An En Route Masters during the PhD Program

This blog isn’t meant to be an advice blog, but I’ve gotten so many questions about my en route Masters that I decided I hash things out here.

15590205_1200711133376705_236442539807805501_nSide note: If you couldn’t tell already, that is my measure of whether or not to write a blog. By gauging how many people ask me.(Hint Hint)

First things first: No, your eyes do not deceive you. I have been in the PhD program the whole time. No, this is not me copping out and leaving school just yet. Surprisingly that hasn’t crossed my mind much 🙂

I actually have a couple reasons why I decided to do the en route Masters:

1. I couldn’t stand the thought of not getting paid the same as my peers because I didn’t have some piece of paper to measure up to my actual experience.

I previously worked at an organization where my salary was solely determined by the highest degree I completed; regardless of my research experiences. Though I had already had papers published and settled into a research topic that will most likely be my dissertation topic, my peers who did none of the previous was paid more than me because they had a Masters degree and I did not. That didn’t sit right with me. There are already a number of reasons out of my control(Race X Gender) why I may not be paid the same amount as my peers. I simply couldn’t let something I actually did have control over make that pay gap any larger.15591636_1200719586709193_1226825840525493055_o

2. It was free.

I was already in the process of getting my fully funded PhD for free so this was another free degree to grab on the way to the finish line.

3. This was something I already wanted to do when I was deciding whether to join the PhD program.

I’m not saying I planned on dipping out with my Masters from the moment I joined the PhD program. I’m just  saying that it was a reasonable option when I was applying since I didn’t really know anyone like me in the program(see presence blog) and I figured why not!

4. A way to say I’ve been doing something these past couple of years.

Not to say that I haven’t been doing anything at all. But this was nice mental checkmark for me that I’ve been getting stuff done. Though this was a seemingly minor feat for those with their PhDs already, this was something important to me. I’ve been told it’s good to celebrate the small wins and this was one of the few that I could share with my family.

5. My mom wanted me to…

So yeah I know –  “because my Mom wanted me to” sounds like I’m some dweeb that does whatever my mom says but it’s honestly more than that….I promise. In fact, this bleeds into the fact that neither myself nor my family knew anyone else who had accomplished a similar feat. Honestly, my family was a little unclear as how I could jump straight into a PhD without doing a Masters. This was an opportunity to help things make sense. In addition, education means a lot to my family. If this was something I wanted. Why not go for it?


How were you even allowed to do a Masters?

Turns out a couple PhD programs offer an “on the way” degree as an option. You just have to look around on the website and ask questions. It’s not like it’s some hidden secret, it’s just not publicized much.

In fact, many students do join the PhD program with the intention of just funding their Masters. It’s typically frowned upon though. University funding is typically involved with doctoral students so there is an agreement that the student will be successful in their PhD(4-6 years), not their Masters(2 years). If you leave early, it’s as if you have not honored your agreement to use those funds accordingly. As a result, the university doesn’t get their investment back from you staying for the entire stint and completing cutting edge research projects that would make the unviersity look good. Actually, in some cases, departments may ask for that money back. In another scenario, life happens and people have to leave the doctoral program for personal reasons. To show they did something with their research and coursework, the university will allow them to have their Masters. This situation does not happen often, but it does happen.

What is the point of this blog again?!

Well the point of this blog is to let people know that there are opportunities to get a little something extra out of your PhD….for FREE!

15585462_1200704723377346_3844124558028613944_oI’ve had many people come up to me who have been in the program longer than me and sincerely did not know that this was an option. I just want to encourage t
hose of you who may have similar reasons as I for pursuing the enroute Masters to ask questions and see if this is an option  in your PhD program.

At the end of the day the 3 extra classes allowed me to get my feet wet in a field that I was always interested in, it applied to my research, and I got another degree plus a minor out of it. Honestly that’s a QUADRUPLE win! Yes, I may have had to diverge from my research a bit to take a couple exams but I truly think it was all worth it!


A girl with a Masters in Computer Science and Minor in Cognitive Science


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