Pros and Cons of Transferring from MSc to PhD

The transfer from MSc to PhD without completing the MSc is designed to allow a student who has developed a great project during their MSc work to transfer that project into the PhD program. While this can sound pretty attractive there are some distinct disadvantages of doing this. Both the pros and cons of taking such a transfer are summarized below.

Advantages to Transferring from MSc to PhD

  • write only one thesis rather than two graduate theses, and thus have only one thesis defence
  • move into PhD program without need to have completed a research project
  • spread the course load over more years as you do not need to complete the required 4 MSc courses before transferring to the PhD program

Advantages to Completing the MSc Thesis and Degree

  • Garner some valuable experience in writing a thesis. Most students have no idea how long it will take them to put together their thesis. Writing up your MSc will give you some valuable insights into both the process and your ability. Such writing also helps tremendously in formulating new research for your PhD as it gets you reading the relevant background, and will provide you with excellent feedback on your organizational, writing and analytical skills.
  • Gain confidence in both your work and your writing. Until you have actually written and defended a thesis you have no idea how much confidence you will gain in going through this process successfully. The extra time taken to write up an MSc can certainly be countered by the increased efficiency you will get from this confidence boost.
  • Submit a paper or two for publication. If you are planning to stay on to extend your MSc work into a PhD, then focus the MSc thesis on work that can now be written up for publication. This too s invaluable experience but even better, it's a great way to enhance scholarship, and eventually job, applications. Published papers will also introduce you to and raise your profile in your field of research, also invaluable.
  • Put some of your research behind you. By writing up some of your research for publication, you will not be tempted to collect more data on the subject of that work. This will allow you to focus your PhD research on more important topics.
  • Have a thesis completed and a degree in hand. In the unlikely event that your PhD research flounders, or you change your mind for whatever reason, you will already have a degree completed. If you take this route there is no going back.