Do you want to pursue a PhD after Bachelor’s? Yes, it is possible to pursue a PhD right after finishing a bachelor’s degree. Many countries might have different approaches to PhD and Master’s admissions. However, in North America, the vast majority of institutions accept PhD students that recently graduated from a Bachelor’s degree.
A Master’s degree takes about two to three years to complete. In most cases, universities only require the student to pass the necessary coursework to graduate. Other Master’s programs also have a thesis or research requirements. Those programs are commonly referred to as Master’s with thesis. A PhD is a lot longer than a Master’s. On average, a full PhD takes over eight years to complete. The program does not only focus on coursework but research.
When you are pursuing a PhD you are actually completing a combined Master’s plus PhD program. First, you complete related coursework in a couple of years. Then, you continue your PhD by diving into the research world. Many PhD students attend commencement after completing the Master’s stages of their PhD program. Others wait until they have completed the whole program.
If you have graduated from a Bachelor’s degree and are considering graduate school: Why should you go straight to PhD? Well, the sections below expand on the key benefits and disadvantages from pursuing a PhD right after a Bachelor’s. Also, the last section describes the most common application requirements and valuable application strategies.
Straight to PhD Benefits
Some people take a few years to complete a Master’s degree. Then, they pursue a PhD and take an average of eight years to complete it. If you complete both degrees separately, then your studies will take an additional 2-3 years. Also, you will have to apply for graduate school twice and might even need a transition semester. When you go straight from Bachelor’s to PhD, you save time.
Graduate school, in general, is extremely expensive. Spending more time being a graduate student also means higher expenses. The expense does not only come from tuition but the opportunity cost. Since graduate programs are very demanding, it is challenging to work fulltime or hold a high paying job. Most times, the students will have to fully dedicate to their studies and get paid through university programs such as teaching or research assistantships.
Transition to graduate school is smoother when you just finished your undergrad. When you just graduate, you are academically ready to start graduate school, and your knowledge is fresh. If you decide to work for a few years or take a break in between degrees, you might forget essential knowledge. You can regain it later on. But the transition won’t be as seamless.
Much Better Funding Opportunities:
Very few universities fully fund Master’s programs. When pursuing a PhD, you have a much higher chance of seeking funding from the university. Universities gain prestige from research programs. Therefore, it makes sense that they will encourage students to pursue a PhD and contribute to their research projects.
Building up your Resume Efficiently:
Having a PhD as part of your credentials is very impressive. Completing a Master’s degree is also remarkable. However, once you finish a PhD not many will pay attention to your other degrees. Employers will be interested in your PhD and what you achieved during the program. Having a Master’s degree in addition to the PhD won’t make your resume much more impressive. Yet, there is an exception. If you pursue a Master’s degree in a completely different field of study, then employers can find value in your additional skills.
Disadvantages of Going Straight to a PhD
Lack of Experience:
The majority of students graduating from a Bachelor’s in the US are in their mid-twenties. At such an early age, those individuals have not experienced different professional positions. Therefore, they still might be uncertain of their career path.
Little Work Experience:
In some fields of study, universities might prefer some PhD applicants with years of job experience. An applicant with no experience can still apply, but their chance of acceptance is lower.
Students that commit to a Phd program, know the program will take many years to complete. However, they do not always fully realize the investment. Pursuing a graduate program right after a Bachelor’s can cause a lot of strain and stress. For that reason, some prospective students take a gap year to work in the industry or experience a research position.
What if you decide to drop the PhD midway?
It is ok. You still have a Plan B (or C)
This is a prevalent concern that PhD students have during their studies. After all, the programs are rigorous, expensive, and time-consuming. While the original goal of PhD students is to complete the program, it is not always possible. If midway, you realize you cannot move forward and would instead pursue another program or go to work directly, you can still do so. As long as you completed all the coursework, the university will let you graduate with a Master’s and continue your career elsewhere.
The admission applications for most PhD programs include several items. The most common application requirements are the following.
- GRE scores: The vast majority of universities will require competitive GRE scores and some times, additional tests. Set achievable study goals to take GRE and GRE subject examinations. Always give yourself a second try just in case.
- Recommendation letter(s): I would recommend starting to reach out to your contacts early for recommendation letters. Do not rush them to write you a recommendation letter. Most of them (especially professors) might be swamped with work, and if you are looking for the best recommendation letter you can get, give them time.
- Personal Statement: This is a common requirement in most graduate school applications for almost all programs. Each university will give you a theme to focus on your statement. Take your time and revise your writing.
- Transcript: Your transcripts list all your coursework and associated grades. Most programs are not only interested in your overall GPA, but also your major GPA.
- Resume: Sharing your resume is an opportunity to list your academic achievements and related work experience. If you have any research achievements, make sure to highlight those in the application. Showing research knowledge before starting the program is a significant asset.
Most schools publish the previous incoming class statistics. The class profiles sometimes include average GPAs, GRE scores, and years of experience. Take the information into consideration when picking a graduate school and building your applications. Do not leave any application items for the last minute. Take your time, but start finalizing details at least a month before any deadline.