PhD, etc outside the US

SL Forsburg susan_forsburg at
Mon Feb 19 14:35:45 EST 1996

Ms. S.J. Rickard wrote:
> A masters (Msc or MA) is not funded here in Britain and so epople 
> tend to  be more mature and more motivated when taking it. It's
 > often done in  order to specialise in a field, without having to 
> do the full Phd thing.  It is taken seriously here in Britain and 
> quite distinct from a Phd.  Is this not the case elsewhere??

The value of the Master's varies from field to field.
It appears to be a necessary stop on the way to the PhD in a number
of humanities and social science fields;  often a CV for those people
will have one university for the BA, one for the MA, and one for the
PhD.  (The American MA is an earned degree,unlike Oxford's.) However, 
in biological sciences, a Master's is not required for entry 
into a PhD program and largely bypassed.   At any of the major
US research universities I have been, although Master's degrees
are offered in the sciences, in practise they are normally awarded to
people who drop out of a PhD program part way through;  most
require a thesis but obviously not as large as a PhD dissertation.
In effect they appear to recognize the work done by the student--but
not all PhD drop-outs are eligible for a Masters.  It's more likely to
be given to a productive student who realizes the PhD is not for
him/her and NOT as a consolation prize for flunking quals.  I believe 
a few schools give students a Master's part way to their PhD, perhaps 
after their qualifying exams.  

There is a trend in some fields to use the Master's as a professional
qualification (MF, ME). Some places are now offering "terminal"
 master's degrees in the sciences for advanced technical training
which is probably a good thing, given the glut of PhDs on the market.  
Thus as in so many other things, you have to
know the field to judge the meaning of the qualification.

-- susan

S L Forsburg                             
susan_forsburg at
 "I don't speak for the Institute,         
 and the Institute doesnt speak for me."

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