• Online Degrees
  • Tuition & Financial Aid
  • Transferring Credit
  • The Franklin Experience

Request Information

We're sorry.

There was an unexpected error with the form (your web browser was unable to retrieve some required data from our servers). This kind of error may occur if you have temporarily lost your internet connection. If you're able to verify that your internet connection is stable and the error persists, the Franklin University Help Desk is available to assist you at [email protected] , 614.947.6682 (local), or 1.866.435.7006 (toll free).

Just a moment while we process your submission.

Popular Posts

doctoral degree vs masters

Master's vs Doctorate: Which Degree is Right for You?

Graduate degrees are becoming increasingly popular. 

According to the world’s largest and most sophisticated database of labor market and talent data from Burning Glass Technologies, 19% of U.S. job openings in the year 2018 requested a graduate degree. And that trend isn’t changing any time soon. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects master’s-level occupations to grow by 17% by 2026. Employment for doctoral- and professional-level degree is also projected to grow by about 13%. Both of these projections are much faster than the 7% average for all occupations. 

The demand for both master’s and doctorate degrees is high. But how do you know which level of educational attainment is right for you? Does your industry or career aspirations necessitate one degree or another? Will you personally benefit more from a master's or doctorate?

We’ll show you how to take all these factors into consideration to help choose if you should get a master’s degree, or if you should complete your master's and go on to pursue a doctorate degree.

Master's vs Doctorate: What are typical program requirements?

Whether you pursue a master’s degree or doctorate degree program, it’s a significant commitment of time, energy and finances. Before you choose, you should understand the requirements for not only getting into a program, but also completing your master’s or doctorate degree.

Masters vs Doctorate_ Overview of Degree Requirements2.png

Now that you have an understanding of what committing to a master’s degree or doctorate degree entails, compare the focus of the program and coursework. 

Master's vs Doctorate: What’s the difference in content and coursework?

The focus of master’s degrees and doctorate degrees is different. 

A master’s degree is designed to deepen career-oriented knowledge and skills. A doctorate degree is a heavily research-based degree, designed to develop critical research,analytical and writing skills in an effort to fill industry knowledge gaps.

Because of these different goals, the makeup of the coursework and content is also distinct.

Master’s programs feature three different types of courses:

Doctorate programs are broken down into four distinct parts:

As you consider these degrees, decide which better fits your academic and professional goals, as well as your personal interests and learning style.

Master's vs Graduate: How much will the degree cost?

We know that cost is a top concern for individuals deciding what degree to pursue. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most difficult questions to answer. Cost estimates for a master’s degree can be anywhere from $30,000 to $120,000—and costs for doctorates can range just as widely. 

If you’re trying to evaluate the cost of a master’s vs doctorate degree you need to look at important factors like:

Remember: To complete a doctorate degree you must first complete a master’s degree. So if cost is a top concern, evaluate which institution and program will give you the best value. In some cases, you may even be able to complete both a master’s degree and doctorate degree at a lower cost than a master’s degree at a school with high tuition. 

Earning a doctorate is challenging and rewarding, but do you know what to really expect? Download this free guide for tips and insights to help you prepare for success.

Master's vs doctorate: what are the outcomes of each degree.

When it comes to the outcomes of a master’s or doctorate degree, you should look at three key factors: skillset, career prospects and salary expectations. Let’s dive into the differences between the outcomes of these two types of graduate degrees.

Comparing the Benefits of Master's vs Doctorate Degrees

There are a lot of factors that go into choosing a master's vs doctorate degree. But as you evaluate all of the different aspects of these programs, make sure to keep your long-term goals in mind. We’ve outlined four key ways to compare the benefits of master's vs doctorate degrees against your goals.

Masters vs. Doctorate_ Why to Earn Each Degree.png

Master's vs Doctorate: Popularity meets possibility with online degrees

As demand increases for advanced degrees, professionals are looking for ways to make getting their graduate degree more attainable. That’s why online master’s and doctorate degrees are more popular than ever. Online degrees offer working professionals the opportunity to get their degree without stalling their career.


Getting your master’s degree or doctorate degree is a lifetime achievement that can help you advance your career. If you’re considering your options for a master’s or doctorate degree, explore Franklin University’s online master’s degrees and online doctorate degrees to find a program that can help you take your career to the next level.  

doctoral degree vs masters

Related Articles

doctoral degree vs masters

Franklin University 201 S Grant Ave. Columbus , OH 43215

Local: (614) 797-4700 Toll Free: (877) 341-6300 [email protected]

Copyright 2023 Franklin University

Have a language expert improve your writing

Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.

Master's vs PhD | A Complete Guide to the Differences

Published on November 27, 2020 by Lauren Thomas . Revised on September 14, 2022.

The two most common types of graduate degrees are master’s and doctoral degrees:

A master’s is also the necessary first step to a PhD. In the US, the master’s is built into PhD programs, while in most other countries, a separate master’s degree is required before applying for PhDs.

Master’s are far more common than PhDs. In the US, 24 million people have master’s or professional degrees, whereas only 4.5 million have doctorates.

Table of contents

Master’s vs phd at a glance, which is right for you, length of time required, career prospects, costs and salaries, application process, frequently asked questions about master's and phd degrees.

The table below shows the key differences between the two.

A PhD is right for you if:

A master’s degree is the better choice if any of the following apply:

Receive feedback on language, structure, and formatting

Professional editors proofread and edit your paper by focusing on:

See an example

doctoral degree vs masters

The length of time required to complete a PhD or master’s degree varies. Unsurprisingly, PhDs take much longer, usually between 3–7 years. Master’s degrees are usually only 1–2 years.

Length of a master’s

Master’s degrees are usually 2 years, although 1-year master’s degrees also exist, mainly in the UK.

Most of the degree consists of classes and coursework, although many master’s programs include an intensive, semester-long master’s thesis or capstone project in which students bring together all they’ve learned to produce an original piece of work.

Length of a PhD

In the US, a PhD usually takes between 5 and 7 years to complete. The first 2 years are spent on coursework. Students, even those who choose to leave without finishing the program, usually receive a master’s degree at this point.

The next 3–5 years are spent preparing a dissertation —a lengthy piece of writing based on independent research, which aims to make a significant original contribution to one’s field.

Master’s degrees tend to prepare you for a career outside of academia, while PhDs are designed to lead to a career in research.

Careers for master’s graduates

There are two types of master’s degrees: terminal and research-intensive. The career prospects are different for each.

Terminal master’s degrees are intended to prepare students for careers outside of academia. Some degrees, known as professional degrees, specifically prepare students for particular professions; these include the Master of Public Policy (MPP), Master of Business Administration (MBA), Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), Master of Fine Arts (MFA), and Master of Public Health (MPH) degrees.

Other master’s degrees, usually Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Sciences (MS or MSc) degrees, do not necessarily lead to a specific career, but are intended to be a final degree. Examples include an MS in Communications or MS in Data Analytics.

In research-intensive master’s programs, students take coursework intended to prepare them for writing an original piece of research known as the master’s thesis . Such programs are usually intended to prepare for further study in a doctoral program.

Careers for PhD graduates

As research degrees, PhDs are usually intended to lead to an academic career. A PhD can be thought of like an apprenticeship, where students learn from professional researchers (academics) how to produce their own research.

Most students aspire to become a university professor upon the completion of their degree. However, careers in academia are highly competitive, and the skills learned in a doctoral program often lend themselves well to other types of careers.

Some graduates who find they prefer teaching to producing research go on to be teachers at liberal arts colleges or even secondary schools. Others work in research-intensive careers in the government, private sector, or at think tanks.

Below are a few examples of specific fields and non-academic careers that are common destinations of graduates of those fields.

Many government jobs, including economists at a country’s central bank, are research-intensive and require a PhD. Think tanks also hire economists to carry out independent research.

In the private sector, economic consulting and technology firms frequently hire PhDs to solve real-world problems that require complex mathematical modeling.

Graduate students from the humanities are sometimes hired by museums, who can make use of their research and writing skills to curate exhibits and run public outreach.

Humanities PhDs are often well-suited to research and grant-writing roles at nonprofits. Since so much of research is funded by grants, PhD students often gain a lot of experience applying for them, which is a useful skill in the nonprofit sector.

There are a wide range of non-academic research jobs for lab scientists with doctorates in subjects like chemistry, biology, ecology and physics.

Many PhD graduates are hired by pharmaceutical companies that need to perform research to create and test their products. Government agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), also hire lab scientists to work on research projects.

Job prospects after graduation vary widely based on the field. In fields like management, computer science, statistics, and economics, there’s little underemployment—even graduates from less well-known programs can easily find jobs that pay well and use the skills they’ve gained from the PhD.

However, in other fields, particularly in the humanities, many PhD graduates have difficulty in the job market. Unfortunately, there are far more PhD graduates than assistant professor roles, so many instead take on part-time and low-paid roles as adjunct instructors. Even non-academic careers can sometimes be difficult for PhDs to move into, as they may be seen as “overqualified”  or as lacking in relevant professional experience.

Because career options post-PhD vary so much, you should take the time to figure out what the career prospects are in your field. Doctoral programs often have detailed “placement” records online in which they list the career outcomes of their graduates immediately upon leaving the program. If you can’t find these records, contact the program and ask for them—placement information should play an important role in your choice of PhD program.

Although PhDs take far longer to complete, students often receive a living stipend in exchange for being a teaching or research assistant. Master’s degrees are shorter but less likely to be funded.

Both master’s degrees and PhDs lead to increased salaries upon graduation. While PhDs usually earn a bit more than those with a master’s degree, in some fields, the wages are identical, meaning that no financial benefit is gained from going on to a PhD.

Cost of a master’s

The upfront cost of a master’s degree is usually higher than a doctoral degree due to the lower amount of financial aid available. However, increased salaries also arrive faster than with a doctoral degree, because people graduate much earlier from a master’s program.

Some master’s students do receive stipends for their degrees, usually as compensation for being a teaching or research assistant. In addition, many people complete master’s degrees part time while working full-time, which allows them to fund their living costs as well as tuition.

The cost varies significantly by school and program. Public schools are usually cheaper than private ones. Some master’s degrees, such as MBAs, are notoriously expensive, but also result in much higher wages afterwards that make up for the high cost.

The master’s wage premium , or the extra amount that someone with a master’s degree makes than someone with just a high school diploma, is 23% on average. Many universities provide detailed statistics on the career and salary outcomes of their students. If they do not have this online, you should feel free to contact an administrator of the program and ask.

Cost of a PhD

PhDs, particularly outside the humanities, are usually (though not always) funded, meaning that tuition fees are fully waived and students receive a small living stipend. During the last 3–5 years of a PhD, after finishing their coursework (and sometimes before), students are usually expected to work as graduate instructors or research assistants in exchange for the stipend.

Sometimes students can apply for a fellowship (such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Program in the United States) that relieves them of any obligations to be a teaching or research assistant. Doctoral programs in the US tend to be better funded than in the rest of the world.

Sometimes, PhD degrees can be completed part-time, but this is rare. Students are usually expected to devote at least 40 hours a week to their research and work as teaching or research assistants.

The main cost of doctoral programs comes in the form of opportunity cost—all the years that students could be working a regular, full-time job, which usually pays much better than a graduate school stipend.

The average wage premium for PhDs is 26%, which is not much higher than the master’s degree premium.

In the US, the application process is similar for master’s and PhD programs. Both will generally ask for:

Applications for both types of programs also often require a standardized test. PhDs usually require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), which tries to measure verbal reasoning, quantitative, critical thinking , and analytical writing skills. Many master’s programs require this test as well.

Applying for a master’s

Master’s degrees programs will often ask you to respond to specific essay prompts that may ask you to reflect upon not just your academic background, but also your personal character and future career ambitions.

Northwestern University’s Kellogg Business School requires Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) applicants write two essays, one about a recent time they demonstrated leadership and the second about their personal values.

Who you should ask for your letters of recommendation varies by program. If you are applying to a research-intensive master’s program, then you should choose former professors or research supervisors. For other programs, particularly business school, current work supervisors may be a better choice.

