Are MAs the New Norm for Admitted PhD Program Applicants?


From a philosophy professor who prefers to remain anonymous, a question about whether it is now the norm for successful applicants to PhD programs to have (or be on their way to having) a terminal MA:

When I applied to grad school, (I think) the norm was to apply straight from one’s undergraduate institution to PhD programs. Terminal MAs were seen as good fallback options for philosophy majors who didn’t get into good programs, or students who weren’t philosophy majors in the first place and decided late to do more philosophy. Certainly, in my grad shool cohort and the cohorts surrounding me, almost no one had a terminal MA.

Fast forward to the present (and the past few years): the reports from students of mine that have started PhD programs right out of college is that they are a small minority. One of our students, who started this fall at an excellent program, was one of only two admitted students who did not have some further degree. During her visit as a prospective student, she and the other student met with a faculty member who suggested that they would likely find themselves less prepared than the rest of their cohort and suggested some reading they might want to do. She also told me that the other student who came straight from undergrad had got into a very good MA program and that his undergrad adviser suggested he turn down the place in the very good PhD program to do the MA just so he would have more years of training (the assumption being, presumably, that he would have no problem getting into a great PhD program again).

So, I’m wondering whether it is now the norm for students accepted to programs (dare I say “top programs”?) to have a degree beyond their bachelors. It would be very helpful for me in advising students about going to grad school if faculty at school with graduate programs could provide a sense of what percentage of their incoming cohorts in the past few years have degrees beyond the BA. We have had good success placing our students into good programs. But it’s also true that, with one exception, it has had the quality of a crapshoot: the students will get into one great program, but be rejected everywhere else.

Folks, what say you?

It would be especially helpful if graduate directors could share information about the applicants to their programs.

UPDATE: A graduate admissions director at a very well-regarded PhD program emailed me, writing, “Here is some hard data: of those 13 students that were admitted initially (not off the waitlist), 8 had MAs or the equivalent.”

guest
43 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Katie
Katie
5 years ago

I’m no expert here, but I’m currently an undergraduate student applying for graduate school. I’m not entirely sure it’s the norm for students to get a MA before PhD, but that’s what I plan on doing. I’m applying ONLY to MA programs so that I have a few more years to decide what I want my focus to be and so I get a few more years of training. I think it’s especially important for students who get undergraduate degrees from schools without a big name to get an MA at a bigger name school before applying for a PhD at a big name school. I’m not sure whether a lot of people are giving out this advice, but this was the advice I was given.Report

Just a Guy
Just a Guy
Reply to  Katie
5 years ago

FWIW, the composition of the cohort at my “top” MA program is mostly folks who were superstars at schools you’ve never heard of, got shut out of PhD admissions, and are planning on applying out again now that they have credentials from a place with a name. Applying to PhDs from a non-elite school is a fool’s errand, in my view, but of course there are exceptions to every rule. I think the advice you were given is entirely accurate.Report

Cory
5 years ago

My experience is the same. Students report most other students entering their programs already have an MA. It’s crazy given that the job prospects are bleak that students would have to spend that much time and money.Report

Darth Trump
Darth Trump
Reply to  Cory
5 years ago

Well, there are several very good and funded terminal MA programs. But if an MA becomes the new norm and the average time to PhD is thus extended to 9-10 years (incl.MA) , then yes that would be a serious problem. However, I’d like to think that students coming in with an MA finish their programs more quickly and are less likely to drop out, as they have a better sense of what they are getting themselves into.Report

MAGraduate
MAGraduate
Reply to  Cory
5 years ago

In addition to what Darth Trump said, the respected MA programs are funded (Brandeis and Tufts being the only exclusions — they are only partially funded). There is no expectation that a student go into any more debt for an MA program. The advice has always been, whether an MA or PhD program, never taken out loans for graduate study in the humanities. That piece of advice is no different now. Don’t go to unfunded PhD programs. Don’t go to unfunded MA programs.Report

Dale Miller
5 years ago

A related question: Are students who enter Ph.D. programs with an M.A. in hand typically required to do any less coursework than those who are entering with only a B.A.?Report

