Monday, September 10, 2012

Masters or PhD?

As some students are thinking about graduate school, they have to decide if they are going to apply for a Master's program, or a PhD program. This can be a really tough decision if you aren't sure which one will be the best fit for you. Here at UMSI, there are some major differences between our Master's and PhD programs. Our Master's program is a professional degree, training you to be a leading information professional when you graduate. On the other hand, the PhD program is focused more on research, and training you to create new knowledge in the information field. Deciding which will be the best fit is really a pretty personal choice. I think the best way to get started if both options are really appealing to you, would be to talk to the offices here at UMSI to begin to learn more. You can contact, and we can help you evaluate your situation. We can also connect you to some current students who could share a little bit about what their own experiences have been in each program. Finally, I also think that a good approach to deciding which program might be the best fit for you is thinking about the career goals that you have. You can see some great examples of what a lot of our Master's students have gone on to do on our Web site. There are some examples of PhD grads there as well, but in general, most of the PhD grads are going on to faculty positions.

A common question that I get asked is whether the Master's program will help train a student to get into the PhD program. In general, our program is not designed to be a direct feeder into the PhD program. However, there are some great opportunities in the Master's program to prepare yourself for a PhD program if that is your personal goal. For example, we have a great commitment to research at our School. All of our faculty are engaged in some form of research, and they are very excited about having Master's students participate with their work. We encourage Master's students who would like an opportunity to try out a research environment to go online and read through the faculty research interests to see where there might be a good fit. Once a student identifies some faculty where the research is interesting to them, then they could begin the process of getting to know that faculty member better, and potentially getting involved in their research. One common way that students connect to research projects is by taking classes from the faculty whose work is interesting to them. Doing well in the class and going to office hours is a great way to build a connection with that faculty member. In addition, for students who do find that they really want to participate in research, we do offer a Master's Thesis option. Again, this is completely optional, but it can be a good way to build up your resume, and get a deeper research experience, if you are thinking about doing a PhD.

If deciding whether you are going to apply for the Master’s or the PhD program here at the School of Information is a question on your mind, please feel free to contact us!