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Masters vs Phd Degree

Masters vs. PhD, Which is Best?

A decision on graduate education should be based on your degree of patience as well as your goals. It's important to understand that while the average master's degree program takes two years beyond completion of a baccalaureate, a PhD usually takes five years and for many students can take more than that.

Research Requirements

A master's program is principally study and exams, although most have a "capstone project" or some major undertaking such as a thesis in order to complete the program, generally produced in the last semester. Most PhD programs are designed to produce academic scholars; completing a doctorate requires a major dissertation based on original research that contributes, in some fashion, to the body on knowledge for your academic discipline.

A doctoral program will devote two years or so to the core courses required and then leave the student to develop the research program for the dissertation, prepare it, present it and defend it. Three years can be devoted to the design and development of a dissertation, which is done in consultation with one or more faculty members. PhD programs tend to be much smaller that master's degree programs; while the workload is tremendous and the pressure substantial, support from the faculty is much more readily available.

Cost Considerations

Certainly it costs much more to complete a doctoral program than a master's degree, but estimating comparative costs isn't as simple as adding years. Many universities make substantial financial support available to PhD candidates, because universities believe the prominence of a particular academic program - psychology, for example - is based on the number of scholars and researchers produced at the doctoral level. Turning out successful college professors and researchers is the goal of most doctoral programs; they are important components in the academic recognition and ranking process, and so universities invest in students that are accepted.

When you're evaluating the cost of a PhD versus a Master's Degree, it may be more important to calculate wages lost to academic years than the cost of the education, because in many cases the school pays tuition and living costs for its PhD candidates, who have teaching and job opportunities generated within the department as well.

Salary Comparisons

It's difficult to evaluate the value of a PhD versus a Master's on the job market because in so many instances, a successful PhD graduate is headed for an academic post that generally will not pay a salary commensurate with opportunities in the commercial world. It's also important to understand that tenure is an important part of any professor's career, and that the trade-off for the security of tenure is a very slow rate of salary increase over the course of that career. Universities pay competitive entry level salaries for talented PhD graduates, so the incongruity often develops where a new associate professor may be making more than a tenured professor with years of career time invested in a university.

But that's the academic track. Here is a general review of salaries in some of the larger professional categories based on degree. These are not as specific as they might be; the world of financial services is a wild and wooly compensation environment and the medical fields have multiple levels of specialization. But there is a value to the doctorate, both in terms of prestige and for potential compensation. All salary figures are drawn from Payscale.com, Glassdoor.com and the U.S. Department of Labor

Biotech Research

Master's in Molecular Biotechnology: $62,000 - 91,000

PhD - R&D, Pharmaceuticals: $130,000 - $159,000

Nursing

MSN in Nurse Practitioner or Clinical Nurse Specialist: $65,000 - $88,000

MSN - Nurse Anesthetist: $115,000 - $152,000

PhD in Nursing (Academic) $80,000 - $100,000, total compensation, nine month yearly schedule

Senior Financial Analyst

MBA: $63,000 - $87,000

PhD: $86,000 - $153,000

Chartered Financial Analyst

MBA: (Securities & Investments) $53,000 - $89,000

PhD (Portfolio Manager) $77,000 - $144,000

Psychologist

MA/School Psychologist: $48,000 - $66,000

MA/Human Resources: $49,000 - $89,000

PhD Clinical Psychologist: Mean wage $109,000

Electrical Engineer

MS in Electrical Engineering $63,000 - $94,000

PhD in Electrical Engineering (Academic) Mean wage, nine months work $115,000

Software Engineer

MS: $56,000 - 74,000

PhD Senior Software Developer: $77,000 - $102,000

Project Management

Master of Science: $80,000 - $99,000

PhD: $120,000 - $160,000

Management Analyst/Consultant

MBA: $74,000 - $134,000

PhD: $102,000 - $180,000

Quantitative Analyst

MBA: $74,000 - $114,000

PhD: $105,000 - $186,000

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