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Should I go straight through to my PhD?

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Should I get my masters and work while getting my PhD, or should I go straight through and get my PhD, interning along the way? Which way gets me more experience, and which would insure that I will have a job?

#social-work #phd #internship #masters #phd #msw

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Michael’s Answer

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I don't know social work... but I did go straight from undergraduate degree into a Masters/PhD program, and based on this I think the entire graduate experience which covered many abstract topics would have meant more to me if I'd first spent time in the field. For me, this would mean in industry. For you, this might mean time spent working as (or with) a social worker.


Higher education is also higher level education, and will mean more if it is building on something you've seen with your own eyes and not just in text books. Being able to relate the things you are studying in a Ph.D program to personal experiences will be a lot more rewarding than just studying something in the abstract. It will also help you pick a dissertation topic that you have personal knowledge of and not just academic knowledge of.


Having a year or two between masters and Ph.D spent working could add meaning to your Ph.D.

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Nicole’s Answer

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Hi Demetrius,


This is a really tough question! It really depends on how much you love the subject. It's not uncommon at all to take a year or two to try out the field to be sure you want to commit to a full PhD course (which generally takes at least five years, on average seven years). I decided to go straight through my undergraduate course and enroll in a PhD program where I would get a master's degree in year two of the five year program. It was a good financial decision personally because PhDs tend to be better funded while masters programs are generally out of pocket. It really depends on what schools you're looking at, but I would recommend applying to a PhD program that grants you a master's degree along the way if you truly want a PhD. However, you may find through an internship process that you do not need the PhD in order to do the work you want to perform. I have multiple friends from my undergrad that went straight into social work and are planning on getting a masters in the future, but started working right after graduation. Getting a PhD is generally not helpful unless you want to enter academia or go into consultation. Unfortunately a PhD doesn't ensure that you'll be hired for a job, while job experience tends to be more important.

Nicole recommends the following next steps:

  • Think about what kind of job you would like to have
  • Review the financial aid packages for master's and PhD programs alike
  • Look over the PhD process at each school - are there academics you really want to work with? Or is there a research topic you'd like to pursue? You should have this research topic in mind in order to fill out applications for graduate school
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