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Difference Between Masters and PhD

Masters and Ph.D. degrees are postgraduate programs that students who want to advance in their area of specialization enroll to add skills and competence.


What is a Master’s Degree?

This is the first level of graduate study that specifically focuses on providing additional knowledge, skills, and competence to an individual who has already finished his or her bachelor’s degree program.

Individuals who complete this program are considered to have specialized training in a specific area which includes analytical, evaluation and practical application skills.

What is a Ph.D. Degree?

A Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) degree is a doctoral program which means that an individual has an exclusive qualification in a specific field. Students in this field are expected to research and develop solutions for the problems currently facing the world through extensive research and experiments.


Difference between Masters and PhD

Financing for Masters and PhD

Although student’s pursuing these programs benefit from financial aids from the government and other bodies, the cost of financing varies from one program to the other. Despite the high tuition fees required to complete a master’s program, doctoral programs are significantly costly due to the length of the study that one takes before one can be considered to be a doctoral graduate.

Tuition fees may be lower in the doctoral programs, but the cost involved in research and experiments proves to be much higher as compared to that cost incurred when pursuing a master’s program.

Nevertheless, it is worth highlighting that the cost of the two programs varies from one institution and the area of specialization to the other.

Enrollment for Masters and PhD

To enroll in a master’s program, one must have completed the undergraduate program while at the same time demonstrating a significant level of qualifications that is specifically dependent on the field that one wants to master.

For example, some master’s program may require an individual to have honors in their undergraduate programs to enroll while others require an individual to have undergraduate qualifications.

Enrollment criterial for a Ph.D. program depends on the university that an individual wants to pursue his or her studies. Some universities and countries require qualifications in both undergraduate and master’s program to enroll while some institutions enroll students who do not have master’s qualifications.

Period of  Masters and PhD Study

One of the significant difference between the masters and Ph.D. degree programs in the period that an individual takes to attain the necessary qualifications.

Masters programs take relatively shorter periods because one can attain qualifications within two years of study unless one fails some courses which increase the completion period.

Doctoral programs take significantly longer period to attain completion. A Ph.D. program in a specific field may take four years to complete while other doctoral programs are known to take up to eight years before one attains completion.


People who are motivated to pursue successful careers on their specializations attain master’s qualifications which help in increasing their knowledge, skills, and competence.

Masters graduates occupy strategic positions in any company where they hold influential positions that help them to advance the interests of the company.

On the other hand, people who have motivation in pursuing the teaching profession enroll for doctoral programs which are necessary and highly sought for by management of different colleges and universities.

Ph.D. graduates occupy influential positions in the university and college structure where they are deans and head of departments in different faculties despite being astute lecturers.

Prestige and Salary Packages

Ph.D. holders are respected members of the society and are considered to be most learned with the capacity of handling any educational aspect. Therefore, this program is very prestigious and attractive, especially for those people who want to honor their self-actualization desires.

Holders of the doctoral program are entitled to significantly higher salaries because they offer specialized services which include consultancy and management services

On the other hand, a master’s program is relatively prestigious because the holders of this program can apply for lucrative jobs in different companies. However, holders of this program do not have a prefix before their names unlike the holders of the Ph.D. program. 

Holders of the master’s programs are entitled to relatively higher salaries and other benefits because they hold strategic and influential positions in different organizations.

Methods of Learning in Masters and PhD

Masters programs adopt a typical class system where the supervisor offers his or her knowledge to the students upon which they are supposed to be evaluated through exams. The tests in masters programs test both conceptual and evaluation skills among students.

Unlike masters programs, doctoral programs adopt a flexible learning structure where students are allowed to research solve specific problems. The supervisor is mandated to guide and assist students as they prepare solutions in the form of a dissertation.

Difference between Masters and PhD

Basis For Difference

Ph.D. Degree

Master’s Degree

Methods of Learning Supervisory Structure Class Structure
Prestige Prestigious Relatively Prestigious
Salary Packages Higher Salary Packages Relatively Higher Salary Packages
Motivation Teaching or career Profession Career or teaching Profession
Financing Costly Relatively Costly
Period of Study Long (up to 8 years) Short (2-4 years)

Summary of Masters and PhD

  • One of the main difference between a master’s program and Ph.D. is that masters programs take shorter period, usually two years, to complete while doctoral programs take more than four years to complete.
  • Masters programs adopt a class learning system where students follow instructions and guidelines provided by their supervisors while doctoral students adopt a flexible learning system where the supervisor helps students to prepare dissertations.
  • Holders of doctoral qualifications feel prestigious and are entitled to significantly higher salary packages as compared to the holders of masters programs which are relatively prestigious and are entitled to relatively higher salary packages.
  • Other significant differences between masters and Ph.D. degrees include enrollment requirements, cost of financing the program, motivation, and period of study among other differences.

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1 Comment

  1. The table “PhD Versus Masters” is reversed. The attributes listed for each degree need to be switched. Just FYI

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References :

[0]Galuppo, Louis, and Elaine Worzala. "A Study into the Important Elements of a Master’s Degree in Real Estate." Journal of Real Estate Practice and Education 7.1 (2004): 25-42.

[1]Goldhaber, Dan D., and Dominic J. Brewer. "Evaluating the effect of teacher degree level on educational performance." (1996).

[2]Hockey, John. "A contractual solution to problems in the supervision of Ph.D. degrees in the UK." Studies in Higher Education 21.3 (1996): 359-371.

[3]Image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MASTERS_DEGREE.jpg#/media/File:MASTERS_DEGREE.jpg

[4]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/graduation-graduation-day-2038865/

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