I got admitted to a small MS program in the US with an assistantship and I still have not decided if I should accept the offer or not. The reason is that I want to pursue a PhD and build an academic career in the field of Chemistry. However, I come from a small institution in a developing country with little research, so I cannot just apply to a top graduate program such as Berkeley or Harvard because I would be in serious disadvantage in comparison to the hundreds of other applicants which have publications and vast research experience. In your opinion, is obtaining a MS degree in an American institution, even though it is in a very small program, something that would improve my chances of being accepted into a decent PhD program in the future?

I could also try those smalls PhD programs in institutions ranked below the top 100 (according to THE or QS) but I heard from a lot of people that a PhD in such an institution would add nothing to your career, since there are many PhDs graduating from top institutions and it is already hard for them to get a job, so your chances of succeeding either in an academic or industrial career would be quite low, and most of them have to find something else to do (work at a home depot, open a clothing shop etc, just kidding).

1 Answer 1


Short answer is yes, you probably should take it or a position like it if you want a PhD from a top US school. It sounds like you don't have many or any papers as a coauthor and your current school's reputation is unknown. So, getting a Masters from a US school with a good reputation, even though it may be a smaller institution could give your application a boost. Also, you will want to see if you can get an internship during the summer with a major research institution while you're doing it. That will open many more doors than the Masters alone.

  • Thanks Haendler, Is it common in the US to do summer research in a different institution while your currently enrolled at another? It sounds weird to me since the department would want you to stay as long as you can on campus to do research inside the department. Commented Sep 29, 2017 at 18:32
  • Yes it is common to do so. My wife did research at a national laboratory during the summer while doing her under grad and PhD in chemistry.
    – Haendler
    Commented Sep 30, 2017 at 16:10

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