Randolph Clarke
Randolph Clarke
Reply to  Dale Miller
5 years ago

At Florida State, students entering our PhD program can have as many as 24 credit hours waived for course work they’ve done in MA programs. Not all receive the full 24 hours, but many do.Report

Anon Grad Student
Anon Grad Student
Reply to  Dale Miller
5 years ago

At my phd program, I’ve heard of students getting one or two courses waived because of MA coursework (that’s about one quarter’s worth of coursework), but I don’t think I’ve heard of students getting more than that waived.Report

Peter Lewis
Peter Lewis
Reply to  Dale Miller
5 years ago

At the University of Miami, students with an MA can be exempted from up to 18 credits (2 semesters) of coursework, provided their MA coursework is similar enough to our coursework requirements.Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Dale Miller
5 years ago

I transferred PhD programs a year ago with an MA from the program I was transferring from — at the schools I was accepted to there was a huge range of what sort of credit this might count as — ranging from a full year less of coursework to no credit at all. Most of the programs I was accepted to, though, would have required me to take a few courses less than had I been coming in with just my BA.Report

Zombie
Zombie
Reply to  Kathryn Pogin
5 years ago

Which program are you in? I’m in a MA program currently. And I’d like to apply for PhD programs in which credit transfer is possible. Thank you!Report

grad student at "fancy" place
grad student at "fancy" place
5 years ago

I applied straight out of undergrad and got into a number of top 5 programs. at EVERY visit, I was the only person without a master’s degree on that visit. I was surprised by this, but none of the faculty seemed to be; I think MA’s are becoming “the new normal”

Having said that, every accepted class after mine (I accepted at a top 5 school) has had one or two (but no more) students get in straight from undergrad, and none of them had trouble “adapting” to grad school just as well as the rest of their cohort who did have MA’s.

So the interesting question might be “why are so many people getting MA’s now?,” since I don’t think you NEED to get an MA to be competitive just yet. That might change if everyone keeps doing it, though.Report

Grad
Grad
5 years ago

At my top ten program the last three cohorts have been roughly 50/50.

I do think programs should adapt to the trend and require less coursework and less time to candidacy if you have a terminal MA. That’s my two cents.Report

Sara L. Uckelman
5 years ago

This is definitely something that varies geographically: In the UK and the Netherlands, a master’s degree is a prerequisite for application to a Ph.D. programme (though what a “master’s degree” is has changed with the Bologna standardization).

Cory says “It’s crazy given that the job prospects are bleak that students would have to spend that much time and money.” On the other hand, given that job prospects are so bleak, it makes sense to prolong the time that you’re a student, in hopes (probably misplaced) that when you’re not any more, the prospects will be better.Report

william lewis
william lewis
5 years ago

I teach at an SLAC that places about one student a year in a philosophy graduate program. Lately, it has been about a 50/50 split in whether it is to a PhD or MA program. Time was, unless the student came from another major, had a late interest in philosophy, and had not taken many PH classes, we encouraged them only to accept PhD offers.Report

Brian Weatherson
5 years ago

I went back and looked at the (publicly available parts of the) academic records of the current students at Michigan, hoping to get a sense of how many students here had MA’s when they started. And it turned out to be trickier than I thought to do answer the original correspondent’s question in any easy way.

For one thing, we have many students who did all their studies pre-Michigan outside America, and it’s a little hard to map their work onto the American equivalent of an MA. It would be rare for someone to come straight from a 3-year undergrad program to our PhD program, for instance. But that’s not quite what the original question was about; it was about whether students needed to do an extra year or two somewhere after a 4-year undergrad degree.

More importantly, many of our students had done post-BA study in areas other than philosophy, getting qualifications in law, or medicine, or education, or classics, etc. And I wasn’t sure how the original correspondent was thinking about those degrees. I think they were mostly asking about students getting MAs *in philosophy* before starting the PhD.