Some professional master’s programs require a specific test. For example, to apply to law school, you must take the Law School Admissions Test, or LSAT. For business school, you must take either the GRE or the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT).

Applying for a PhD

When applying for a PhD, your resume should focus more on your research background—you should especially emphasize any publications you’ve authored or presentations that you’ve given.

Similarly, your statement of purpose should discuss research that you’ve participated in, whether as an assistant or the lead author. You should detail what exactly you did in projects you’ve contributed to, whether that’s conducting a literature review, coding regressions, or writing an entire article.

Your letters of recommendations should be from former professors or supervisors who can speak to your abilities and potential as a researcher. A good rule of thumb is to avoid asking for recommendations from anyone who does not themselves have a PhD.

A master’s is a 1- or 2-year graduate degree that can prepare you for a variety of careers.

All master’s involve graduate-level coursework. Some are research-intensive and intend to prepare students for further study in a PhD; these usually require their students to write a master’s thesis . Others focus on professional training for a specific career.

A PhD, which is short for philosophiae doctor (doctor of philosophy in Latin), is the highest university degree that can be obtained. In a PhD, students spend 3–5 years writing a dissertation , which aims to make a significant, original contribution to current knowledge.

A PhD is intended to prepare students for a career as a researcher, whether that be in academia, the public sector, or the private sector.

This depends on the country. In the United States, you can generally go directly to a PhD  with only a bachelor’s degree, as a master’s program is included as part of the doctoral program.

Elsewhere, you generally need to graduate from a research-intensive master’s degree before continuing to the PhD.

This varies by country. In the United States, PhDs usually take between 5–7 years: 2 years of coursework followed by 3–5 years of independent research work to produce a dissertation.

In the rest of the world, students normally have a master’s degree before beginning the PhD, so they proceed directly to the research stage and complete a PhD in 3–5 years.

A master’s degree usually has a higher upfront cost, but it also allows you to start earning a higher salary more quickly. The exact cost depends on the country and the school: private universities usually cost more than public ones, and European degrees usually cost less than North American ones. There are limited possibilities for financial aid.

PhDs often waive tuition fees and offer a living stipend in exchange for a teaching or research assistantship. However, they take many years to complete, during which time you earn very little.

In the US, the graduate school application process is similar whether you’re applying for a master’s or a PhD . Both require letters of recommendation , a statement of purpose or personal statement , a resume or CV , and transcripts. Programs in the US and Canada usually also require a certain type of standardized test—often the GRE.

Outside the US, PhD programs usually also require applicants to write a research proposal , because students are expected to begin dissertation research in the first year of their PhD.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Thomas, L. (2022, September 14). Master's vs PhD | A Complete Guide to the Differences. Scribbr. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/graduate-school/masters-vs-phd/

Is this article helpful?

Lauren Thomas

Lauren Thomas

Other students also liked, when to apply for graduate school | month-by-month timeline, how to write a statement of purpose | example, how to write a graduate school resume | template & example.

What Comes After a Master's Degree?

Know your graduate school options beyond a master's.

After receiving your master's degree, there are still more options to study in graduate school, including an additional master's degree, doctorate programs (Ph.D., Ed.D., and others) and certificate programs to consider. These degree and certificate programs all vary in level, time to complete, and more.

Additional Master's Degrees

If you have already earned a master's degree and wish to continue your studies, you might consider a second master's degree. Since master's degrees tend to be specialized degrees, as you grow within your career you may find that a new specialty is required or that two specialties will make you an even more desirable candidate when job hunting. In education, for example, many teachers earn a Master's of Arts in Teaching degree but may return to the classroom to study for a degree in the field in which they are teaching, such as English or mathematics. They may also wish to pursue a degree in organizational leadership, especially if they are looking to grow into an administrative role in the school.

Master's degrees generally take two, sometimes three, years to complete (after earning a bachelor's degree), but pursuing a second degree in a similar discipline might allow you to carry over some credits and complete the program sooner. There are also some accelerated master's programs that can earn you a degree in less than a year; just be prepared for a lot of hard work. All master's programs entail coursework and exams , and, depending on the field, possibly an internship or other applied experience (for example, in some fields of psychology ). Whether a thesis is required to obtain a master's degree depends on the program. Some programs require a written thesis; others offer an option between a thesis and a comprehensive exam . Some programs provide capstone courses, which are usually semester-long courses that provide a comprehensive overview of everything learned within the program and ask students to complete several small thesis statements to demonstrate mastery.

A meaningful way in which master's programs differ from many, but not all, doctoral programs is in the level of financial aid available to students. Most programs do not offer as much assistance to master's students as they do for doctoral students, and so students often pay most if not all of their tuition. Many top institutions even offer full scholarships for doctoral students, but a doctoral program is usually a much more comprehensive and time-consuming educational program, requiring a full-time commitment, versus the possibility of working your full-time job while going for a master's degree.

The value of the master's degree varies by field. In some areas such as business, a master's is the unstated norm and necessary for advancement. Other fields do not require advanced degrees for career advancement. In some cases, a master's degree may hold advantages over a doctoral degree. For example, a master's degree in social work (MSW) may be more cost-effective than a doctoral degree, given the time and funds required to earn the degree and the pay differential. The admission offices at the schools you're applying to can often help you determine which program is best for you.

Ph.D. and Other Doctoral Degrees

A doctoral degree is a more advanced degree and takes more time (often a great deal more time). Depending on the program, a Ph.D. could take four to eight years to complete. Typically, a Ph.D. in North American programs entails two to three years of coursework and a dissertation — an independent research project designed to uncover new knowledge in your field that must be of publishable quality. A dissertation can take a year or more to complete, with most averaging about 18 months. Some fields, like applied psychology, may also require an internship of one year or more.

Most doctorate programs offer various forms of financial aid , from assistantships to scholarships to loans. The availability and types of support vary by discipline (e.g., those in which faculty conduct research sponsored by large grants are more likely to hire students in exchange for tuition) and by the institution. Students in some doctoral programs also earn master's degrees along the way.

Certificate Programs

Certificates can usually be earned in less than a year and are often significantly less expensive than going after additional degrees. If you're wondering what should come after your master's degree and you're not sure if a doctoral program is right for you, this could be the way to go. Certificates range in scope greatly and can allow you to hyperfocus on the areas in which you wish to excel. Some schools even offer certificate programs that are of a masters degree caliber, so you can walk away better prepared for your career and without breaking the bank. Employers who offer tuition assistance may look favorably on a less expensive certificate program as well.

Which Is the Best?

There is no easy answer. It depends on your interests, field, motivation, and career goals. Read more about your field and consult faculty advisers to learn more about which option best fits your career goals. Some final considerations are as follows:

Only you know which is the right degree for you. Take your time and ask questions, then carefully weigh what you learn about each, its opportunities, as well as your own needs, interests, and competencies. What comes after a master's degree is up to you.

doctoral degree vs masters

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.

You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Psychology Program

Masters vs. Doctoral Degree Programs

Once you have decided on an area of psychology the next step is to decide whether to pursue a doctorate or masters degree. In general, it is my opinion that  it is better to pursue a doctorate. Most (but not all) research jobs will require the PhD, and the better professional psychology careers will go to those with a doctoral degree. Some of my colleagues disagree with me and see a masters degree as a good option. This is because they see a lack of significant difference in job opportunities between masters and PhD holders. This is especially true for jobs that provide direct counseling or social work services. It does seem likely that most jobs that directly provide counseling or social work services will not require a doctorate in the future. In my opinion, however, these jobs are likely to be low paying and without much opportunity for career advancement.

There are, of course, some instances when getting a masters degree makes sense. The first and most common scenario is when you want to pursue a doctorate in some area of psychology, but you will be hindered from getting into a graduate program because your grade point average and/or GRE scores are too low. In this case it makes sense to go to a masters program that can better prepare you to enter a doctoral program. You will have a chance to bring up your grades and hopefully study harder for the GREs. The risk with this strategy is that even after getting a masters degree you still might not get into a doctoral program in your chosen area. It is important, therefore, if you choose this strategy to make sure the masters program you are entering has a good track record of getting its graduates into doctoral programs.

A common question is what grade point average (gpa) and GRE scores are needed to successfully apply for a doctoral program. Unfortunately there is no set answer to this question. It depends on the specialty area sought, the status of school you want to get into, the status of your undergraduate program, and (perhaps the most intangible thing) how interesting you are as a person to a specific program. It is possible, however, to make some sweeping generalizations about the probability of getting into a doctoral program based on gpa and GRE scores. These are a bit different depending on whether or not you are seeking entrance to a university or a professional school based doctoral program.

University-based doctoral programs will provide you with some kind of support for your doctoral study. This support can range from student loans all the way to a full ride scholarship that also covers living expenses (Since university systems have been suffering financially over the past few years the level of support for doctoral students has decreased and students have had to rely more of loans than in the past.). As might be expected, university doctoral programs are typically harder to get in to than professional school doctoral programs.

Universities tend to want to train researchers, even in areas of professional psychology such as Clinical Psychology. They take far fewer students per year and, as mentioned, usually offer some sort of support for their doctoral students. This results in a lot of competition for a small number of positions in doctoral programs. Again, this is different among the different psychological specialties. For instance a PhD in Social Psychology make accept 10 students out of 100 applicants, while a PhD in Clinical Psychology may take 5 out of 700 (the university-based clinical programs are now harder to get into than medical school even though they seek to primarily produce clinical researchers). 

Back  |  Home  |  Next


Academic Editing Services

Admissions Editing Services

Writer Editing Services

Our Editors

Client reviews.

Master’s vs PhD/Doctorate Degrees – Key Differences

doctoral degree vs masters

So, you are done with your bachelor’s degree but not with studying–according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics , this seems like a good idea. In its projections for the years 2019–2029, it lists 36 occupations that typically require a master’s degree and 63 requiring a doctoral or professional degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data also shows that the wages for these occupations are higher than the median for all occupations. 

Now you might wonder: What is the difference between master’s and PhD degrees and which one should I get? Read on for all the information you need to make this important decision!

doctoral degree vs masters

Difference Between Masters and PhD: An Overview

A master’s degree is designed to teach you the knowledge and skills that you will need in your future profession. A PhD or doctorate degree, on the other hand, is designed to develop your critical thinking as well as your analytical and writing skills and is usually a years-long commitment to independent research on a specific subject. The purpose of a PhD is to prepare you for a career in academic research—although it can also help you get into a variety of other professions, and at a higher entry/salary level. In the US, a master’s degree is integrated into a PhD program, as a necessary preparation period involving mostly coursework, while in most other countries, a separate master’s degree is required to enter a PhD program.

If you want to stand out, you should definitely opt for a PhD degree: According to the United States Census Bureau , 24 million people in the US had master’s or professional degrees in 2019, whereas only 4.5 million had PhDs/doctorates. But is it worth the extra effort? And what exactly would the extra effort be? Have a look at the table below to get an idea about the key differences between master’s and PhDs.

Master’s vs PhD

Master’s or doctorate: which should you choose, how long does a master’s vs doctorate take to complete.

While the length of time it will take you to complete a PhD or master’s degree varies significantly between institutions and countries, we will focus on the US system here. Obviously, PhDs take much longer, because they are in fact a combination of both degrees and involve a long period of independent research that can get even longer than expected, depending on your topic, the available equipment or support, and a lot of other factors.

How long to complete a master’s degree

In the US, a full-time master’s degree takes students generally 2 years to complete, while part-time degrees are usually double the time.

How long to complete a PhD/doctorate

Since US PhD programs only require a completed bachelor’s degree, they start with an integrated master’s of 2 years of coursework, followed by 3–4 years of independent research into a specific topic. That usually includes publishing results, presenting at conferences, and preparing the final dissertation. Note that stipends/funding do not always cover the entire time it can take you to complete your PhD project—make sure you are aware of alternative options and additional funding at your institution or have at least thought about a backup plan before you start.

Master’s Degree Cost vs. a PhD Cost

Most people assume that PhDs are more expensive because they take many more years to complete. However, since PhD students usually receive scholarships or stipends, sometimes just for their commitment to full-time research and sometimes in exchange for teaching, the direct costs for a dissertation can be lower than those for a master’s degree. 

