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If I'm not sure whether to pursue a MS or PhD, are there programs in which you can earn an MS while pursuing a PhD?

Undergrad neuroscience major pursuing a career in research. #research #major #biology #chemistry

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Thy T.’s Answer

Hi Christopher,

Are the MS and the PhD in the same discipline? In either cases, you need to get the MS before you can start the PhD. However, if you have high GPA, you can skip the MS and just do the PhD (this will save you a lot of money).

If the MS and PhD are in different discipline (say Biology and Chemistry), you can do the MS in Bio and PhD in Chem. It really just depends on what you want to do in the future. If you know that you want to stay in research for your whole career, do the PhD.

I highly suggest that you do an internship or get a part-time job in a research lab during your undergrad years. This way you can be sure if you want to stick with research. If you figure out that research is not for you, a master degree would be the ideal degree to work in a company. But if you can, try to find the company that will pay for your master.

Hope this helps!

Thy T. recommends the following next steps:

Get experience in a research lab.
Find out if you want to stay in research.
Yes --> PhD
No --> find a company that will pay for your master if you can
Thank you comment icon Thank you for your response, helped clear up some things. I think I will pursue the PhD. Much appreciated. Christopher
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Megan’s Answer

Hi Christopher,

There are dual programs, but it does depend on the school you want to apply to. I as well as agree with the previous advice given. You want to make sure you are gaining the necessary experience in this field and it can be done through an internship. The more experience you build the better your chances of once graduating from this program you are able to apply that knowledge to your future job. It is also very important that you do a lot of research before you start to apply to these dual programs. The reason why I say this is because you do not want to push yourself too much. You need to consider how much time you will need in the program and being it will be a dual program that will allot for majority of your time. Dedication is key in these programs and so you must make sure that this is truly something you would want to do.
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Johanna’s Answer

Robert offers great advice that is very sound. To add onto his comments, I highly recommend speaking to your advisor and department heads to learn what programs are offered (if they are offered) and what the requirements are, so that you have a clear and balanced picture of not only your options but also what you would be committing yourself to (and for how long). Do you have any mentors in the field who might also be the bridge to a couple of brief conversations from people who have had this experience in their educational journey? Sometimes learning what someone else wishes they could have done differently is a great eye-opener. They might also be able to help you compile your list of questions for when you speak with your advisor and department heads. Good luck!

Johanna recommends the following next steps:

Schedule a meeting with your advisor as a starting point.
If your advisor agrees, reach out to the appropriate department heads for a brief touchpoint to capture their input.
Identify and connect with mentors to learn about their journey and identify key takeaways to consider on your path.
Summarise and synthesize your findings to review with a trusted counselor(s).
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Robert’s Answer

I'm glad you are asking this question, Christopher. I caution you that the answer is very field-specific! As a chemical engineer, an MS is a highly respected terminal degree that people pursue intentionally. As a chemist (a chemistry scientist), until recently, an MS was understood to be (only!) a consolation prize for someone who attempted but didn't complete a Ph.D. (That's changed a little now, as there are a few very good MS programs in chemistry out there, but the presumption lingers.) I would have to defer to a neuroscientist on how an MS is viewed in that field...but if you don't get an answer here, ASK, like your college departmental advisor, because the answer matters!

In MOST STEM fields, if you pursue a Ph.D. for at least a year or two, but don't graduate with a doctorate, you will get an MS degree. In some STEM fields, there are terminal (intentional) MS programs, and these usually focus on a niche (polymer chemistry, for example).

If you really want to be doing research, especially in which you are the one coming up with what to research (rather than pursuing someone else's ideas), you will want the Ph.D. BUT! Three provisos:
1. "Research" means different things to different people. If you like the lab work, but not writing grants, talking about your work, and managing other people, the MS may be just as good or better. Again, this is very field-specific, so ask several professors in your department about it.
2. Don't start a Ph.D. unless you promise yourself you will quit if you hate it. Doctoral work is NOT for everyone, and being a superstar undergraduate is often a prerequisite but rarely any kind of guarantee that you will take to it.
3. Try to figure out if you will hate it beforehand, with an internship(mostly engineering) or undergraduate research(mostly pure science), if possible.

Good luck@

Robert recommends the following next steps:

Ask people with MS and Ph.D. degrees in neurochemistry *specifically* (assuming that is what you want to study) what their career options are and what they spend most of their time doing.
Try to get undergrad research experience (to find out if you really enjoy research...a minority of the population does, it is frustrating work).
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Gustavo’s Answer

Hello Christopher! Well in my opinion it is important for you to take a Master's degree due to the experience you will gain in the line of research that proposes to work beyond all the nuances and experiences so necessary for your professional growth. This will allow you to enter the Doctorate a more experienced and confident researcher, with more grounded concepts and a more solid and conscious research project.
This research development schedule that most researchers go through is fundamental in their education, I suggest you don't skip the steps but take advantage of them as much as you can to become a good researcher.
My experience has shown that most of the people I had contact with who went straight to the doctoral program did not arrive so promptly, as they missed the master's degree experience.
In my opinion, you should choose well the line of research you want to follow, talk to the people who already do master's and doctorate, filter the information, and try to enter a good master's program to follow the natural evolution and become a good researcher. I hope I have helped you, my best regards. Success.
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