And that’s relatively rare at Michigan. I think that under a quarter of the current Michigan PhDs have an MA in philosophy before they start here, though about one half have done some study of some kind between finishing a BA and starting in the UM Philosophy PhD program. So I think the picture here is very much not the one that is being described in the top post and in other comments, where most students have some kind of *philosophy* qualification post-BA and pre-PhD. We do have several such students, but they are a small subset of the overall PhD class. And every year we offer many places to students in the fourth year of a BA, and typically recruit several of them.Report

Michael Kremer
Michael Kremer
5 years ago

Our program does not give credit for course work done during an MA program, and we give limited credit for course work done in another PhD program (no more than 3 courses out of 12 required courses). (Policy here: http://philosophy.uchicago.edu/graduate/course_requirements.html#transfer)

We also do not expect students to have MAs before entering our program. From our website: “A bachelors degree (or equivalent) is required for admission to the graduate program. (Of course, you needn’t have finished your degree at the time of application; but you must have the degree to matriculate.) Significant background in philosophy is also normally required for admission to the graduate program in the Philosophy Department. Most often, this will take the form of an undergraduate major in philosophy; but a masters degree in philosophy is also acceptable, as is anything else that evidences comparable preparedness for graduate-level work in the field.

It should be mentioned that a masters degree in itself is neither an asset nor a liability in applying to our program. What we care about is the applicant’s aptitude for philosophy and readiness for graduate-level work. A masters degree is relevant only insofar as it sheds light on these.” (http://philosophy.uchicago.edu/prospective/admissions.html)

I think fewer than half (but more than a third) of our current graduate students received an MA or equivalent degree before entering our program. I certainly don’t see this as an expectation, and every year several of our undergraduates are admitted to PhD programs without an MA (though often with multiple graduate courses taken while undergraduates here, and usually applying the year after graduation).Report

Original Poster
Original Poster
Reply to  Michael Kremer
5 years ago

Thanks for this Michael. This in particular caught my attention: “every year several of our undergraduates are admitted to PhD programs without an MA (though often with multiple graduate courses taken while undergraduates here, and usually applying the year after graduation).” I’m at a SLAC, so our students don’t have a chance to take graduate level courses at all let alone with leaders in the field. I imagine that a letter from someone like you saying, “So-and-so excelled in my graduate level seminar” provides a boost to a candidate in a way that my letters never will.

So, it would be interesting to know whether students that make it into strong programs with no further degree in philosophy tend to come from undergrad institutions where they can take graduate seminars and get letters from top people. Of course, there might be all kinds of other reasons — some good, others not — why students from these institutions have good success getting into grad school.Report

David Chalmers
5 years ago

I was director of graduate admissions at NYU last year. Of the students we admitted, well over half had a graduate degree (typically MA or BPhil) in philosophy. My sense is that this has been typical over the last few years. I don’t think the reason is that we think that the extra preparation is needed in order to do a PhD at NYU; students who have come straight from an undergraduate degree have by and large done very well in the program. Rather, it’s that students who have done a graduate degree have typically had more chance to provide sustained evidence of genuine excellence, and so to stand out in a large pool of strong applicants.Report

Peter Lewis
Peter Lewis
5 years ago

At the University of Miami over the past 5 years 80% of our grad students have entered the program with a masters degree. This past year, around 70% of our applicants had a masters degree. 5 years ago, under 50% of applicants had masters degrees (and I’m pretty sure it had already been increasing for a while at that point). So certainly the number of applicants with a masters degree has been increasing steadily, to the point that it’s almost become a norm. It probably gives applicants an edge, but it’s hard to tell (without more statistics!) how significant that effect is.Report

P.D. Magnus
Reply to  Peter Lewis
5 years ago

Statistics about who is admitted won’t resolve whether the MA makes applicants more competitive or whether the pool of applicants has changed. We get students with a previous MA who we would probably have admitted after their BA, had they applied then.Report

MAGraduate
MAGraduate
5 years ago

Dr. Kukla from Georgetown has written about this already: http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2013/03/masters-degrees-postdocs-and-the-hyperprofessionalization-of-philosophy-kukla.html

