  • In Australia, New Zealand, and the UK you can do BSc with "honours" and skip straight into PhD. Basically if you get high enough grades you do a 4 year BSc including a research project in final year and skip Masters. Worth considering although you will get more experience and publishing opportunities doing a MSc in addition to more living and tuition costs. – Tom Kelly Jul 11 '17 at 23:31

Speaking for Germany:

In Chemistry you should do a Master's degree, because otherwise you probably will not have the background to be accepted for a PhD position. In our university it is not an official requirement, but you are VERY unlikely to do your PhD without a Master's degree (or something similar from another field, e.g. Physiks, (Micro-)Biology,...

Back to your first question: If you can afford to do the Bachelor and Master seperately: Do so.

A friend of mine also joined an "accelerated" Bachelor/ Master and was not very convinced, because he missed several elementary courses, which he then took as an "extra".

Of course you still need to look at the monetary side of things.

For a CV it does not really matter how you did your BSc/MSc if you plan to do a PhD anyway.

As deckeresq mentioned, it can vary by discipline. However, if you are interested in pursuing a STEM PhD in the USA, I would not recommend participating in the accelerated Bachelors/Masters program as described.

PhD admissions committees are looking for evidence you can (or have the potential to) perform impactful independent research. The best way to show this is by doing research before you apply. This is why students who have taken project-based Masters programs with published papers tend to have stronger applications. Accelerated Masters programs can be a great option for people who would otherwise go on to take a course-based Masters and enter the workforce, but it's not the best use of your time with your goals.

A better option would be to search for research-based internship positions during the summer and school year. There are generally a great number of external programs/universities/companies that have offer positions in the summer that you can apply for. During the school year, see if you can help in any of the active on-camps labs; ask your professors if they have any suggestions on how to start getting involved.

With a BSc, great grades, undergraduate research, and letters of recommendation that can attest to your research ability, your application will be significantly stronger than with a BSc, course-based MS, great grades, and letters of recommendation that describe your class participation and hard class work, even if you managed to do the latter in four years.

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