What’s Difference Between a Masters and a Doctorate?

The Difference Between a Masters and a Doctorate

There are many different types of degrees available. Doctorates and master’s degrees are the two most common kinds of degrees. Both graduate degrees have a more specialised educational focus than undergraduate degrees. The longer it takes to obtain a higher degree, and the more specialised it is, the longer it takes to earn it.

We’re delving further into the distinctions between master’s and doctoral degrees to help you figure out which is right for you.

What is a Master’s Degree?

Master’s degrees are more adaptable than doctoral degrees, and they can be used in a variety of professional and academic settings. Master’s of Arts (M.A.) and Master’s of Science (M.Sc.) are the most frequent master’s degrees. There are three different sorts of master’s programmes:

Research Master’s degrees are commonly awarded in academic and applied research fields. A Master’s of Arts in Comparative Literature and a Master’s of Science in Biology are two examples. Earning a research master’s degree without pursuing a Ph.D. can limit your career opportunities in several professions. Talk to academics or specialists in your field to figure out what’s ideal for you and your career path.

Professional Master’s degrees introduce individuals to practical skills and frameworks for analysing difficulties in their subject, preparing them for professional work. These degrees may also enable a person to work in their chosen field. A Master’s of Social Work, a Master’s of Architecture, or a Master’s of Art in Teaching are all examples of master’s degrees. The majority of degrees on display at Idealist Grad Fairs are professional master’s degrees that support jobs in the social good.

In their subject, terminal master’s degrees are the highest academic degree. While some master’s degrees serve as a stepping stone to a doctorate, others, such as a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing or a Master of Library Science, represent the highest level of academic certification available in certain professions.

Candidates must have completed a bachelor’s degree before pursuing a master’s degree. Master’s degrees typically last one to three years and include advanced-level coursework and seminars. Some programmes lead to students researching, writing, and defending a master’s thesis. The thesis is frequently replaced with final projects and tests in professional master’s degrees.

Doctorates are the highest level of education available

The Doctor of Philosophy, or PhD, is the most common doctorate. These research doctorates prepare students to contribute to the field’s collective knowledge base and provide a one-of-a-kind chance for a person to perform rigours and long-term research on a specific issue, which frequently results in publication. Many people with a PhD want to be professors or researchers, but they can also work in the nonprofit, public, or commercial sectors. There are also professional doctorates such as the MD (Medical Doctor) and the JD (Juris Doctor) (Juris Doctor). Candidates seeking a doctorate must have completed a bachelor’s degree and, in some situations, a master’s degree, depending on the programme. PhD programmes are typically smaller than master’s programmes due to the nature of specialisation.

Related: 10 Steps to Apply for PhD in the USA after Masters in 2022/2023

Candidates for the PhD programme begin by taking courses and tests. They then on to advanced seminars and complete their requirements by conducting research, writing, and defending a dissertation. A dissertation is a doctoral-level thesis on the candidate’s original research and is one of the most important parts of receiving a PhD. A doctorate degree can take up to eight years to finish, depending on the school, whether the candidate has already obtained a master’s degree (or is fresh out of college), and how long the dissertation takes to complete.

Dual degree programmes, often known as joint master’s and doctoral programmes, are a type of dual degree programme that combines master’s and doctoral

If you decide that both degree programmes are a good fit for you, some programmes allow you to pursue both degrees at the same time. A dual degree programme allows you to use your earned credits towards both degrees at the same time. More information is available here.

How do you know which degree is the best fit for you?

Your work field and educational ambitions will determine whether you seek a master’s or PhD. By conducting your own research and networking with peers, you can learn more about the requirements in your profession. Reaching out to a professional mentor or alumni from your desired programme can also assist you in making graduate school decisions. Additionally, consulting with graduate school admissions officials might provide insight into the types of graduate programmes accessible.

It’s difficult to provide generic advice on graduate programmes because so much depends on the topic of study. With that in mind, we’d like to share some examples of how master’s and doctorate degrees might help you succeed. To demonstrate this, we’ve chosen the fields of social work and business:

Work in the Social Services

If you wish to study social work in graduate school, you can do it at the master’s or doctoral level. Consider what position you’d like to perform in the field of social work to figure out what’s best for you. A master’s degree may be the best option if you want to work as a social welfare direct service provider or a government agency administrator. A Ph.D. degree is a better fit if you want to be a professor at a post-secondary school, a social welfare research scholar, or a social welfare policy analyst. A master’s degree paired with practical job experience may be sufficient preparation for a career as a researcher, policy analyst, or mid-level manager outside of academic settings, where a doctorate is required for most teaching posts.


You can get a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) or a Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) in business administration (DBA). The MBA (or nonprofit management degree) may be the ideal option if your long-term objective is to take on a leadership role in a nonprofit or business firm. The DBA, on the other hand, is a better choice if you want to work in academia, teaching and researching business processes.

Knowing your career goals will help you narrow down your graduate school options. Certain job pathways, such as becoming a public defender or a medical practitioner, have more clearly defined milestones, such as the requisite college level and graduate degree. Other career routes are less structured, necessitating more research and consideration of what is best for you. Researching your topic of interest thoroughly and having a firm grasp on the skills and information you desire and need from your graduate study can help you determine which degree alternatives are best for you.