“I’ve been on the graduate admissions committee at Georgetown for the last several years. It is striking to me what a hefty – and I think growing – percentage of the students we admit are coming out of terminal MA programs, or in some cases other sorts of graduate programs. The large majority of the people we admitted this year had some graduate training already. My informal sense is that it’s getting hard for undergraduates to compete for spots in PhD programs.”Report

SLACer
SLACer
5 years ago

My sense is that a lot of the MA students are those who came from a SLAC. I know I was in that boat. The story I heard was that even if you’re the greatest student your professors have seen, if you’re coming from a smaller place, those at PhD programs aren’t sure how to read your letters and discern the rigor of your program. MA programs were seen as “confirming evidence” of one’s excellence. I’m curious, then, whether the increase of MA students is related. Is it the case that the MA students admitted are coming from a SLAC background?

While there may be a different sort of arms race going on, the increase in MAs may have more to do with an increase of students coming from non-Leiter ranked institutions (who are getting MAs to level the playing field with those coming from better known schools). I should note: I’m not sure how the problem of weighting of letters from relatively unknown institutions should be fixed or whether people are doing the best they can. But the situation strikes me as prima facie unjust to SLACers.Report

Baron Reed
Baron Reed
5 years ago

At Northwestern, between a third and a half of our recently admitted students have entered with an MA in philosophy from a terminal MA program; we have also had a few transfers from other PhD programs. These students do get some credit for this previous work, with the difference coming especially in their third year of our program.

Having served on our admissions committee for the past eight years (and as the chair for the past three), I can say that having an MA is not expected, though it often does considerably enhance an applicant’s profile. This is especially true for students coming from small colleges or from non-flagship public universities. The main problem in evaluating applications for those students comes from the difficulty in comparing their accomplishments to those of other applicants in the pool. What does an A mean at this institution? What does it mean to be the best student of the year from this department? A great writing sample can help fill some of these gaps for an applicant trying to go directly to a PhD program. But letters from a terminal MA program can also fill those gaps–and often in a way that provides stronger evidence of future success.

Serving on the admissions committee for so long has made clear to me that there is a somewhat significant amount of variation from year to year in how the decisions are made, depending on who else is on the committee. My guess is that perhaps 3/4 of the offers made in any given year would be made every version of the committee. But 1/4 would probably be different, just given different committee members with slightly different conceptions of what great philosophy amounts to. I would think this sort of variation from year to year would happen in other departments as well. This is why I would not recommend turning down an offer to a great PhD program you would be happy to enter–there’s no guarantee that another such offer will be made two years later. My sense is that almost all students who are entering a PhD program–whether or not they already have an MA–feel underprepared in comparison to where (they imagine) their peers are. They can’t all be right. The first year is a difficult transition to make, but most people do just fine by the end–especially if they receive good mentoring from both faculty and older graduate students. So, that’s definitely something to consider when you are weighing your offers in the spring.Report

HK Andersen
HK Andersen
5 years ago

I’d like to emphasize a point made by an earlier commenter: there are great places to do an MA that do not require going into debt. At Simon Fraser University, we have a fully supported terminal MA program, where students receive support through various fellowships, teaching assistantships, and research assistantships to provide tuition and a living stipend. The metro Vancouver area is not a cheap place to live, but there are worse places to spend two years doing an MA. We have a fantastic community of MA students, and do very well at helping them into top PhD programs.Report

Rusty Jones
Rusty Jones
5 years ago

My sense from talking to a number of admissions and grad directors is that there is an increasing percentage of students coming into the “top” (I’ll use the word) programs with an advanced degree in philosophy already in hand, but the original post and some of the comments seem to me to overstate the magnitude of this phenomenon. Here’s one set of numbers: In our most recent applicant pool at Harvard, we had 16 candidates who were either initially admitted or wait listed. 7 of those had or were currently pursuing advanced degrees. For 1 of those 7, the advanced degree was in a different discipline. For another 2 of those 7, the undergraduate background in philosophy was light enough that the advanced degree was probably necessary to be competitive. That leaves only a quarter of the group who both majored in philosophy as undergraduates and went on for an advanced degree prior to the PhD. And some of those advanced programs were one year programs. That indicates a significant phenomenon, but not a norm of advanced degrees prior to PhD. I don’t think it was an anomalous year for us. We still want you to send your undergraduates to us, and not just your masters students! (That includes those of you at “non-elite” schools, to pick up on one of the comments. Of course there are advantages to getting an undergraduate degree at Yale. But we don’t want to fill our ranks with only the Yale undergrads and the like, and not only because of the deep rifts that appear in the department during The Game. Many of us who are pretty good at philosophy lacked either the good sense or the opportunity to go to Yale.)

