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PhD Without a Master's

written by: Dr. Ranee Kaur Banerjee•edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch•updated: 9/25/2010

Is it possible to get into a PhD without a master's degree? Why would you want to? How can you get accepted to a PhD program of your choice without wasting time on a master's degree? Read on.

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    Can I Get a PhD Without a Master's Degree?

    It is definitely possible for you to go for a PhD without a master's. In fact, in some programs and universities, you would have a better chance of acceptance if you did apply straight after your bachelor’s degree.

    Some of the best graduate schools will only accept you if you can prove your keenness and enthusiasm for a PhD. Many will not, as a matter of policy, accept students who want their graduate studies to end with a master's degree.

    Depending on your area of research, universities in the US and Australia routinely accept promising applicants directly into integrated PhD programs and award them a master's at some point of the PhD program. In most PhD programs, your master's degree will only give you a year’s advantage over others as an “Advanced" student because the program is designed for students aiming for a PhD. Full time master’s students are not admitted to these programs.

    In such programs, students who show themselves incapable of fulfilling the requirements of the PhD program or who cannot finish their dissertations or find themselves unwilling to go on after having completed a substantial part of their research are dispatched from the PhD program after being awarded a terminal master's degree.

    Some graduate schools will automatically confer a master's to you at candidacy. Some may require you to take a few extra credits of coursework (amounting to much less than you would have to take if you were working just for a master's).

    Of course, another advantage of entering a PhD program directly after your bachelor's is that you can get full funding if you get accepted. It is much more difficult to get financial aid if you’re going to stop with a master's degree because departments at universities have limited funding and would naturally want to invest in students who would want to go all the way and complete their doctoral studies and research.

    Obviously, it is not easy to get accepted into a PhD program directly after your bachelor's. You’re likely to be younger than most graduate students and you probably don’t have the research experience or relevant work experience or advanced classes or publications. Therefore, your grades and GRE scores must be brilliant and preferably as close to 4.0 as possible; your references must be unequivocally favorable and your statement of purpose must demonstrate to the admissions committee that you have the wherewithal, the maturity and the passion for research in your chosen area.

    One easy way to see whether the school of your preference offers a direct entrance to an integrated PhD program is to go to the university’s website and check out the eligibility requirements in the Graduate Studies Prospectus of the specific college or faculty. I’ve provided a couple of sample links for you in the next section. Good luck with your quest.

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    Examples

    http://www.ee.ucla.edu/Prospective-graduate.htm

    The UCLA College of Engineering generally requires prospective students to have an MS degree. However, “exceptional students, however, can be admitted to the PhD program without having an MS degree but would be required to complete the MS degree along the way."

    http://www.cs.rutgers.edu/graduate/phd_program.html

    The Rutgers Computer Science PhD Program allows direct admissions to those who have completed their bachelor’s degrees: “for students who indicate their intention of pursuing a doctoral degree program, the Admissions Committee seeks a substantially higher undergraduate GPA, substantially higher GRE scores, and outstanding letters of recommendation."






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