Additionally, while you are very likely to earn more with both degrees, the additional years of studying for a PhD should be factored into any estimation of costs vs outcomes.

Cost of a master’s degree

Master’s degrees at US universities can cost anything from $30,000 to $120,000, with tuition depending on the type of institution (public, private nonprofit, or for-profit). University rankings and general reputation also affect tuition costs. 

Whether an expensive degree (e.g., MBAs are often notoriously expensive) is worth the money for you personally depends on what kind of salary you think you can expect after graduating from that specific school. The universities you consider applying to should be able to provide you with data on the career and salary outcomes of their students, either on their website or if you contact them and ask for these details.

You can of course try to get a stipend and/or apply for a teaching or research assistant position at your school, depending on your undergraduate degree and experience. Moreover, many institutions offer the possibility to complete a master’s degree part-time, while working, which allows students to fund themselves.

You might also be eligible to transfer credits toward your degree if you have a professional certification or have earned graduate-level course credit—which can significantly reduce your total cost for both degrees.

Cost of a PhD/dissertation

PhDs, unlike master’s degrees, are usually funded, which means that tuition fees are waived and stipends or scholarships take care of living costs. Phd students are, however, often expected to take on teaching or research responsibilities in exchange for their funding. 

There are a variety of scholarships you can apply for if you want to pursue a PhD in the US as an international student—US-based ones like the Fulbright Foreign Student Program or the HHMI International Student Research Scholarships , but there are probably also funding opportunities in your home country for students who want to embark on a PhD abroad.

Pursuing a PhD degree part-time might sometimes be possible, but since students are expected to invest a full workweek into their research and potential teaching responsibilities, this is usually not realistic.

To estimate the overall cost of a doctoral program, the extra years that you could be working a full-time job with a regular salary also need to be factored into the equation—and take into account that projects may end up taking longer than expected, due to difficulties in collecting data, supervisors dropping out or moving on, or unforeseeable crises such as the COVID-19 epidemic.

Career Prospects for a Master’s vs PhD

While both a master’s and a PhD degree will qualify you for a variety of occupations that require higher degrees, they can also get you a higher salary in a profession that is also open to employees with a lower education level. PhD holders can in theory expect the highest wages, but since the two degrees prepare you for very different careers, that alone shouldn’t be what you base your decision on.

Master’s degree jobs and positions

Master’s degrees are overall more versatile than PhDs when it comes to employment opportunities and cover a wide range of fields and professions. The most common master’s degrees are the Master’s of Arts (MA) and the Master’s of Science (MS). 

Master’s programs can generally be divided into three different types:

Research master’s degrees, such as an MA in Comparative Literature or an MS in Biology, prepare students for academic and non-academic research disciplines and usually end with a thesis based on an original piece of research. In some fields, however, you are expected to enter a Ph.D. program after completing your master’s to be competitive when it comes to finding a job later.

Professional master’s degrees teach you practical skills and in-demand competencies that qualify you for a specific field and enable you to understand issues that are relevant in a certain profession. Examples include the Master of Public Health (MPH), the  Master of Business Administration (MBA), or the MA in Teaching (MAT). 

Terminal master’s degrees are the highest academic degree in fields where doctorates are not offered, and prepare students for careers outside of academia. The Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, for example, or the MS in Library Science are as high as you can go in those fields.

To give you an idea, below, we listed the 10 occupations at the master’s level that are projected to have the most openings annually from 2019 to 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the highest-paying occupations for master’s degree holders without required work experience, based on projections from 2016 to 2026.

Master’s degrees, apart from helping you develop professional skills tailored to the requirements of the profession you intend to enter, can also serve as a stepping stone if you are already in employment and want to progress your career development, earn a higher salary, or change careers by learning new skills and subject knowledge.

PhD/doctorate jobs and positions

PhDs are usually intended to lead to an academic career, and many students aim to eventually become university professors. However, careers in academia are highly competitive, and there are not nearly as many professor positions as there are PhD holders. The good news is that the skills you learn during your doctoral program are often “transferable” and can be applied to other types of careers. 

Some PhD graduates end up (and enjoy) being colleague teachers, while others embark on non-academic research careers, for example at pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, consulting and technology firms, or think tanks. Job prospects vary widely across fields, with some—computer science, engineering, or economics—having very low unemployment rates, and others, for example the humanities, offering fewer and less desirable employment opportunities. Keep in mind, however, that someone with a PhD entering a different field or one that does not necessarily require a PhD may find that their degree sometimes does not help them or that they are even considered to be “overqualified” or as lacking practical skills and relevant professional experience.

Since there is no clear career path for PhD graduates, you should really take your time figuring out what field you want to work in later, what the career prospects for that field are, and if they are worth the time and effort you will have to invest to complete a PhD program. Your university should have data on the careers and salaries of their students, and should either display these details on their website or send you the relevant information if you contact them directly.

Master’s vs PhD: Application Process

The application process for master’s and PhD programs is overall very similar. In general, you will need to provide the following:

Frequently Asked Questions about Master’s vs PhD Degrees

How long does a master’s degree take vs a phd.

Full-time master’s degrees usually take 2 years to complete. Many universities offer the option to do a master’s part-time, which takes double the time. PhD programs in the US  start with an integrated master’s of 2 years of coursework (since you enter the program directly after completing your bachelor’s degree), followed by 3–4 years of independent research. 

Is a PhD harder than a master’s degree?

A PhD takes substantially longer and requires more self-motivation, organizational skills, and the willingness to carry on even when things do not go according to plan. You might also have other responsibilities, on top of your research, such as teaching or assisting your supervisor. But whether that is “harder” for you than a master’s degree that consists of mostly coursework and does not take more than 2 years depends on your interests and general working style. 

Is a master’s or doctorate better?

Master’s and doctorate degrees prepare you for different occupations and work positions, and which one is the right for you depends on what kind of career you are planning to pursue. Generally, a master’s degree is right for you if you want to deepen your career-oriented knowledge and skills for a specific profession, while a doctorate degree prepares you for a career in research, whether that is inside or outside a university.

Preparing Your Graduate School Essays

Now that you have figured out whether a master’s or PhD degree is the right choice for you, all that is left to do is to put your application together! Make sure that you focus on your chosen degree and its aim (research or a professional career) in all required documents—for example, highlight your professional and personal development in your CV for an MBA program, but the publication you got out of your bachelor’s thesis and how passionate you are about doing more research on the same topic for your application to a PhD program. 

As always, Wordvice can help with our professional Personal Statement Editing Services or Admission Editing Services , which help ensure that your application is error-free and showcases your full potential so that you get admitted to the graduate or doctoral program of your choice. For more academic resources on writing the statement of purpose for grad school or on how to request a letter of recommendation , head over to our Admissions Resources pages.

Wordvice Business & Writer Editing Services

After landing that sweet job position when you finish your graduate degree, be sure to get English editing services for any of your crucial documents before sending them to colleagues, clients, or users. Check out our list of business editing and writer editing services below.

In order to continue enjoying our site, we ask you enter in the text you see in the image below so we can confirm your identity as a human. Thank you very much for your cooperation.


Subscribe to Student Saver

Free breaking news and coverage of savings in education

Degree vs Degree Logo

Doctorate vs Master’s

Once you have received your undergraduate degree and decided on the line of study that you want to pursue in the future, it is time to decide what graduate degree best suits your aspirations in the field. The two options that most people have in mind for graduate school are master’s degrees or doctorates.

There are quite a few differences between both these options, in terms of the time it takes to finish, the scope of the curriculum, the average costs involved, your future prospects after finishing the course, and so on. While it can be easy to get enamored by a master’s vs doctorate or the other way around, it is important that you look at the requirements and structure of both these courses and then take a decision. In order to make it easy for you to decide, here is a brief primer that will delve into the different features of each of these degrees!

The Doctor of Philosophy – better known as a PhD – is the most common type of doctorate that students pursue, but you must ensure that you remember that this has nothing to do with philosophy as a subject. The terminology is more in line with the research aspect of this degree. The purpose of doctorates is to foster the spirit of research into students and encourage them to take on projects that widen the existing realms of knowledge. A doctorate forms the highest level of academic degrees across the world. Once you have earned this degree, you qualify as an expert in the field and can go on to take positions of leadership in the private, public and non-profit sector.

Average Time It Takes to Complete

There are many different types of doctorates that you can pursue and the amount of time you will take to complete the degree will depend on the degree itself. On average, it takes most people between five years and eight years to finish their doctorate. The exact time will depend on the type of program that you choose to apply for, whether or not you have a master’s degree, and finally the amount of time you spend writing the dissertation.

Requirements to Enroll

The requirements for enrollment in doctorate programs differ from field to field and from program to program. In order to qualify for a doctorate program, you must complete your bachelor’s degree. In most cases, a master’s degree is also essential, but there are programs that allow you to enroll yourself without a master’s degree and earn it along the way. A doctorate, however, requires consistent academic and research excellence.

Average Cost

On average, a doctorate can cost you between $35,000 and $50,000, depending on the program that you are enrolled in. However, you must not allow this cost to deter you from pursuing a doctorate, as most institutions offer to fund doctorate programs. In many cases, the tuition fee for doctorate students is waived partially or completely. In addition to this, doctorate students are also eligible for stipends in return for assistantship and other positions.

Average Salaries

You can expect a hike in your average salary after the completion of a doctorate. This increase is the highest in the STEM fields, while social science doctorates may see a smaller increase. On average, students with a doctorate degree can hope to earn over $80,000 a year. However, a professional degree – and a doctorate in a professional field like medicine – will make you eligible for a much higher average salary.


masters vs doctorate

The duration of a master’s degree in the US is slightly different from the average time that it may take to complete a similar degree in another country. For example, in the United Kingdom, it takes only one year to complete a master’s degree, while in the United States it usually takes two years. This time period will depend on the program that you choose to enroll in and the amount of time it takes for you to carry out any research and put together a dissertation.

The requirements for enrollment into a master’s degree are usually more flexible than the requirements for a doctorate. You may be asked to submit GRE or GMAT scores, in addition to a good GPA, personal statement, essays and letters of recommendation from professors or employers.

It is difficult to ascertain the average cost of a master’s degree, as it differs from field to field and institution to institution. A master’s degree in a social sciences-related field may cost you about $30,000, while the cost for an MBA may go up to $100,000 to $150,000, depending on the program that you choose.

Just as the average cost for different types of master’s degrees are different, so is the salary that you can expect after the completion of the degree. In some cases, the average can loom around the $80,000 mark, while MBA graduates may be able to expect over $100,000 as the average salary.

There is no master’s vs doctorate dilemma as a master’s degree forms the basis of a doctorate. Even if you choose to enroll in a doctorate program without finishing a master’s degree, you may be required to finish all the credits that you would need in terms of a master’s degree. In the end, your decision should be made on the basis of your aspirations and existing qualifications.

Share this:

Idealist logo

The Difference Between a Masters and a Doctorate

Two people reading books in a waiting room.

There are a lot of degree types out there. Many fall into one of two camps: doctorates and master’s degrees. Both graduate degrees offer a narrower educational focus than the undergraduate experience. The higher the degree, the longer it takes to earn and the more specialized is its focus. We’re taking a closer look at the master’s and doctorate degrees to highlight differences and help you determine which might be most useful to you.

Master’s Degrees

Master’s degrees are more versatile than doctoral degrees, and have a wide range of professional and academic applications. The most common master’s degrees are Master’s of Arts (M.A.) and Master’s of Science (M.S.) . Additionally, there are three types of master’s programs:

Before pursuing a master’s degree, candidates must have already earned a bachelor's degree. Master’s programs take one to three years to complete and consist of advanced-level courses and seminars. In some programs, students go on to research, write, and defend a master’s thesis. In professional master’s programs, the thesis is often replaced by final projects and exams.

