1. About
  2. Features
  3. Explore

I've been considering applying to graduate school of some form or another in Mathematics. During my undergraduate years, I did decently on my undergraduate coursework (mostly A-s, some As, a B) but not stellar, and it wasn't until I started taking graduate courses as a senior that I started buckling down and getting solid As or higher. I also had no research experience at this time.

I eventually want to apply to a Ph. D program in pure mathematics. Since I didn't really click until later in undergraduate years, so I was considering applying to 2-year masters programs in mathematics, and then based on my performance there, decide whether I'm fit to work towards a Ph. D.

My question is, what are the advantages and disadvantages to completing a master's program before applying to a separate Ph. D program?

I know masters degrees are sometimes considered terminal degrees. Would doing well in masters coursework be advantageous in applying to Ph. D programs later on as opposed to immediately after undergrad years? Does strong performance as a masters student make one a more attractive candidate, or do programs have less interest in applicants who already have a masters? Is it wiser to apply for a Ph. D directly? I'm sorry if this question is considered too much of a soft question. Thank you.

1 Answer 1

Many PhD programs require you to do a masters on your way to a PhD, so the point in many cases is moot. That being said,

Advantages:

  • You'll get a chance to see whether research is something you like before committing to the PhD process.
  • You'll complete most of the coursework, so when you get to the PhD work you'll be able to more quickly focus on research.

Disadvantages:

  • Depending on the masters, you may be spending money on your degree. Many PhD programs will fund your way (in exchange for you doing awesome research).
  • You'll be required to do a master thesis, which can be comprehensive, and you may come to view it as a waste to do it twice (one for masters, one for PhD).