There are advantages to getting an MA or equivalent in philosophy and then applying to the PhD, especially when it comes to the writing sample. We at Harvard are well aware of the effort that some programs put into writing samples, and we admire the results. We get to read some amazingly good papers during admissions season. But students should keep in mind that when we evaluate writing samples, we expect more out of MA students. We want to know about the applicant’s potential to excel in our program and beyond, and that has to be judged in light of the background and opportunity the applicant has had.

One more note on: “She also told me that the other student who came straight from undergrad had got into a very good MA program and that his undergrad adviser suggested he turn down the place in the very good PhD program to do the MA just so he would have more years of training (the assumption being, presumably, that he would have no problem getting into a great PhD program again).” I give my students exactly the opposite advice.Report

HK Andersen
HK Andersen
5 years ago

Speaking personally instead of qua grad committee: I also had an MSc before entering a grad program, and it was a fantastic experience for me personally, and really solidified my determination to be a member of this field. For others, it really clarified that they love philosophy but didn’t want to make it their profession for the rest of their lives, and it was much more humane to figure that out in a terminal master’s program than in the third year of wallowing through a prospectus. Having already had the basics of my field from the MSc, I was better able to get the most out of the PhD courses, which otherwise would have been really hard. MA programs are geared towards a broad and solid philosophical foundation, which for lots of people is a very helpful thing to have in place.

For adding time before one gets a job, there are pros and cons to the increase in MAs before PhDs. While it is frustrating to have to wait longer to find a place where one will be able to settle in and know that one can stay, it is also good to remember that grad school is not a race to the finish line. Grad school itself can be really enjoyable as a life experience, and there is no award for getting to the end of it a year sooner rather than later. More personal anecdote, and YMMV, but when I first started the PhD, I was eager to see how much credit I could get waived so that I could shorten my time to completion. Somewhere around year 3 or 4 I realized, I don’t want to rush out of here! I want to get as much from this as I can, and be well prepared for what comes next, rather than hurrying into it.

Adding the extra year or two to one’s professional training at the beginning, before a PhD, may be filling a similar role to what the postdoc does in other fields. But it strikes me as more humane and easier on one’s overall life, because people are usually much more able to travel and relocate at the beginning, in the first half of their twenties, than they are after the PhD, in their late twenties or early thirties. A two year stint that you know will end in relocation to some as-yet-unknown location is easier to manage before than after the PhD (this is a statistical claim – it is simply more likely people will e.g. have kids or partners or other commitments).Report

Rusty Jones
Rusty Jones
5 years ago

Well, while I hunted down our recent numbers, several people posted with specific percentages that make me question whether the phenomenon is more robust than I allowed, and that Harvard is a bit out of the ordinary in our mix of students. I’ll note other data with interest.

Also, students should take particular note of Baron Reed’s comment.Report

Student who went BA to PhD
Student who went BA to PhD
5 years ago

I received and accepted a funded PhD offer with a BA in philosophy and a BS in natural sciences. I could have gone to a couple of different funded MA programs, but was told by my advisors that it looked good to go straight from undergrad to PhD. Now I’m wondering if that was true.