Doctoral Degrees

The most common doctorate is the Doctor of Philosophy or PhD. These research doctorates prepare students to contribute to the collective knowledge base of the field and offers a unique opportunity for an individual to conduct intensive and prolonged research on a very particular topic, which often leads to publication. With a PhD, many seek careers as professors and researchers, but may also pursue roles in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors. Additionally, there are professional doctorates like the MD (Medical Doctor), and the JD (Juris Doctor). Before pursuing a doctorate, candidates must have already earned a bachelor's degree and in some cases a master’s depending on the program. Due to the nature of specialization, PhD programs tend to be smaller than master’s programs.

PhD candidates begin by taking courses and exams. They go on to take advanced seminars and complete their requirements by researching, writing, and defending a dissertation. A dissertation is one of the central components of earning the PhD and is a doctoral-level thesis about the candidate’s original research. A doctorate degree may take up to eight years to earn depending on the program, whether the candidate has already completed a master’s degree (or is coming straight from undergraduate), and the amount of time it takes to complete the dissertation.

Dual Degree Programs or Joint Master’s and PhD Programs

If you decide both degree programs sound right for you, there are some programs that offer the option to pursue both degrees at the same time. A dual degree program allows you to double count your earned credits towards the completion of both degrees. You can find more information here .

How to decide which degree is right for you?

Figuring out whether to pursue a master's or PhD will depend on your career field and educational goals. You can learn more about requirements in your field by doing some research or your own as well as networking with colleagues. Reaching out to a mentor in the field or alumni from your preferred program can also help you navigate graduate school decisions. Additionally, speaking with admissions staff at graduate schools can help provide insight into the kinds of graduate programming available. 

It can be tricky to offer general guidance on graduate programs since so much is dependent on the field of study. That said, we wanted to offer examples of how master’s and doctorate degrees can set you up for success. We've selected social work and business as fields to illustrate this:

Social Work

If you want to go to graduate school to study social work, you can study at the master’s level or the PhD level. To determine what is best for you, consider what role you’d like to play in the field of social work. If you’d like to be a social welfare direct service provider or government agency administrator, a master’s program may be most appropriate. If you’d like to become a faculty member at a post-secondary institution, a social welfare research scholar, or a social welfare policy analyst, a Ph.D. program will be a better fit. Outside of academic settings—where a doctorate is required for most faculty positions—a master’s combined with practical work experience may provide ample preparation for a career as a researcher, policy analyst, or mid-level manager.

For business administration, you have the option of a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA), or a Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA). If your long term goal is to take on a leadership role in a nonprofit or business enterprise, the MBA (or nonprofit management degree) may be best. If instead, you’re interested in a career in academia teaching and researching on business practices, the DBA will be the better option.

Knowing your professional goals will help guide your choices for graduate study. Certain career paths, such as becoming a public defender or a medical doctor, are more clearly marked with the necessary steps, including the required educational level and graduate degree. Other career paths are less regimented and therefore require more investigation and consideration of what is right for you. Thoroughly researching your field of interest and having a strong understanding of the skills and knowledge you want and need from your graduate education will inform which degree options make the most sense for your goals.

Planning on returning to school? Check out our Grad School Resources and connect directly with social-impact programs through Idealist. And if you’re interested in speaking with an admissions representative, find out which cities near you are hosting an Idealist Grad School Fair this fall.

Jonathan Golding, Ph.D. and Anne Lippert, PhD

Masters vs. Doctorate in Clinical Psychology

Know the facts when deciding between a master's or doctorate in clinical psych..

Posted  June 13, 2016 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

In choosing a career related to clinical psychology, there are a lot of decisions that must be made. In a previous post we discussed the Ph.D.-PsyD decision. Today, we want to explore another tough decision: Master's (e.g., MA/MS in Psychology, Marriage , and Family (Counseling) Therapy , Mental Health Counseling or MSW) versus Doctorate (Ph.D. or PsyD).

Let’s start with some basic characteristics of each type of degree. First, a Master of Psychology can be in clinical (best suited for those with an interest in psychopathological populations and behavioral health), counseling (best for those interested in vocational and career processes, human diversity, and professional training) or educational (provide counseling services to students, including those with a learning disability or those with behavioral or social problems).

Second, a Master's of Social Work (MSW) degree can be in a clinical direct practice track, or a macro-practice track (i.e., focus on political advocacy, community organizing, policy analysis and/or human services management ).

Third, a PsyD is a Doctor of Psychology degree that is best suited for those with an interest in psychopathological populations and behavioral health, and places greater emphasis on the practice of psychology and less emphasis on research. Finally, a Ph.D. (a Doctor of Philosophy degree) can be obtained in the same domains as a Master’s degree, and puts greater emphasis on research than a PsyD.


The time frame for completing each of these graduate degrees is MSW: 2 years, MA: 2 years, PsyD: 4-6 years, and Ph.D.: 5-7 years. During these years of study, it is important to note that (in general) only Ph.D. students will receive support (tuition paid and a stipend) during their years in graduate school.

Of course, there are funding exceptions, especially in cases where a university only has a Master’s program. In addition, scholarships are sometimes available to MSW, MA and PsyD students, but this is generally rare. Support during graduate school might be very important for you, because you can rack up literally tens of thousands of dollars each year in financial assistance, and the amount of money you will earn with your graduate degree may not be as high as you imagined.

Master’s and PsyD programs, in general, are unable to provide the same type of support as a Ph.D. program. Part of this is tied to the fact that typically only Ph.D. students serve as Teaching Assistants or Research Assistants. Also, because Ph.D. programs have far fewer graduate students than PsyD programs, schools are able to afford to support their Ph.D. students.

As far as deciding to go Master or Doctorate degree, there are several issues to keep in mind. First, the general state of affairs for graduate school acceptance is that there is a hierarchy, with Master's programs being easier to get into than PsyD programs and Ph.D programs being the hardest to get into. For the sake of this post, ease of being accepted is defined in terms of grades and GRE scores, although other factors (e.g., clinical and research experience) do come into play. Of course, there are exceptions to this hierarchy, and you may decide to seek a degree at a for-profit school where grades and GRE score are not deemed as important as a non-profit public or private institution.

Our point is simply that your decision about going for a Master’s or Doctorate degree in a graduate program may be a function of what type of program your grades can get you into. We are not saying this is fair, but we hope you understand that schools need some way to pare down the number of students they will accept, with grades and (especially) GRE scores are seen as two important criteria to make these decisions.

We want to add one more point about all of this. It may be the case that your undergraduate academic record is not strong enough to get into a Doctoral program, but you can get accepted into a Master’s program and you do very well in this program. This can work to your advantage if you still want a Doctorate. The thinking here is that if you do well in the Master’s program, you show a Doctoral program that your undergraduate academic record was not indicative of your true potential. However, your stellar record in your Master’s program can show you have what it takes to continue your education in a Doctoral program.

The second issue to think about is the length of time you will be in graduate school. As stated above, the time in graduate school is shorter for a Master’s student than a Ph.D. student. Of course, this means a typical Master’s student can be earning a real salary a few years before a Ph.D. student. Although this is true, one must keep in mind (1) a Master’s degree leads (on average) to a lower salary than a PhD, and (2) a Master’s student will typically have some debt incurred during their two years in school. Let me add that to find out tuition costs for any APA-accredited graduate program, go to their website and look for the link that says “Student Admissions, Outcomes and Other Data.” I think you will be very surprised to see the tuition costs at graduate programs—they’re pretty high. As stated earlier, a Ph.D. student will typically not have any tuition debt hanging over their head. Thus the extra salary for a Master’s student in the time they are out of graduate school working compared to the stipend of a Ph.D. student will probably be offset by the debt the Master’s student must repay.

Third, whether you go for a Master’s or Doctoral degree, you need to consider issues of accreditation of your graduate program and (for Doctoral degrees) your clinical internship. The reason for this is that graduating from an accredited program will offer a greater range of job opportunities. In fact, some employers will only hire those from accredited graduate programs (e.g., the Veterans Administration). If a school does not indicate that it is accredited (e.g., from the American Psychological Association) it should be viewed with caution. With all of this in mind, you should know that to be licensed (certified to practice by a state) in your chosen field it is often the case that you need an accredited graduate degree or internship. Also, note that licensure requires supervised professional experience, an examination at both the state and national levels. Specific courses may be required if a state deems it necessary.

Fourth, as discussed earlier, you must be clear about the issue of job opportunities and salary. In general, it is the case that Master’s degrees lead to fewer job opportunities and lower salaries than Doctoral degrees. One could argue that this is a function of the amount of training--employers are looking for potential employees who have more experience and supervised training. Some might argue that in this regard, a Doctoral student has a stronger foundation of training than a Master's student.

Fifth, you need to decide how much research training versus clinical practice training you want. If you are hoping for the former, then a Ph.D. is definitely for you. A Master’s in Psychology degree may include some research experience. An MSW and a PsyD will likely offer the least research training. One must keep in mind, however, that regardless of the clinical degree you pursue, there will always be some discussion of research, since the basis of diagnoses, testing, therapeutic techniques, etc. is based on research. The key point here is that certain clinical degrees do not require you to be actually conducting research.

Finally, give some thought to how much independence you want to have when you graduate. This all revolves around the issue of licensure that was raised earlier, and it gets very complicated because every state has its own laws regarding licensure for psychology-related degrees. Make sure you understand the laws for the state where you will practice. Of course, you might not know where you will end up, but you must be aware that the state where you end up living may have very different laws than what you expected or from where you originally were working. An important point to keep in mind about licensure is that once you are licensed, if you decide to go into private practice, your fee schedule is typically market-driven.

With all of this in mind, licensure issues require you to consider the following (also check out this info from the APA ):

You need to see what are the licenses your state approves. For a PsyD and PhD, this is not a problem, because all states will have a license for a Psychologist. The issue gets tricky when you have a Master's degree, because states tend to have different types of licensure for these individuals.

In presenting these important factors to think about with regard to a Master's vs. Doctoral degree], we, of course, understand that each individual has unique circumstances that must be taken into account. Still, we hope that presenting these factors gives you some food for thought as you consider your ultimate career path in clinical psychology.

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding, Dr. Lippert and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.

Want more? Check out our website for more psychology-related career information.

Jonathan Golding, Ph.D. and Anne Lippert, PhD

Jonathan Golding, Ph.D. , is a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky. Anne Lippert, Ph.D. , is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Kentucky.

doctoral degree vs masters

January 2023 magazine cover

Knowing what you value will help you build the most meaningful life possible.

doctoral degree vs masters

logo (1)

Tips for Online Students , Tips for Students

Master’s vs PhD — These are the Main Differences


The consideration between earning a master’s vs PhD is not always an easy choice. While many careers and personal aspirations may be complete with just an undergraduate degree (Associate’s or Bachelor’s), a lot of people continue their higher education to obtain graduate degrees. These include a master’s and/or a PhD.

Neither a master’s degree nor a PhD is considered to be a walk in the park. Therefore, it’s useful to understand why you would earn either and then decide how far to go.

doctoral degree vs masters

Photo by  Good Free Photos  on  Unsplash

Definitions: master’s vs phd.

Bost a master’s and PhD are defined as postgraduate degrees, but they require different commitments and styles of learning.

1. Master’s Degree:

Mostly all master’s degrees will require the completion of an undergraduate bachelor’s degree to enroll. They generally all share the same common requirement for a thesis or dissertation to graduate.

Earning a master’s degree through a taught program will result in the completion of a Master of Art (MA), Master of Science (MS), or Master of Philosophy (MPhil). For those who earn their master’s degree through research, they will earn a Master of Research (Mre), in a tailored field of study. There are also degree-specific master’s programs like Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master of Education (M.Ed).

After earning a master’s degree, the next step is a PhD, which entails both working and performing research at an institution. A PhD is an abbreviation for “Doctor of Philosophy.” It is the highest academic degree one can achieve. As such, it is a time-consuming pursuit that requires a lot of studying and research.

You may be wondering, “Do you need a master’s to get a PhD?”

Technically, the answer is not always. Some students skip a master’s and go straight for their PhD, but they may lack research experience. While it could save money, the transition between a bachelor’s and a PhD is incredibly sharp. It may be harder to complete a PhD without the experience from a master’s.

