Masters Vs PhD –  What is Better?

masters vs phd

Masters Vs PhD – Major Differences
What should you consider? – Masters or PhD

The education sector is growing, and a big list of available options play an influential role in adding to a student’s confusion. So, let us do an analysis of two of the most demanding degrees, i.e. Masters vs PhD. Undergraduates from different parts of the world aspire to get higher education in the best universities, and are often confused between masters and PhD. These students genuinely want to know- what is better? –  Masters or PhD.

When you consider the list of elite universities in the world, you must think of the United States of America – A country that boasts of having world-class universities, with vastly experienced faculty, and groundbreaking facilities for research and development.

Students after completing the undergraduate studies, consider U.S as a prime location for completing their higher education. However, they are confused between the two options, and often ask themselves “should I get a masters or PhD”.

Well, it entirely depends on your area of interest and your fit with your target program.

Let us learn about the major differences between the two courses

Masters Vs PhD –  The Major Differences

In order to clear the confusion of students, we have compared the two programs (Masters Vs PhD), and have noted down the major differences.

So, without a further ado, let us examine the differences between the two programs and determine- what is better? Masters or PhD.

Masters Vs PhD – Nature of the Program


  • PhD courses are basically research based, where the students are asked to write a thesis and demonstrate their competence in research. In order to become an expert in their chosen field, they are required to work on every practical aspect.
  • The research doctorate degree is considered as the highest earned degree during a candidate’s post-secondary education.


  • A Masters degree has a broader concept and is more versatile in comparison to the doctoral degree. Generally, the masters degree falls into three categories: professional, research and terminal.
  • Note – Students who have a research degree in masters, must go on and complete their PhD, else they will end up limiting their career options

Masters Vs PhD – Qualification Requirements


Before opting for a PhD program most students have either earned a bachelor’s degree, or have completed their masters degree. The qualification generally depends on the career options chosen by the students, and the nature of the PhD program.

If you are a bright scholar with a great academic record, then you can go for the PhD program.


Before opting for the masters degree, students complete their bachelor’s degree, and then go for their graduate studies by choosing the masters degree. The sole purpose behind the choice lies in gaining deeper insights into specific subject areas, by considering the advanced level courses.

Masters Vs PhD – Nature of Study


Students pursuing PhD courses, are involved in the research oriented tasks, take advanced level seminars, write a thesis, design dissertation research, conduct their research, and even defend their ideas. Doctoral studies truly develop the core skills of a student.


A master’s degree generally focuses on imparting advanced knowledge in a specific field. Students who want further knowledge on a particular subject, or seek for better career opportunities after completing their bachelor’s degree, generally opt for the masters degree.

The nature of study of two different programs varies, and can play a big role in determining the decision making process of a student, and help him/her decide whether to go for a masters or PhD.

Masters Vs PhD – Time Frame


It may take around 5 to 7 years to earn a doctorate degree. The time taken to complete the PhD depends on the following-

  • Whether the candidate has earned his masters degree, or comes straight after completing the bachelor’s degree.
  • Time taken to complete the dissertation.
  • Students who pursue a PhD after completing their masters, complete their doctoral studies early.


Completing a masters degree can take somewhere between 1 to 3 years. However, it may not be the end of the road as students may go on and complete their PhD.

Masters Vs PhD – Money Matters


  • If the good old saying “Time is money” holds true, then a PhD is never an option as it takes a lot of time to complete. Getting a PhD degree is not cheap at all, but the best part about doctoral studies is the stipend. PhD students get a stipend for conducting research, and their research is funded.
  • Considering the return on the money spent for education, PhD is an attractive proposition. Students after earning a PhD degree get a comparatively higher salary as compared to the students with the masters degree.


  • By no stretch of imagination, you can conclude that the getting the masters degree is cheap. Doing master’s in ivy league colleges can cost you quite a lot of dollars.
  • Students can make up for the higher cost of education through assistantships, or by taking up part time employment.

Masters Vs PhD – Financial Help


A PhD student gets a good amount of financial help from different sources;

  • Students get a stipend for their research.
  • Columbia University provides full funding for most students pursuing PhD courses.
  • Duke University provides benefits like, teaching assistantships, tuition waivers etc.


  • An important direction in which master’s programs differ from many doctoral programs is in the degree of financial assistance available to scholars.
  • The amount of financial help extended to different master level programs is not sufficient, in most cases, students end up paying more than 80 percent of their tuition fee.

Career Options for Masters and PhD Courses


PhD students go on to become scientists, professors, research associates, work in the research and development division of different companies, and have a lot of other options to choose from.

Note PhD is absolutely mandatory for students who aim to become professors in the near future.


  • Students after completing their masters degree get into managerial positions with a higher salary.
  • In the ever changing competitive market, highly qualified individuals have their own importance in the corporate world.
  • Students who are looking to enhance their career, can complete their masters and get placed in a better position, or even get a promotion.


A student with a degree of Bachelors of Business Administration (BBA) will get an entry level position, with a nominal salary. However, if the same student goes on and completes his masters degree, i.e. Masters of Business Administration (MBA).  He/she has a great change to get into management positions, that can fetch a comparatively higher salary.

What should you consider? – Masters or PhD

After a student completes the bachelor’s degree, he/she is caught up with two options. This leads to a common question in the mind of a student- “should I get a masters or PhD”?

Before deciding on a program one must consider – What is better?  Masters or PhD. Well, it depends on which program suits you the best.

Who Should Consider the PhD Courses?

Without hesitating, you can go for a doctorate degree when-

  • You are really dedicated, and truly love your area of study
  • You thrive on challenges and want to excel in the field of research.
  • You are interested in the field of teaching and won’t mind the tag of a professor

Who should Go for the Master’s Degree?

You can straight away go for the masters degree when-              

  • Your grades are not good enough to apply for the doctorate degree.
  • You are looking for better career opportunities or even promotions.
  • You are looking for advanced education and seek further knowledge on a particular subject.

An Apt Summary-

Both the courses, that is the masters and the PhD are meant for students, who are interested to pursue higher education. However, the choice of the students may vary. Students who have a strong drive for research, will consider going for doctoral studies. These students can go on and lead the world in the field of research.

Whereas, a student with a strong desire to expertise on the subject of his/her interest, should go for a masters degree. Suppose, an employee working in a company is not satisfied with his/her job profile. He/she can also choose to go for a higher education and consider the masters degree. This initiative can help him/her get the desired promotion.

Both the courses have their own importance and are worth considering. However, choosing a particular course, will entirely depend on the career option a student wants to take.

Note-  Students should strictly consider their strengths and weaknesses, before going for their higher education. Getting into a wrong program can lead to difficult circumstances, frustration or even demotivate students. Even the admission officers of elite universities, prefer students who are a perfect fit for their program.

Hence, it is strictly advisable to consider a course (Masters or PhD) that is truly meant for you.