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Thread: Doing a masters before applying for Phd in management or skipping it?

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    Doing a masters before applying for Phd in management or skipping it?

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    I was just wondering whether it would like better to do a masters in a business-related field before applying for Phd in business programs at prestigious/good universities (e.g., Harvard, INSEAD, Wharton, and so on).

    It seems like that many b-schools do accept students with only undergraduate-level education, but is this the norm? I have heard from somehow that it is actually rare for undergraduate students going straight to PhD in business programs, but an associate professor at a prestigious b-school told me that he would not recommend having a masters degree before doing the PhD. So really, I have been completely overwhelmed by these two opposing views. To make matters worse, there are just too many business-related master's programs (MIM, aka Masters in Management; MBA; Master of Research in Business, aka Mres), and I have basically no idea what to do: should I skip the masters? Or should I have one before applying? If so, which? Taught masters or research masters?

    Therefore, I was wondering if someone of you would be so kind as to share his/her personal experience/opinion with me.

    And here I would like to offer my point of view. In my humble opinion, I think doing a masters, although not necessary, can be of huge help. It seems to be evident that when the admission officers at any university review a person's candidacy for a phd program, one of the most important factors taken into consideration would be the person's research background: what he is interested in? what has he studied/published so far? And it is really hard to imagine that an undergraduate student would have the same level of understanding of a field and research background that a masters student have, which denotes that the former will be in an unfavorable position when being considered.

    As for which masters to opt for, I would say that a taught masters is the best option for anyone wanting to enter into a phd program, since the students are given a lot of freedom to pursuit their interests.

    Might I know if my understanding and conclusions are correct? Might I know if there are actually some benefits in applying as a bachelor?

    Thanks for your time and reading!
    Any suggestion will be highly appreciated

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    Re: Doing a masters before applying for Phd in management or skipping it?

    Most PhD students have some kind of graduate degree, like a masters, but certainly there are still many who go straight from undergrad to a PhD. Maybe around 20% do a PhD without a masters or equivalent degree, but I may be very wrong in that guess, and things can change a lot over time.

    It's hard to say whether you should skip a masters or not. If you have a very strong profile for PhD applications even without a masters, I think it's totally ok to skip it. But that's not the case of many people with a bachelor's degree.

    If you do a masters as a step towards a PhD, then I think it's better to do something with a strong focus on research (not an MBA, for example). You will probably have a much better understanding about what academic research is, as well as some result to show during PhD applications, and a better chance of having stronger letters of recommendations if professors like you.

    I think it's also important to say that, depending on what kind of research you are going to do, you may even prefer to study something else (like Economics, Engineering, or Psychology) instead of Management. You can check the background of professors, you will see a lot of different backgrounds.

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    Re: Doing a masters before applying for Phd in management or skipping it?

    I would check out some of the profiles from current PhD students in the programs you are interested in attending to see what kind of degrees they have and where they got them from. Overall though I think its a mix of both. A strong masters GPA may help make up for a weak bachelorís GPA, as it did in my case. Also I was able to teach and was a research assistant during my masters which I think was effective in signaling my interest in doing a PhD. It also allowed me to get some strong recommendation letters from academics that I would otherwise not have had.

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    Re: Doing a masters before applying for Phd in management or skipping it?

    Thanks for the help! Have a good one!

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    Re: Doing a masters before applying for Phd in management or skipping it?

    You will need three strong academic references and some research experience and/or clear research interests to be accepted into a PhD program (of course there are some exceptions). You can absolutely achieve this with just an undergrad degree; however, if you are almost done your degree and don't think you'll be competitive for your target PhD program, a masters degree can help you improve your profile. Aim for research based masters degree and ideally at a school where you might want to do a PhD. Your goal in the masters degree is to get some research experience and strong reference letters, in addition to high grades.
    I have an MBA (my goal at the time was not to enter academia) and this did not help my PhD applications at all, but it also didn't hurt. I would not recommend this route if you know that you want to do research since it is expensive and you will have a hard time finding the time to do anything outside of coursework (i.e. research / working directly with professors).

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