Yet, some institutions may allow for the possibility to earn both your master’s and PhD in conjunction with one another. This will alleviate the transition between skipping a master’s and going straight to earning a PhD.

Should You Get a Master’s or PhD?

There are many considerations to factor when deciding between a master’s of PhD. For starters, it’s useful to consider the amount of time it will take, the cost, and the benefits and disadvantages of each. It is also of utmost importance to explore your own personal goals and reasons for wanting a graduate degree.

If your desired career of choice requires a PhD, like becoming a university professor, then you have your answer. If you want to start a business and benefit by networking while in school, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) could be a good idea. Consider what you want to pursue as a career and find out the requirements first.

Another useful thing to note is that a master’s degree can be used for a shift in careers. For example, if you attended college and earned a bachelor’s degree in humanities, but now you want to pursue science, you can still earn your master’s degree in a scientific discipline. On the other hand, a PhD is tailored to your field of study and specialty, so it will require that you are sure of your direction when you first earn your master’s degree.

Length of Time

A typical master’s degree program takes about two years full-time. However, there are accelerated programs that can be completed in just a year or so.

A PhD, in general, requires five to six years of studying, teaching, and research. However, it may even take some students up to eight or nine years to graduate. With this significant investment in time, it’s necessary to know if a PhD is right for you before starting.

The cost of both programs varies by institution and enrollment status of part-time versus full-time. However, since a PhD takes longer to complete, it will end up costing more. With that said, if you look into your return on investment, a PhD could end up yielding a higher salary, and therefore end up “costing less.”

Additionally, there is also the possibility of being paid to complete your PhD. Some students may receive an academic stipend, a university fellowship or apprenticeship or a reduced fee to earn their PhD while completing research (or teaching) at an institution. It’s also possible to get financial aid through a scholarship or grant.

As tuition rates continue to rise, it’s useful to look into alternative institutions for affordable education. For example, the University of the People offers a tuition-free master’s program in Business Administration and Education. This means you can study 100% online and graduate for less than the cost of most programs.

Weighing the Benefits

When comparing the two degree types, here are some benefits of each:

Required Commitment and Reasons to Pursue

Both a master’s and a PhD require a huge amount of hard work and utter commitment. You must be dedicated and motivated to complete either degree. Since most careers only may require a bachelor’s degree, having a master’s or PhD will set you apart from the competition. However, this should not be the sole reason to pursue either.

You may be wondering why would you earn either degree. Here’s a look at some motivational factors:

Reasons to Study for a Master’s

Reasons to Study for a PhD

Careers in the medical field often require a PhD

Photo by  Online Marketing  on  Unsplash

Required degrees by career.

Most people are motivated to pursue higher education because their desired careers require they do so. Here, we will break down those fields that require the completion of a master’s degree as it’s high on the list of reasons why to get one.

Of course, some careers require a PhD. These careers are easy to spot because they have the prefix Dr. in front of them or the suffix like J.D. (Juris Doctor). To become a lawyer, doctor of medicine, veterinary medicine or psychologist/psychiatrist, you must obtain a PhD in the respective field.

Salary Differences Between Master’s and Ph.D. Graduates

According to a study performed by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce , the overall evidence shows that the higher the degree you have, the higher your salary potential. However, the differences vary by subject level and field.

In general, the expected lifetime earnings of those with each degree level is as follows:

The Bottom Line

Aside from the financial cost and length of time, the opportunity to earn a master’s and a doctorate degree can offer several benefits.

However, it is an undertaking that requires a lot of dedication and motivation on behalf of the student. As such, it’s important to perform research on your desired career’s requirements, as well as your personal interest in pursuing either a Phd vs master’s.

Related Articles

Privacy overview.

Nurse Practitioner Masters vs Doctorate (DNP)

Do you hope to work as a nurse? If so, you may have numerous potential avenues to take to achieve this path. Choose the degree program that is suited for your needs based on your ultimate career goals. Two key routes to consider include the DNP vs Masters NP or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Which is better?

Either option may be a good choice. These are often two very different degree paths. Which you choose usually depends on what you hope to do later.

The biggest difference is often in what people do with their nursing degree. Typically, an MSN degree helps students who wish to obtain a concentration for a clinical setting. The DNP path often focuses on students who wish to work in leadership positions. It may also help those who wish to work beyond just the bedside care of a traditional nurse. There may be ample flexibility here, though.

Nurse Practitioner Masters (MSN) vs Nurse Practitioner Doctorate (DNP)

Students may have ample options when it comes to completing their master’s degree. Going straight for a DNP is one option. It may allow students to avoid having to spend as much time in a master’s program and then applying for and qualifying for a doctoral degree separately.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recognizes both pathways to education. The coursework is often different. The type of end degree is often different. More so, both programs usually require students to complete their bachelor’s degree as a first step. A GRE may be necessary and meeting other enrollment requirements may be as well.

To help you to see your options, consider both types of degree paths and determine which may be a good fit for your needs.

What Is an MSN?

The Master of Science in Nursing degree is a type of graduate degree program. It tends to provide students with education in more comprehensive and specific areas of nursing.

Students may select several different paths to earning their master’s degree. This should be geared to the type of work that most interests you or what you wish to major in. For example, it may be possible to have a concentration on health information systems, management, or direct patient care. In this case, consider a path towards earning an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) degree. This may allow the student to earn their education to become a nurse practitioner. Those on this course path often first earn their master’s degree. They then may earn additional certificates related to the field of study or skills they have. This may allow them to have a higher level of education and skill building in a specific area of nursing.

It often takes about two years to complete this degree for students completing it full time. During that time, you may be working in clinical practice. Some students could work as a Family Nurse Practitioner (or plan to) while others may be a registered nurse (RN). Generally, students have their licensing in place at this point.

Possible Careers as an MSN

There may be a number of options and career choices to consider when going for an MSN. These careers may vary based on the type of program or group of people you are looking to work with and offered in a number of different formats.

Here are some options to consider:

Nurse Case Manager or Health Services Manager

According to the BLS , those working in this career plan and direct other people. This may be in a medical office or other type of healthcare establishment.

2021 Median Annual salary: $101,340 per year 2020 – 2030 Growth: 32%

Nurse Anesthetist and Nurse Practitioners

According to the BLS , typically, a person in this career works in a hospital, often in an emergency room providing care including diagnosing and creating treatment plans. They provide short term care for a patient while the person is within the ER department.

2021 Median Annual salary: $123,780 per year 2020 – 2030: Growth: 45%

Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Long Does it Take to Get an MSN?

To obtain an MSN you may go a couple of different routes. This may include a BSN to MSN program or completing an MSN program once you have been practicing as a BSN for a period of time. These programs usually take anywhere from 18 to 36 months to complete.

Course of Study for an MSN

When choosing to pursue a DNP vs Master NP be sure to look at courses of study for each. In order to complete and MSN program they are often a number of courses that students need to take. Some examples that tend to be in all programs in one way or another are as follows:

1st course Population Health, Epidemiology, and Statistical Principles

Population Health, Epidemiology, and Statistical Principles

Students completing this course may study topics such as epidemiology and population health. They often examine trends and principles related to this to create solutions and conclusions. Most may use data to formulate decisions. This often allows the student to explore ways to treat patients.

2nd course Advanced Pathophysiology

Advanced Pathophysiology

This higher level of education in pathophysiology often explores analysis to pathophysiologic mechanisms and the corresponding conditions. The course typically focuses on both normal and abnormal conditions, often providing students with skills necessary to evaluate responses.

3rd Course Leadership and Role of the Advanced Practice Nurse

Leadership and Role of the Advanced Practice Nurse

Students completing this course may explore leadership and the role a nurse practitioner plays. It often discusses the responsibilities of those working in the position. It may also cover topics related to team collaboration, ethics in nursing, nursing management, and working with others in various medical settings.

4th Course Advanced Pharmacology for Care of the Family

Advanced Pharmacology for Care of the Family

This course often focuses on pharmacy applications for nursing. This typically includes how medications impact people at various ages including both the short and long term effects they have. Students may also study medications as they relate to gender, ethnicity, culture, and other factors.

5th Course Advanced Pharmacology Fundamentals

Advanced Pharmacology Fundamentals

Students taking this course usually dive deeper into pharmacology. This class typically covers the application of various drugs as well as analysis of how and why they work. It also aims to increase the amount of education students have in drug management.

6th Course Advanced Physical Assessment

Advanced Physical Assessment

This course often provides a broader level of knowledge and skill in the assessment process of patients. This usually includes using various techniques to do so. It often includes the application of medical history and exams to make diagnosis and treatment decisions.

What is a Doctor of Nursing Practice?

A Doctor of Nursing Practice is a terminal degree. That means it is the last in the series of educational options for nurses. This is the highest level of education a student is likely to obtain in nursing. The material here is often different than what you may expect in a traditional master’s degree because the focus is different as well. Again, at this point, the student often has proper licensure and may or may not be working in a nursing career.

As a doctoral degree, this post master path often prepares students for a different educational path and career path than the MSN. Most often, a DNP focuses on leadership roles in the industry. Students may pursue a nursing career to work in management of healthcare systems, work as a nurse educator, or work in other areas of public health. Many are working in the nursing field in a different capacity than what one may expect as a day to day bedside nurse.

One of the keys to completing this program may be that there are some schools that allow a student to go from a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) into a DNP path. That means that they may not have to complete the master’s degree as a separate plan. This may allow the same quality and type of education with concentrations in a wide range of areas. It may also speed up the educational process. DNP graduates, then, may still hold the nursing leadership position they desire, but they may have reduced the amount of time it takes to complete their DNP.

There are a lot of factors that could play a role in this. For example, students who wish to study part time may need more time to complete their education. Also note that an online MSN program may offer the student the ability to work in a nursing profession while getting their degree. That may help them to speed up their education if they go the MSN route.

Possible Careers with a DNP

There are a number of options and career choices to consider when going for an DNP. These careers may vary based on the type of program or group of people you are looking to work with and are offered in a number of different formats.

Clinical Researcher or Medical Scientist

According to the BLS , those working in this position produce research. The goal of this research is to improve the health outcomes of a group of people. Those working in this field may develop and conduct surveys and work in the medical field. Some also work to develop new medications or treatment plans. They also gather data on how disease impacts people in various ways.

2020 Median Annual salary:   $91,510 per year 2020 – 2030 Growth rate:   17%

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)

Those who work as an APRN typically manage a number of tasks. Per the BLS , this includes gathering and applying patient histories and performing diagnostic testing. Those in this field also diagnose patients coming in for care, provide prescriptions for treatments, and offer other medical solutions.

2020 Median Annual salary:   $117,670 per year 2020 – 2030 Growth rate:   45%

Health Care Executive

According to the BLS , those working in this field typically handle managerial types of roles. That includes executing strategies and planning goals for companies. They may work within health and medical companies, hospital systems, or other businesses.

2020 Median Annual salary:   $107,680 per year 2020 – 2030 Growth rate:   8%

Nursing Educator

Those working as an educator do so in a classroom setting, or other location. As per the BLS , they present patient care models and treatment to students. This may include lecture, demonstrations, or hands on learning depending on the topics.

2020 Median Annual salary:   $75,470  per year 2019 – 2029 Growth rate:  9%

How Long Does it Take to Get a DNP?

To obtain a DNP you may go a couple of different routes. This may include a direct program or completing an MSN program and then working towards a DNP. Below are some examples of schools and programs to consider. These programs usually take anywhere from 18 to 36 months to complete.

Courses of Study for a DNP

1st course Nursing Education

Nursing Education

Nursing education is often a path for those who wish to teach other nursing students. In this area, students may learn how to plan and execute lessons. This career path may be a good option for those who want to remain in the classroom as an educator at the end of their doctoral degree. Students may be able to work in colleges or universities after completion. Some may work in technical and trade schools or in a hospital setting.

2nd course Pediatrics

A pediatrics DNP program aims to teach students about the care infants and young adults need. Those who work in this field often learn about disease and conditions impacting children and how to properly treat them. They may then work in doctor’s offices, private practice, medical centers and clinics, as well as hospitals.

