Master’s vs Ph.D.

Master’s degrees

Academic (e.g., M.S., M.A.)
  • Provides specialized preparation in a field of study
  • 1-2 years
  • Mostly course-based, some require a thesis and/or work experience/internships
  • Limited funding resources
Professional Master’s (e.g., MBA, MPH)
  • Prepare students for a particular career and are a requirement for certain jobs. For example, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) prepares students for management positions.
  • Practice- and course-based
  • 1-3 years

Doctoral degrees

Academic (Doctor of Philosophy - Ph.D.)
  • Highest awarded degree that offers advanced training in a subject through original research
  • 4+ years – Major research project with dissertation/thesis
  • Most programs offer funding packages, student’s financial contribution is minimal
Professional (e.g, PsyD, M.D., J.D.)
  • Like professional master’s prepare students for practical applications through training in the field and coursework.
  • Time to degree varies per degree and funding packages are limited and competitive. In most cases students who pursue a professional degree are expected to make a significant financial contribution

Certificate programs

In addition to Master’s and Ph.D. a lot of universities offer Certificate Programs that allow students to get additional expertise and credentials that can make them more appealing and marketable to future employers. For example, a Certificate in Science, Technology and Public Policy would allow a Ph.D. student to explore the politics and policy related to science and technology and could potentially work as a consultant for a senator.