Graduate Degrees: Is a Master’s or PhD Best?

Choosing between graduate degrees can be challenging.

Do you want to know the difference between a Master’s degree and a PhD degree? Your salary can increase by 17% if you earn a master’s degree, while it can increase by 30% if you earn a doctorate. Clearly, a graduate degrees lead to a higher salary. If you do not know the difference between a master’s and a PhD degree, you may have wrong expectations about your career.

Research and academic work are often the focus of a PhD, while advanced career skills are the focus of a master’s degree. Knowing the distinction between these degrees will help you choose the right one. For more information on what those different kinds of degrees entail, read on.

The Master’s Degree: What Is It?

The master’s degree is the next step beyond the bachelor’s degree. The Master’s program consists of a core series of lectures and teaching modules. As well as assignments and tests, a specific research project must also be completed.

It usually takes three to four months to complete a research project. A new graduate who wants to gain more specialized knowledge in their field of study may find these degrees appealing. Additionally, they serve as a springboard for people who want to advance their careers and earn higher wages.

The PhD Degree: What Is It?

In general, a doctoral degree holder earns about $142,172 per year, which makes sense given the high student loan debt. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees are the highest academic degrees and the third and final cycle of college education. It is necessary to create a dissertation that contributes new knowledge to a specific field of study before earning a doctorate.

The degrees are designed for those who wish to pursue an academic career, such as becoming a professor. There are exceptions, such as medical professionals who may achieve an MD (Doctor of Medicine) equivalent to a PhD. In fields such as engineering and finance, doctoral degrees can also influence job growth outside of academia.

How Much Does a Master’s Degree Cost Compared to a PhD?

A master’s degree costs between $30,000 and $120,000, and a doctoral degree costs between $80,000 and $120,000. In order to compare the cost of a master’s degree with a doctoral degree, you must take into account the following factors:

Are the graduate degrees public or private?

The type of university you attend will influence how much you pay for tuition. It is also important to consider a university’s reputation and ranking when determining its tuition costs.

Time for graduation

It is important to note that the amount of credit hours required to earn a master’s or doctoral degree will determine the cost. In order to earn a doctorate, candidates must devote considerable time and effort to research and writing their dissertations. The average time to complete a master’s degree is 1-3 years, while the average time to complete a doctorate is 4-7 years.

Transfer of credit

Taking graduate-level courses may qualify you for transfer credits toward your degree. Your final cost might be significantly reduced if you transfer credit.

Master’s Vs. Doctoral: What’s the Difference in Graduate Degrees?

You should consider three factors when evaluating the results of a master’s or doctoral degree. There are three main factors to consider: skill set, career prospects, and income. These aspects can be compared and contrasted as follows:

An overview of skill sets

A master’s degree emphasizes the mastery of industry-specific skills. Additionally, it emphasizes critical thinking and problem-solving skills. 

The Ph.D. degree, on the other hand, emphasizes research, analysis and writing. To solve knowledge gaps in their field, they aim to acquire transferable skills.

Prospects for career advancement

The desire to advance in a career motivates people to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree. As a career-focused diploma, master’s degrees prepare you for management positions. The doctorate level is, however, used in academia and research.


Graduate degrees increase your lifetime earnings and wage expectations dramatically. Is one more valuable than the other? Over the course of a lifetime, a master’s degree holder can make over $2.8 million. It is possible to earn more than $3.5 million with a doctorate.

What Is The Most Valuable Graduate Degrees?

Compared to a master’s degree, a doctorate looks more impressive on paper. Depending on the subject matter and your career path, the influence will vary.

It is more valuable to earn a PhD than a master’s degree alone for those who wish to become professors. The master’s degree is sufficient if you’re in a field such as marketing, which emphasizes experience. PhDs are not hired in some fields due to them appearing overqualified or lacking real-world experience.

To obtain a PhD, do you need a master’s degree?

It depends on the institution, department, and sometimes the project and supervisor. It is possible that your PhD dissertation topic will require you to earn a Master’s degree. Master’s and doctoral programs are sometimes combined. You might be able to set yourself apart from other applicants if you have a master’s degree, even if some universities do not require one.

Master’s vs. Doctorate Admission Criteria

The minimum GPA for both programs is 3.0, but a doctorate may require a 3.75. Although the GRE is necessary for both programs, some master’s programs do not require it. To get started, you’ll need:

  • Detailed resume
  • A personal statement
  • A minimum of 3-4 letters of recommendation
  • Diplomas and transcripts
  • Completed application forms

It is essential to check the accreditation of a graduate school before applying. A diploma from a diploma mill, like Walden, is useless to employers. 

What are the best graduate degrees for you?

Your career goal determines what you should do. A master’s degree is a good option if you don’t want to spend years in school. Nevertheless, if you would like to be a professor or a researcher, you should consider getting a PhD.

Are you still unsure of what you want to do? Why not fantasize instead of making a decision right away? ValidGrad’s graduate degrees give you a sense of what finishing graduate school is like.

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