3rd Course Adult Gerontology

Adult Gerontology

Adult gerontology is often another path for DNP students. The specific area of study here is usually in the aging population. Students may examine the needs of those who are advancing in age. This program may include topics related to health assessment, diagnosis of patients, and ordering medical tests. These individuals often work in long term care locations, private practice, and medical centers.

4th Course Psychiatric Mental Health

Psychiatric Mental Health

A psychiatry mental health specialty often focuses on providing care to patients who may already have a primary care provider, but are seeking mental health support. This type of focus may be on children or adults, or both. Students who complete this educational path may be able to diagnose and treat patients. They may also be able to prescribe medications for patients. These individuals often work in private practices, hospitals, and other medical services.

5th Course Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

The family DNP typically provides care to a group of people in a private practice or medical care center. They follow the patient from the time they are infants through adulthood, typically. Many may work primarily with a large age group and provide primary care services to them. They typically work with other doctors and specialists to meet the needs of the individual.

6th Course Women’s Health

Women’s Health

In the women’s health concentration a DNP often focuses on women’s health needs. This usually includes pre-natal care, postpartum care, and care surrounding the natural aging process. Those who take on this field typically find positions in private practices, hospitals, and clinics.

Is the DNP Route the More Beneficial Route for Some Nurse Practitioner Students?

If you wish to work as a clinical nurse specialist or a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), which path should you take? Both educational paths may prepare students for nursing careers that are similar, depending on the coursework completed. However, there are often advantages to completing the DNP for many.

A BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice path may be a good option for some students who are looking for a faster way to obtain their education and skills in the field of nursing. It may be important to note that there may be numerous reasons to obtain a doctoral degree in itself. Some organizations are looking for people with these degree paths and certifications. It also may be important to you to complete your education so you may provide a different level of service and support to the community. If advocacy and healthcare policy are important to you, you should continue to pursue this type of education through the various nursing programs available.

A DNP may provide a broader number of career options for a student. This may include positions in areas such as nurse researcher, clinical nurse specialist, and nurse practitioner. Working in advanced practice nursing may allow students to focus on other areas than just patient outcomes on a one on one basis. For example, some may work to change healthcare policy. Their goal may be to help support improvements in local populations.

It is also important to consider the learning path for students who wish to complete this degree path. For example, for those who are already a licensed nurse and working in the field, going back to school for a master’s is a noble decision. However, a BSN to DNP direct path may be faster and provide students with the same number of opportunities and potential benefits just in a shorter timeframe.

You may want to consider the value of what you wish to learn, too. Doctoral programs are usually challenging. They often require a significant amount of research and dissertations. They may even require students to spend a lot of time working independently. For those who want to be in leadership positions, these skills may prove to be critical.

Take a look at a few of the benefits of a DNP program:

Take the time to check out a few nursing schools. Learn more about the various types of programs available. Some offer certifications in areas such as informatics and anesthetist, or a wide range of other fields. If those interest you, you may want to pursue a path as a BSN to DNP program.

Should You Get a DNP Degree or an MSN Degree, Then?

It may be hard to say if a DNP vs Masters NP is a better choice for you. This is ultimately a personal decision based on what your goals and needs are.

To be clear, an MSN path may be a desirable and beneficial degree path for many people. Some students may not want to aim for leadership positions now. They may want to work in the field. They could enjoy clinical hours more than research, for example. If you do not plan to move into leadership positions, then you may do well in a MSN path.

For those who wish to do more, though, a BSN to DNP may be the correct option because of the amount of time it may save you in completing your educational goals. It may provide you with the same type of education and coursework, depending on the courses you take. You may qualify for the DNP positions you desire. The difference here is in the length of time (and the associated costs with that) that a BSN to DNP may offer.

It is also important to note that some students complete their master’s degree (MSN) and then go into the field to work. They may then choose to complete their DNP at a later time. If that works for you in your life now, it may be a choice for moving your education forward. The key to remember is that this is your education, and it should meet both your interests and the career goals that you have.

Take the time to consider a few different nursing schools. Take a closer look at what you wish to do as well. Do you want to work as a certified registered nurse anesthetist? Possibly, you want to work as a certified nurse midwife? Or, you may want to take on leadership positions within your local hospital system. When you take the time to consider what your desired goals are, you may then determine the educational path to get you there.

Remember too that there is a lot of work that goes into this process. Some of that comes from the clinical hours you may spend working within the field and with patients. Some of it comes from the work you do in managerial tasks within the day to day job you complete as well. The good news is there are many educational paths available to you. So, choosing one for you may be the hardest part of the process.

Sponsored meaning explained.

EducationDynamics receives compensation for the featured schools on our website (see "Sponsored Schools" or "Sponsored Listings" or "Sponsored Results" or "Featured Schools'). So what does this mean for you?

Compensation may impact where the Sponsored Schools appear on our websites, including whether they appear as a match through our education matching services tool, the order in which they appear in a listing, and/or their ranking. Our websites do not provide, nor are they intended to provide, a comprehensive list of all schools (a) in the United States, (b) located in a specific geographic area or (c) that offer a particular program of study. By providing information or agreeing to be contacted by a Sponsored School, you are in no way obligated to apply to or enroll with the school.

Your trust is our priority. We at EducationDynamics believe you should make decisions about your education with confidence. That's why EducationDynamics is also proud to offer free information on its websites, which has been used by millions of prospective students to explore their education goals and interests.


Shortcuts for

Home Blog MOT vs OTD

If you’re planning to become an occupational therapist, you must be wondering whether you should pursue a Master’s in Occupational Therapy ( MOT ) or an Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD).

The Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) vs. Masters in Occupational Therapy (MOT) has become a fairly common conundrum, especially when considering the 2027 OTD mandate .

While the ACOTE trusts that the doctoral level is the appropriate entry point for the profession of occupational therapist, the ACOTE accepted AOTA’s stay of the 2027 mandate requiring all entry occupational therapy programs to transition to the doctoral level.

Table of Contents

Before we dive into the debate, let’s take a closer look at the profession itself. Occupational therapists assist injured, ill, or disabled patients in recovery, improvement, and development of skills needed to fulfill their everyday activities.

An occupational therapist, a doctor of occupational therapy, or an occupational therapist consultant will also help patients recover from injuries or illnesses that may prevent people from performing everyday tasks.

A degree in occupational therapy will pave the way for a rich and fulfilling career. Traditionally, prospective students could start their practice immediately after their bachelor’s degree. However, more recently, a master’s or doctor’s degree in occupational therapy has been deemed mandatory.


Earn your degree in ot from NEIT and begin your new career path today!




Let’s look at how an Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) differs from a Master’s in Occupational Therapy (MOT).

MOT vs OTD – Complete Guide

Both degrees, the master’s and doctoral are currently routes of entry to the profession of an occupational therapist, prepare graduates to be entry-level practitioners and are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE©).

Still, some professionals choose to pursue more advanced degrees, including a doctorate in occupational therapy, instead. The commitment can be costly and time-consuming.

Recently, the ACOTE proposed a mandate which would require all aspiring occupational therapists to complete their master’s or doctoral degree before beginning work in the field, starting in 2027. However, not everyone supports the move. In 2018, the American Occupational Therapy Association ( AOTA ) proposed a suspension of the mandate.

The ACOTE agreed. Still, the debate has left many prospective members of the field confused about which educational path they should pursue.

Let’s compare the two occupational therapy degree programs to understand the key similarities and differences, the costs, opportunities, and salary expectations associated with both of these occupational therapy educational programs.

What is a Master’s in Occupational Therapy?

A Master’s in Occupational Therapy (MOT) is a two-year professional postgraduate degree program to prepare students for work in the field.

Coursework covers therapeutic skills, patient care, rehabilitation, and kinesiology. These programs also require a combined level I and level II fieldwork experience of up to 24 weeks in an approved facility.

What is a Master's in Occupational Therapy?

NBCOT certification is the preliminary requirement for obtaining licensure as an occupational therapist in all the U.S. states. After completing their MOT program’s requirements, students can sit for the NBCOT certification examination.

With the proposed ACOTE mandate, a master’s degree may only remain valid till 2027, after which an occupational therapy doctorate would be mandatory to work as an OT. On a brighter note, those who have obtained their MOT degrees before 2027 can still receive their licensure.

What is a Doctorate of Occupational Therapy?

The Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) is a professional (or clinical) doctorate, the maximum academic groundwork that an entry-level OT can attain. The training for this program goes well past that of the master’s degree.

A doctoral degree in occupational therapy is an excellent option for students and professionals looking to further their careers. The doctor’s degree program can take anywhere between three to four years. Although you can apply for an OTD immediately after your bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy, admissions for doctoral-level programs are highly competitive.

What is a Doctorate of Occupational Therapy?

What Are the Similarities Between MOT and OTD?

What are the Differences Between a Doctoral Degree vs. Masters in Occupational Therapy?

Advantages and Disadvantages of an MOT vs. OTD

General Outcomes

Check out the table below for a summary of these programs and their general outcomes.

MOT vs. OTD: Program Length and Tuition

Patient being helpede by an OTS

Unsurprisingly, most people want to know how long it takes and how much it costs when selecting their graduate degree program. Since a doctorate in occupational therapy is a higher-level degree with an advanced scope of studies, you can expect it to exceed all master’s programs in occupational therapy in terms of cost and time.

Cost Considerations

Typically, a doctoral degree in occupational therapy (OTD) will take around three years to complete.

Comparatively, masters of occupational therapy programs run about 6 to 8 months shorter than an OTD program.

Those eager to save money and collect a paycheck may want to think about the costs of an extra year of school. It is important to note that graduates of an MOT program can always go back and pursue OTD programs later in the future. This is an important detail for those struggling to cover their educational expenses to consider.

Discover the various financial aids and scholarships that the New England Institute of Technology offers.

Differences in Curriculum

Graduates of MOT programs will also learn to provide treatments, evaluate the patient’s condition, and adjust treatment plans as necessary. Both MOT and OTD graduates will attain the ability to complete patient discharges independently as well. 

OTD programs require students to take courses in occupational science, quantitative research techniques, clinical leadership, and management.

In addition to this list, OTD programs will likely introduce students to real-world exposure through a capstone project or experimental component. They will also learn how to conduct independent research. Your curriculum may also incorporate leadership and advocacy-based subjects.

Online Vs. In-Person Programs

While on-campus programs are well-suited for students continuing their education, online degrees are an excellent option for working professionals. These programs give you the freedom to learn at your own pace without sacrificing your current obligations.

In an on-campus program, you can interact better with your peers, finish your degree at a pre-defined pace, and gain access to other on-campus facilities.

You can also choose hybrid programs which include a mix of online and offline teaching.

MOT Vs. OTD: Salary and Job Opportunities

Although both of these occupational therapy programs prepare students as entry-level practitioners, certain differences are essential to keep in mind. They include:

The initial salary for MOT graduates does not vary much from entry-level occupational therapists with an OTD. According to BLS statistics collected in 2020, the median pay for OT professionals was $86,280 per year .

The BLS also predicts that the employment of occupational therapists will grow by 16 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Job Opportunities

A master’s degree is mandatory for entry-level jobs as a therapist or clinician. Most occupational therapists work at private clinics, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers, while others practice independently. With an MOT, you can also work at private, local, and state elementary and secondary schools.

An OTD graduate might supervise the work of an occupational therapy assistant in clinical settings.

Some of the positions you can apply for after obtaining your OTD include Occupational Therapy Professor, Occupational Therapy Program Director, Occupational Therapy Researcher, Clinical Research Associate, etc.

Begin Your Career as an Occupational Therapist with The New England Institute of Technology

Begin you career as an OTD with a degree from NEIT

The Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) is a great program for certified occupational therapy assistants to further their educational and clinical experience and enjoy significant professional advancements. Our master’s degree program can also act as a bridge for current professionals to advance their responsibilities as registered occupational therapists.

The New England Institute of Technology offers the MSOT program on the weekends to accommodate working students better. Students will be expected to participate in on-campus training for five weekends, every ten-week academic term. 

