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Should I complete a Masters degree before my PhD?

So you are in your 3rd or 4th year of a Bachelors’ degree and doing well in your academic career. You are getting good grades and like the idea of a career in research. You are excited about getting into graduate school where you will be challenged and where you will work on top grade research, and get a “Dr” against your name. But you are unsure of whether you should pursue the Masters’ program or the PhD program in your graduate program. First, let’s differentiate between the different graduate programs available for those who want to get a PhD:
  1. PhD

    You combine all Masters’ and PhD courses and research into one program, and graduate with a PhD.

  2. Masters’+PhD

    You complete a Masters’, get a Masters’ degree and then you do the same for the PhD. So you get two separate degrees. You can change professors after your Masters’ or you can start working on your PhD thesis (with the same professor) while pursuing your Masters’

  3. Masters’

    You complete a Masters’. Then you decide if you want to do a PhD or not.

Not all universities have all these three options available. In my opinion and experience, Option 2 is the best. If you are able to obtain funding to take Option 3, that would work as well. The reason for this is that less than 50% of people who pursue a PhD are not able to complete a PhD. There are multiple reasons for this, such as fatigue, better job offers, family life etc. You may not think you will be affected by any of these, but neither does anyone who starts pursuit of a PhD. If you pursue a PhD using Option 1 and are unable to complete a PhD, you have nothing to show for your efforts. With Options 2 and 3, you at least have a Masters’ degree, which gives you more respect and a bigger salary in industry.
Option 2 has the added benefit that you can start working on your PhD thesis while completing your Masters’ which allows you to complete your PhD faster.
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