Most of the people in my cohort and the following cohort had MA’s, and I envy their experience and confidence. I think they came to this program better adjusted to the difficulties of graduate student life. They still encountered those difficulties in their MA programs, but the great thing about an MA program is its brevity. If you have any doubts about grad school, you still have incentive to finish the program, because it’s only two years. Afterwards, you can reevaluate and decide what you want to do next. During the program, if you know you want to continue in philosophy, there is still a sense of possibility about where you could end up that can inspire your graduate level work. Think also of the difficulties of being plunged into a new environment, physically and socially; it can be a very anxious and awkward experience that might affect how people in the department think of you. But when you move from an MA to PhD, you will likely handle the transition much better because you have done it before. You will probably be able to foster better relationships with peers and professors, at least earlier in your PhD track. They also have a more diverse philosophical background, having worked with philosophers in undergrad and MA, and so have a better sense of what PhD programs will best fit their interests.

I got turned down by a lot of the “fancy” PhD programs that I had my heart set on. If getting an MA is the new norm, that really makes me wonder if I could have gotten into those top programs with a couple of years of experience at the graduate level.Report

babygirl
babygirl
Reply to  Student who went BA to PhD
5 years ago

You could, of course, transfer. That way you get a fresh start with more confidence and preparation, and another crack at those schools you had your heart set on.

Doing a degree outside of philosophy is a wonderful option, IMO. It gives you a break, you can often find a funded MA or MSc in other fields, you get adjusted to graduate life, you see the norms of other disciplines, you become a more well-rounded and generally educated individual, become more confident, and don’t come in to graduate school with an undergrad’s perspective. It also can also give you a back-up plan in case the market is not kind to you. Of course, it makes your time to degree that much longer. I don’t know how admissions committees generally see “outside” master’s degrees, but it was a great experience for me.Report

Student who went BA to PhD
Student who went BA to PhD
Reply to  babygirl
5 years ago

That’s a very interesting idea that I’ve not really considered! Thank you for broadening my perspective. That said, it raises the question, how does it look to people if you transfer? I figure that that’s a less common route to take, so maybe it depends more heavily on why you transfer. For me, it would be really great to get into a program that would better support my desired AOC’s and AOS.Report

Robert B. Townsend
5 years ago

According to the federal Survey of Earned Doctorates, about 80% of philosophy PhDs have a master’s degree when they complete their doctorate. Philosophy is lumped among the “other humanities” in their report, but you can see at http://1.usa.gov/1LkhEY0 that this is pretty consistent across the humanities. Hope that helps.Report

Michael Kremer
Michael Kremer
Reply to  Robert B. Townsend
5 years ago

(Reply to Robert B. Townsend) This is not necessary relevant. At Chicago (and at many other schools) students admitted into a PhD program with a BA can collect an MA along the way, usually after having completed all the requirements for the PhD other than the dissertation. And many do so.Report

Brian Weatherson
Reply to  Michael Kremer
5 years ago

Michigan is also like this. Finishing the coursework part of the degree makes a student eligible for a Michigan MA, and most students take this. We could have all students come straight to us from undergraduate programs, and the relevant number would still be nearly 100%.Report

Did MA before PhD
Did MA before PhD
5 years ago

I did an MA after my BA in philosophy for a lot of the same reasons that other people have already listed (wanted more experience with philosophy, wanted to make sure I’d get into a better PhD program, wanted the opportunity to quit after 2 years and have something to show for it, etc). I didn’t even apply to any PhD programs at all right out of the BA, but sometimes I wonder what would have happened if i had. My undergraduate record was actually quite strong, and I had recommendations from several very good people; some of the other students in my program back then had the same letter-writers, and ended up getting into top 5 schools. But I followed what I thought to be a prudent course and did the MA. I remember reading a thread on the Leiter blog on this topic not long afterward (linked to by MAGraduate above), and I was dismayed to find a general antipathy towards MAs among the commenters – talk of “hyper-professionalization, of “more good philosophy, less great philosophy”. There seemed to be this attitude that people who get MAs were over-privileged, careerist ladder-climbers who would ultimately ruin philosophy. That really stuck with me when the rejections started rolling in as I applied to PhD programs (some at the very institutions housing some of the commenters on that blog post). I ended up in a fine place for the PhD, and I’m happy I did the MA, but there’s still that question in the back of my mind about how much it really helped in the application process – or if it even hurt me, because the people on those admissions committees didn’t like that young folks these days weren’t doing it the way they did way back when. Maybe I would have been better off sending out my unsullied BA application?Report