Students must also participate in our online learning services during alternate weeks. This hybrid learning methodology allows graduates to complete the program in as little as ten terms.

By the end of our MSOT program, students will be able to operate across several different settings, from traditional medical environments to residences and more.

MSOT graduates will walk away armed with a variety of assessment techniques learned throughout our program. This will help them make important observations surrounding a patient’s functional problems and their underlying physical, mental, and psychosocial challenges. 

After completing all classroom training on campus and Level 1 Fieldwork off-campus through volunteer experience and shadowing hours, students will enter the community for Level 2 Fieldwork. Two full-time twelve-week Level 2 Fieldwork experiences give students many opportunities to apply classroom training in real-life situations.

Upon successful completion of all degree requirements, MSOT students will be eligible to sit for the National Certification Examination for Occupational Therapists. Those who complete the program and pass the exam obtain the title of Occupational Therapist Registered.

Those who already possess this title can look into our specialized Post-Professional Doctorate of Occupational Therapy. The doctorate program, which students can complete in as little as 12 months, is offered in a hybrid learning format to better accommodate the schedules of working practitioners.Our online courses crafted by faculty members and leading experts in the field help provide an edge over other doctoral degree programs. Individuals also have the option to study part-time and earn their degree over two years.

Both MOT and OTD are great ways to kickstart a rewarding career as an occupational therapist. A master’s degree is more financially feasible and provides faster access to jobs. On the other hand, a doctorate in occupational therapy is more suited for those more interested in teaching and research roles.

The New England Institute of Technology offers a Master’s of Science in Occupational Therapy and Post-Professional Doctorate in Occupational Therapy programs. 

Our graduates gain advanced knowledge in promoting healthcare, wellness, and participation across as it pertains to people of all ages and become innovators of contemporary practice in traditional and emerging settings.

Read as our graduates share their experiences with our occupational therapy program in our student testimonials section. Check it out today! Apply now and start your journey today. You can also visit our website or call us at 877-511-1958 for your candidacy status and information on our degree programs.

Is it better to get a Master’s or Doctorate in Occupational Therapy?

A master’s degree in occupational therapy is more suited for those eager to save money and start earning immediately. However, if you’re more inclined towards research, academics, and policymaking, a doctorate is the perfect option. While a master’s degree can take up to years to complete, doctoral degree programs span over 3-4 years.

Is an OTD a Doctor?

An occupational therapy doctorate (OTD) holder is not a doctor. Instead, occupational therapy professionals fall in the category of clinicians and therapists. Such professionals primarily work to recover and rehabilitate people post an injury, accident, surgery, or severe trauma.

Can you be an OT with a Master’s?

You can become an occupational therapist after completing your master’s degree and applying for licensure in your state. However, the minimum criteria may change, as ACOTE has proposed a mandate which would require all aspiring occupational therapists to complete their doctor’s degree for all entry-level positions, starting in 2027. 

Should ACOTE approve the mandate, the minimum criteria for becoming an OT will change in the coming year.

Can an Occupational Therapist start their own practice?

Yes, OTs can start their own practice once they obtain their license.

After completing their master’s degree in occupational therapy, graduate students can apply for the NBCOT certification exam. This certification is mandatory for obtaining licensure in all U.S. states.

Apply to our veterinary tech program and graduate in less than 2 years.

Apply to our nursing program and graduate in less than 2 years.


Louise Herrington School of Nursing Online

Baylor University

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) are both graduate nursing degrees; however, the differences between them involve the required length of study and personal career goals. Both degrees will prepare the nurse for an advanced practice career, and provide opportunities for other roles including faculty nurse educator and leadership positions. The DNP is a terminal degree preparing registered nurses for advanced practice roles with additional emphasis on nursing leadership/administration, and analysis of evidence-based research for application into practice.

Nursing is a career that can lead to many opportunities with the right education. Some nurses begin in a diploma program, others obtain an Associate Degree, and some choose to invest in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree right from the start. The evolving healthcare system demands the highest level of scientific knowledge combined with expert practice for optimal patient outcomes. Whether practicing as an essential BSN-prepared bedside nurse or seeking to pursue higher education, nurses can have a significant impact on high quality and safe patient care. Advanced nursing education is becoming more and more desirable since many nurses are seeking a career with greater influence and autonomy. If you are wanting to advance your degree, which will be most beneficial or applicable to your goals as a nurse?

What is the difference between an MSN and DNP? Continue reading to learn more about each degree and the programs offered by Baylor University. 

Learn more about Baylor's Online DNP programs

Benefits of an MSN Degree

A Master's Degree in Nursing (MSN) opens the door to new opportunities for nurses in various settings. Based on the MSN degree pursued, the nurse's role is more advanced and specialized, and comes with greater responsibility. 

The MSN-prepared nurse can pursue multiple career paths allowing the nurse to seek a degree in something they are passionate about.

Your degree directly influences your role as an MSN-prepared nurse. A nurse practitioner’s education prepares them to assess, diagnose and treat the patient through pharmacological and non-pharmacological measures. Practice is specific to certification in areas such as family practice, psychiatric mental health, pediatrics, and adult gerontology. And while education prepares the nurse practitioner for clinical independence, scope of practice as prescribed by state boards of nursing determine the level of autonomy, which includes the ability to prescribe medications and treatment options for their patients.

The average MSN program takes 2-3 years of full-time coursework, which will include practicum hours. Coursework includes advanced nursing theory, management, research, social sciences, physical science, clinical practice, nursing informatics, and advanced nursing theory. 

DNP nurse

Why A Doctorate?

The DNP is the pinnacle of nursing degrees, and graduates are well-equipped to bring the science and art of nursing to current practice. It is one of two terminal degrees for nurses. While an MSN requires a two- to three-year commitment beyond BSN preparedness, the DNP adds additional year(s) of education, preparing nurses for leadership positions. DNP curriculum builds on traditional master-level programs by including evidence-based practice, systems leadership, and quality improvement coursework. The American Association of Colleges of Nurses (AACN’s) Position Statement called for nursing leadership to have a base doctoral degree for all candidates.

Nurses stay on the frontlines of patient care and are at the leading edge of healthcare advancement. Nurses comprise the most substantial number of healthcare professionals, and their collective voices and expertise are essential in providing high-quality care and keeping healthcare patient-centered.

Less than 1% of nurses in the United States have completed doctoral-level education, and when looking at APRNs, only 14% hold a DNP . In 2018, the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) called for the DNP to be the entry degree for nurse practitioners by 2025. The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COACRNA) supported the requirement of the DNP for CRNAs by 2025, and by 2022 if starting a CRNA program, requires entry into a doctoral program. As of June 2022, the AACN recommends and supports the DNP as entry level for advanced practice nurses.

Many healthcare professions are moving toward obtaining a doctorate before starting practice. The doctorate expands on knowledge acquired at the BSN level and builds on the MSN curriculum to develop highly qualified and competent providers in specific fields. Other healthcare professions that already offer or require practice doctorates include the following:

Nursing as a profession continues to aspire to excellence, and that is ultimately the transition to the DNP for leadership, educators, and innovators, whether as a Family Nurse Practitioner , Neonatal Nurse Practitioner , Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner , or Nurse-Midwife .

Healthcare is a whirlwind of change on even the calmest days. The nursing and physician shortage and an aging baby boomer population, compounded by health care reform have contributed to the need for advanced practice nurses.

Baylor University has an online DNP program that offers flexibility while achieving a terminal nursing degree. 

The Need for Highly Qualified Nurses at All Levels 

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) are in demand, including those with an MSN or DNP. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the projected job growth for APRNs is 40% based on multiple factors. This projected job growth is excellent for the MSN- or DNP-prepared nurse, as it creates more opportunities for career growth. The predicted physician shortage in primary and specialty care, and the aging and growing population indicate a strong need for APRNs. There is also a shortage of nursing faculty to teach in undergraduate and graduate programs—which may limit the number of students a program can admit. APRNs with an MSN or DNP can become faculty for nursing programs as either full-time or adjunct nurse educators, helping sculpt future nurses in our country. 

Obtaining an MSN or DNP in nursing will lead to a higher salary, and the earning potential between the degrees is very comparable. The average annual salary for an advanced practice nurse is $123,780 . While the salary is similar between the two degrees, the DNP degree may provide more opportunities in leadership and prove more competitive in the career search. 

Nurses committed to advocating and representing the nursing profession must look to the future and commit to learning what is necessary to lead the charge.

Interested in Advancing Your Nursing Degree?

After reading the above, which pathway is right for you? Both provide advancements in your career, salary, and opportunities. With the DNP, which is a terminal degree, there are more opportunities for executive leadership roles, nurse faculty roles, and healthcare advocacy programs in the clinical setting, hospitals, and throughout many organizations. 

Although 2015 has come and gone, the AACN’s position on the DNP as the entry level for advanced practice nursing has not changed. 

For those interested in an online DNP degree program , Baylor University offers two options — a BSN to DNP, which involves three years of study, or a Post-Master’s degree which can be completed in even less time.

Connect With Your Baylor Enrollment Advisor

Whether you have a simple question or need advice to determine which program is best for you, our friendly advisors are here to help. They can chat with you on your schedule and guide you through the entire admissions process so you can feel confident in moving forward with Baylor University.

Download your guide to get started

baylor lab coat

Request More Info

doctoral degree vs masters

Ph.D. vs. Doctorate: What are the Differences?

UOTP Marketing

UOTP Marketing


For those who have a deep-seated attitude, pursuing a doctoral degree can be a tough yet beneficial journey. Currently enrolled in a doctorate program means that a person has already scooched over college admissions, went through high stake tests and exams, and finished all those research papers and long hours spent in university libraries hitting the books. While studying for a doctorate entails asserting oneself to an extensive amount of quality time and money, its significance and purpose usually pave the way to a lucrative end.

After having finished the Master’s Degree, students begin to think about their next step in their academic career. Then, paradoxically, while navigating through academia, they find themselves baffled by the immense terms and terminologies used to label specific degrees. Because the terms “Doctorate” and “Ph.D.” are somehow interlocked and overlap, and because “PhD” is sometimes used inconsistently, it can lead to considerable confusion. Ph.D. vs. Doctorate? You might wonder what their difference is, and why they are important. E xplaining what each of these terms stands for, the difference between them, and why they are valuable, can help you steer yourself down the right path from the outset.

Doctorate Degree vs. Ph.D.


At first glance, it is pretty easy to confuse these two terms. But it is important for everyone to be able to make a distinction between the two. In this article, we will discuss the difference between Ph.D. and Doctorate in detail in order to get rid of any confusion you may have. In the academic world, the terms Doctorate and Ph.D. are currently used interchangeably. Both of them are the top cap of the ladder. However, a doctorate is mostly used as an umbrella term covering many fields ranging from professional degrees, humanities, and scientific disciplines.

A Ph.D. or Doctor of Philosophy, on the other hand, is a subcategory of a doctoral degree, it is much more distinct and clear-cut and is usually narrower in nature encompassing only humanities and scientific fields. In plain English, when someone says they are enrolling on a doctoral degree, it means they are doing a Ph.D. in a specific field. So, technically, in common parlance, there is no difference between the two terms.

But at the other end of the spectrum, one should be careful not to confuse a professional doctoral degree with a Ph.D. The former is more practical and is designed to prepare students to apply existing knowledge to find solutions to real-life problems and has a direct application to a particular profession.

A Ph.D. is theoretical by nature and is more academic and research-focused. it is often fixed on disseminating knowledge by conducting authentic research which means reviewing and identifying gaps in current literature and evaluating the relevance of existing and emerging theories within a particular field.

What Is a Ph.D. Degree and Why Should You Go for It?

Students who acquire a Ph.D. are justly proud — they wear it as a badge of identity in the academic elite. Traditionally, a Ph.D. was associated with teaching, which from Latin licentia docendi meant “license to teach”. However, the concept of Ph.D. has been on shifting sands nowadays and has become a more general term that isn’t necessarily confined to teaching only.

