(I understand this is a highly subjective question. I’m asking more for anecdotal and experiential answers more than a definitive solution, as a result.)</disclaimer>
So, I am working towards finishing my M.A. thesis in the humanities (music), and although I’m still pining for law school, I’m also going to apply to a couple of really first tier music PhD programs across the U.S. If I get into one of those, I might be persuaded to give up my dreams of being gainfully employed, and enjoy a peaceful life of academia, lol.
That having been said, It’s been my experience that in my chosen field, the Americans don’t have distinct M.A. and PhD programs. Instead, like the Brits, they seem to have opted for the “terminal” program, whereby you get into a PhD program straight after a B.A./B.Mus./B.Phil., and then if you jump ship and “terminate” before the dissertation, you still manage to walk away with your pride and a few letters after your name - M.A., to be exact.
My question: if I apply to one of these programs with a previous M.A. in hand, will they let me, say, skip part of the coursework, and any papers they have the beginning of the program, shaving off a year or more from the intended completion? I understand that such teleological, “get the PhD” thinking is bad karma for anyone in the humanities, but it would really be disheartening if I had to start at the bottom of the ladder along with the people who just finished a Bachelor’s.
Any advice/anecdotes/suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks!
My field (biology) works the same way, and I’m working on a PhD without a master’s. I can’t think of anyone in my program that has a master’s, although I don’t really know one way or the other. However, I sincerely doubt that anyone coming in with a master’s would be allowed to skip anything. They’d have to start from day one with the rest of us.
But see, the sciences (from what insight I’ve gleamed) are different in the mechanics of graduate school. The whole point of the journeyman degree in liberal arts is to be exposed to the philosophies of all these different professors and have it fester into your writing and research. So, it makes for a better rounded scholar if you spent 4 years here for a B.A., two years there for an M.A., and 4 years over yonder hill for a PhD. But in science and engineering, I don’t see that being an issue, and so while it is extremely rare to see someone get all three sets of letters at one school (though I’ve seen it happen) in music, I see it happen often in Engineering, math, and the natural sciences.
Lot’s of people do get a separate Master’s degree before entering a Ph.D. program. There are reasons why someone may want to do that such as trying to improve their academic standing if they didn’t do as well as they could have in undergraduate school or to change fields from an undergraduate major completely before going to a PhD program. If the student is focused on earning a PhD while in undergraduate school, it is generally a time-waster to get a terminal Master’s in the middle but the PhD program may accept transfer credit for a few classes and the terminal Master’s thesis may become the foundation for a PhD dissertation.
Circumstances and motivations vary why someone may get a terminal Master’s before a PhD and not all that effort is necessarily wasted but it isn’t the ideal way to do it from a time standpoint.
In my Ph.D. program in Physics, some of the international students already had Master’s degrees (or the equivalent) when they came in. As a result, they didn’t end up taking the first-year graduate courses, and went straight into the upper-level graduate courses instead. However (and here’s the catch) the first-year graduate courses were not required courses, just “strongly recommended”; only a certain number of upper-level courses were actually required to get a degree (along with a thesis, passing the qualifying exam, a lab class, some amount of teaching experience, etc.)
So technically speaking these students weren’t skipping any requirements. But they still had a leg up on those of us coming directly from an undergraduate degree, and it did seem to me that a lot of them finished more quickly.
I’m in a sociology Ph.D. program in the US. Our program is Ph.D. only, but students who come in with a masters are often able to have some of the course requirements waived. However, they are still stuck doing the other requirements, like a second year paper that looks an awful lot like a masters thesis.
Thanks for all the responses! I suppose the easiest way around this is to find a standalone PhD program that demands an M.A. as prerequisite (there are several of these here in Canada), but I’m looking at several really nice PhD programs in the U.S. where, I hate to say it, the deal breaker is starting all the way from scratch, again. Even if I can get around the banal “Intro to writing about xx, intro to critical theory, cultural theory, etc.,” courses, that might be enough to persuade me one way or another.
I suppose the next step from here is to actually pose the question to individual schools!
I switched schools from one PhD program to another, after getting an MS before I left. I had to take quals (again) at my new school, but I didn’t have to take any basic classes. I think I pretty much only took seminar classes at the new school, and my dissertation class, of course. But I was coming from a better school to a worse one, (though to a better professor) so they didn’t try to play games with me. A bunch of other grad students had transferred in when their professor moved, and I don’t recall them complaining about taking classes, though they arrived at least a year before I did.
In any case, in computer science, if you pass the quals and have enough credits you don’t have to repeat classes. Music, I don’t know.
My PhD program in engineering explicitly required a certain number of credits “beyond the MS degree.” Those that entered the program directly from undergraduate normally got an MS as a matter of course; those that entered with an MS from another institution simply started in on the coursework “beyond the MS degree.”
In my PhD program (history), you would have started at exactly the same place as everyone else. We had a few people who came in with MAs and they had to follow exactly the same path as those who came straight from their BA.
Its actually strongly advised to do your undergrad, masters and PhD at different institutes in my experience (though that may be my specific field – astronomy). As in the humanities, there are as many viewpoints and research styles/philosophies as there are scientists. Working with multiple supervisors/schools of thought/research styles is seen as a key part of becoming a good researcher in your own right.
That wasn’t intentional, but I’ve never been one to disown a good pun.
In my experience (astronomy and then physics), different institutions are encouraged for undergrad, grad school, and eventual faculty job, but it’s routine for the master’s and PhD to be at the same place, and there’s often a postdoc at the same school where you got your PhD and/or the school where you eventually get a tenure track position. Separate schools for masters and PhD, when it happens, is usually a result of some extraordinary circumstance, such as a falling-out with an advisor, an advisor retiring/moving/dying etc., or following a spouse across the country.
Yeah, its routine, at least in England, for bachelors and masters to be at the same place, but you move for a postdoc from where you did the PhD unless there are exceptional circumstances. A lot of people go back to where they did their PhD for a faculty job or postdoc, but I was told that it’d seriously hinder chances of a faculty job if I didn’t move post-PhD.
Well, Susan McCreary and a couple of other big names there recently jumped ship, I’m told; it remains to be seen what direction their musicology program takes, even in the coming months and years. So it’s in the “most likely” column, for me.