Student who went BA to PhD
Student who went BA to PhD
Reply to  Did MA before PhD
5 years ago

Thank you for sharing your perspective. It’s the opposite of mine; I was advised to go straight to PhD because of what I think now is the stigma against people with MA’s, and now I’m second guessing the decision. What did Kierkegaard say? “Hang yourself, you will regret it; do not hang yourself, and you will also regret that; hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both; whether you hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both.” All regrets aside, though, I have to believe that there are a lot of great philosophers who have their priorities in the right place and will offer opportunities to people without the influence of a petty prejudice, even if they don’t work at top “5 programs”. If Brian Leiter thinks there’s such a risk that hardworking students with MAs will foul up the discipline, then may they foul it up proudly! 😉Report

BA to PhD
BA to PhD
5 years ago

Of those who accepted the offer to our top15 program, only a quarter of us are direct entry from BAs, or with graduate degrees in unrelated fields. The remaining have an MA or other grad degree in philosophy. All of those with previous graduate degrees in philosophy are only required to take one year of coursework, rather than the usual two, with previous graduate coursework counting against their breadth requirements.Report

Zombie
Zombie
Reply to  BA to PhD
5 years ago

Which program are you in? I’m in a MA program currently. And I’d like to apply for PhD programs in which credit transfer is possible. Thank you!Report

Matt Drabek
Matt Drabek
5 years ago

It would be well worth asking and collecting data on whether completion rates differ between MA holders and BA-only holders. Some people have expressed the view that people with an MA are more likely to finish their PhD. I share the intuition that that’s true. Here’s one data point: the entering class in my PhD program in 2007 had 6 students: 4 BA-only and 2 with an MA in Philosophy. Both of the MA folks finished in a timely manner, graduated, and landed full-time employment in academia (one is tenure track, and I think the other is too, but I’m not 100% on that). I was the only one of the BA-only folks who graduated with a PhD. I have a full-time position, but it’s not in academia (side note: let’s not throw a pity party for me – I have a good job at a non-profit institution and do not make less money than the academically employed folks). I’m not clear on whether my cohort is representative of either my university or philosophy as a whole. Indeed, my impression is that my program actually has a much higher graduation rate than my cohort did, specifically.Report

Original Poster
Original Poster
5 years ago

Thanks to everyone for this. It seems like I should be recommending to my grad-school bound students that they apply to some MA programs as a matter of course. Little to be lost, potentially lots to be gained.Report

An Undergrad
An Undergrad
5 years ago

As someone who will be applying for graduate programs in the next year, I hope not. I am aware of how difficult it is to go straight into Ph.D. programs. I come from a relatively unknown school and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to compensate for the fact in order to get into a Ph.D. program when the time comes. I see the merits to doing a master’s first in terms of the maturity, seriousness, and preparation necessary to succeed in doctoral programs, but as a new norm, it seems like an additional roadblock. And perhaps it’s a necessary roadblock given the scarcity of academic jobs, but if I end up getting into a master’s program, it makes me wonder how much more time I could have spent relaxing during my undergraduate years instead of hustling to make sure I’m competitive for doctoral programs.Report

Just a Guy
Just a Guy
Reply to  An Undergrad
5 years ago

It sounds like you are underestimating how competitive MA programs are. Georgia State, the only program I know that publishes their admissions data, only takes about 1 in 3 applicants. I expect Tufts, Brandeis, NIU, Wisconsin-Milwaukee etc. are similarly competitive. I’d take those odds over the 1/15 to 1/30 odds at a PhD, but still no reason to start phoning it in.Report

Jason
Jason
5 years ago

Hey all,

I did a simple headcount of the numbers of students with MA’s in Leiter-top programs. The proportion of those with MA’s seems to be between 33% and 50%.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1tLrX68kA7JXjEAb0UIX-LW0fdI9c789nmDJ91S5WZ6A/edit?usp=sharingReport