The Value of a PhD


Obtaining a Ph.D. helps you capitalize on the emerging academic opportunities making you more easily identifiable to employers or businesses seeking to fill professional, higher-level job positions. Many of these career options, conversely, are not available to those who do not belong to the Ph.D. club. While pursuing a Ph.D. requires devoting a tremendous effort and time and making significant personal sacrifices pushing the boundaries of knowledge, it’s all in service of the area of study you’re most passionate and zealous about. Ultimately, once you’ve attained your Ph.D., you will have achieved the pinnacle of education— something not too many people have or are able to accomplish.


doctoral degree vs masters

A Guide to Choosing and Applying to Ph.D. Programs

Learn everything you need to know about selecting and applying to Ph.D. programs. Learn tips and tricks for a successful application and find your ideal program today!

What Is a Doctorate Degree?

A doctoral or doctorate degree is usually the most advanced degree one can earn in an academic discipline. Many pursue a doctorate degree to increase their professional credibility, be acknowledged as an expert in a specific field, and improve their resume.

A doctorate degree is a graduate-level credential that is usually earned after multiple years of graduate school. Earning a doctoral degree requires a significant level of research and work. In order to get this degree, one has to research a subject thoroughly, conduct new research and analysis, and provide a solution or interpretation into the field. But what types of doctoral degrees are available?

Types of Doctorate Degrees

There are two categories of doctorate degrees: an academic degree and a professional doctorate degree. An academic degree focuses on research, data analysis, and the evaluation of theory. A professional doctorate degree, on the other hand, is considered a terminal degree, which means that one has achieved the most advanced degree in the field. This degree is specifically designed for working professionals who want to grow in their careers.

Professional Doctorate Degrees

A professional doctorate is designed for working professionals who have experience in the field and want to increase their knowledge, improve their credibility, and advance their careers. This degree focuses on applying research to practical issues, coming up with interpretation and solutions, as well as designing effective professional practices within a particular field.

Professional doctoral degrees include:

Interested in pursuing a degree?

Fill out the form and get all admission information you need regarding your chosen program.

This will only take a moment.

Message Received!

Thank you for reaching out to us. we will review your message and get right back to you within 24 hours. if there is an urgent matter and you need to speak to someone immediately you can call at the following phone number:.

By clicking the Send me more information button above, I represent that I am 18+ years of age, that I have read and agreed to the Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy , and agree to receive email marketing and phone calls from UOTP. I understand that my consent is not required to apply for online degree enrollment. To speak with a representative without providing consent, please call +1 (202) 274-2300

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

The DBA degree is ideal for students who already have a general business background and are interested in delving deeper into the practical and theoretical aspects that underpin business education. More to the point, in DBA you will develop the ability to solve real-life problems, discover the relevant expertise to innovate and uphold complex business issues and so much more. Upon completion, DBA students will possess enhanced leadership and strategic skills as well as the tools to propel their careers in today’s marketplace. The Business Administration industry is keen on finding such graduates with business skills and this is indicated by the immense job positions currently available.

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

If you are interested in setting your eyes on creating lifelong learning among your students, making a positive influence in educational culture, contributing to the growing body of research in the education realm, or just enhancing your subject matter expertise, the Doctor of Education program ticks all the boxes. This degree maintains a rigorous approach in academic education that prepares graduates to showcase the skills and expertise to devise solutions in tackling the challenges in contemporary education practice and become transformational leaders in the industry.

Doctor of Computer Science (DCS)

The demand for computer scientists has reached its peak and it is among the most sought-after positions nowadays. With a degree in DCS, you will have the opportunity to design, apply innovative experiments, predict trends and, ultimately, develop a richer understanding and contribute to your area of expertise. After all, who doesn’t want an exciting and financially stable career?

Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)

The Doctor of Medicine degree is designed to prepare you for various medical challenges in different settings nationally and internationally. This program will further develop your critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills required for safe, high-quality medical practices. It will also improve your leadership, communication, and teamwork skills for collaborative patient care.

Doctor of Optometry (O.D.)

This professional degree typically requires four years of study. It focuses on basic biological sciences such as anatomy and physiology, microbiology, neuroanatomy, and so on. This doctoral degree will prepare, educate, and train professionals to practice at the highest level of proficiency, professionalism, and integrity.

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

The Doctoral of Psychology degree concentrates on the clinical and applied aspects of psychology. This type of doctorate prepares students for professional practice and clinical placement. This degree will be highly beneficial when working directly with patients who need psychology services. In addition, this degree allows doctors of psychology to confidently function as researchers and clinicians.

How to Choose a Ph.D. Program?

Choosing a Ph.D. program can be pretty challenging; it is a big academic decision and investment that requires commitment and perseverance. But how can you pick the right Ph.D. program for you? Well, there are some tips to help you choose the best fit for your goals and preferences:

All in all, the terms “Doctorate’’ and “Ph.D.” are in essence the same, which means all Ph.D. students are Doctoral students as well. On the other hand, earning a Ph.D. degree is no joke. If anything, Ph.D. students have the tenacity, patience, persistence, and years of hard work that you can vouch for. Ultimately, deciding what type of doctoral degree you should hop on, depends on your career goals, what you are passionate about and how you are going to achieve it.

Share it with your friends!

Explore more.


Business Analyst vs. Data Analyst: What Are the Differences?


What is a BBA Degree?

Recent resources.


How To Graduate Early: 9 Steps To Follow

How to write a research paper: the ultimate guide .


How to Choose a Career: 10 Steps to Find the Right One


What Does Human Resources Do? 12 Key Responsibilities


Chat with an Admissions Officer Now!

doctoral degree vs masters



In this article

Featured articles.

doctoral degree vs masters

Highest Paying Jobs for MSN Nurses

doctoral degree vs masters

Top Direct-Entry Master's in Nursing Programs

doctoral degree vs masters

Top Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

Np vs. dnp | what's the difference.

Kathleen Gaines

When it comes to career paths, nurses have no shortage of opportunities for advancement. But how do you decide which is right for you? In this guide, we'll be digging into the nurse practitioner career path, what the difference between an NP and a DNP is, both the NP and DNP salary potentials, and how to decide which degree you should pursue.

NP VS DNP: What's the Difference?

An NP stands for nurse practitioner, which is a job title registered nurses can achieve by pursuing an advanced degree. Nurse practitioners can earn this role through either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) . Essentially, a DNP is a degree option to become an NP. 

As an aspiring nurse practitioner, you'll need to choose whether you want to attend an MSN program or a DNP program. 

NP: MSN vs DNP Degrees Compared

Show Me Nurse Practitioner Programs


Should i pursue an msn or dnp to become a nurse practitioner.

Are DNPs Paid More than an NP With an MSN?

Is a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) the Same as a Nurse Practitioner?

Is a DNP a More Advanced Degree Than an MSN?

How Long are MSN to DNP Programs?

Are DNPs Called Doctors?

Find Nursing Programs

What is the role of a nurse practitioner.

Nurse Practitioners deliver advanced care to a variety of patients in the clinical setting. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), NPs work “autonomously and in collaboration with healthcare professionals and other individuals, to provide a full range of primary, acute, and specialty health care services.”

These services include:

>> Related: Top Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

In 23 states, nurse practitioners have “full practice authority” which means they do not have to work under the supervision of a doctor. Full practice states include Oregon, Maine, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, and Iowa. In states with reduced practice (Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah) and restricted practice (Texas, California, and Florida), NPs must have a medical doctor sign certain medical patient care decisions. NPs have prescriptive privileges in all 50 states and can administer controlled substances in 49 states.

Map depicting practice authority for nurse practitioners in US

Nurse Practitioner Specialties

For those considering advancing their nursing career, it is important to research all possibilities before choosing the best-suited program. Differences between programs may be subtle and only noticeable upon further investigation. All programs are a combination of clinical application and didactic coursework. The didactic coursework can be offered in an online format. Depending on the program, some students might have to find their own placement for NP clinical while others will assist students in finding suitable arrangements. This is important to consider depending on your location, as clinical locations may be limited or reserved for only specific local universities.

Nurse Practitioners have a master’s degree, known as an MSN, as well as board certification in a specialty. This specialty is determined prior to apply to a program. It is important to note that not all specialties are offered at schools so determining a specialty before researching programs is key. Once accepted into a specific program it can be difficult to switch and not all coursework will be transferable.

>> Related: Top Online DNP Programs

Specialties include:

Not sure which specialty to focus on? Generally, nurses use prior work experience to determine the NP path they will take. The differences between specialties will determine the course load. Nurses specializing as a neonatal nurse practitioner will focus specifically on neonates and the management of neonatal diseases. They will not have to take courses in geriatric medicine. Programs often require a certain number of years’ experience in a specialty before acceptance into the program.

Some specialties cover a broad spectrum, such as family and trauma, and these nurses will have to take a wide variety of courses. Individuals should expect to take courses ranging from pediatrics to geriatrics, even if they plan to only work with one specific age group.

Nurse practitioners can specialize even further with additional classes and certification exams. Classes for these are generally done online and might require individuals to contact other NP programs to obtain needed requirements. Nurse Practitioners can often complete on the job training in subspecialties.

Not all NPs have to work in a subspecialty. This is an individual decision and does not have to be based on past nursing experience. Nurse practitioner subspecialties are focused on a specific condition, body organ, clinical focus, environment, or sub-population.

The subspecialties include:

What is a Doctor Of Nursing Practice (DNP?)

Doctors of Nursing Practice (DNP) deliver high-quality advanced nursing care in a clinical setting, similarly to an NP; however, these individuals have taken their career a step farther. A DNP is a terminal degree for advanced practice nurses.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), states that transitioning from advanced practice NP degrees to the doctoral level is a “…response to changes in health care delivery and emerging healthcare needs, additional knowledge or content areas have been identified by practicing nurses. In addition, the knowledge required to provide leadership in the discipline of nursing is so complex and rapidly changing that additional or doctoral level education is needed.”

Essentially, DNP graduates are leaders in advanced nursing practice that bring evidence-based knowledge into the clinical setting to help improve healthcare outcomes and strengthen the leadership role of nurses in both the clinical and academic setting. 

DNP Roles and Responsibilities

Individuals with a doctorate degree can function in a provider capacity but most work to generate new scientific and clinical knowledge in nursing and healthcare. Conversely, NPs practice primarily in clinical settings and do not focus on scientific and academic research in their practice. For this reason, most DNPs work in academia, as administrators, and/or researchers. 

According to   Payscale , nurses with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree earned an average base salary of $107K as of June 2022. The key determining factor for salary is the career nurses pursue after obtaining an advanced degree. A Chief Nursing Officer will earn more than a Nursing Professor. Ultimately, additional advanced education is reflective of higher annual salary earnings.

The benefits of a DNP program according to the AACN are,

Show Me DNP Programs

Top 5 DNP Programs 2022

The top DNP programs in 2022 are:

Johns Hopkins, Duke, and Rush have consistently been in the top 5 DNP schools the last several years. Rush University has the largest DNP program with over 800 enrolled students while Johns Hopkins and Duke have approximately 200 DNP students.

Types of DNP Programs

To pursue a DNP, individuals already would have completed a traditional or accelerated BSN program and have an MSN. There are only a handful of programs that accept students into the DNP program without an MSN. These programs are bridge programs that offer BSN-DNP programs. Students will work to complete coursework for an MSN and then continue directly into the DNP curriculum. An MSN program takes approximately 2 years full time while a DNP program can vary between 1-4 years. Overall it takes approximately a decade for a new nursing student to obtain all three degrees (BSN, MSN, DNP).

Should You Choose a Masters's Degree or Doctorate Degree to Become an NP?

In 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nurses developed a position statement suggesting that all schools move towards DNP programs in combination with an MSN degree for advanced practice nurses. The goal would be for all programs to have incorporated the new curriculum and suggested guidelines by 2015. Pre-existing advance practice nurses would enroll in fast-track programs to obtain their DNP. 

The AACN explains, “The DNP provides a clinical option for advanced preparation in nursing practice that is more comparable to other interprofessional education.” It is believed that by earning a DNP, nurse practitioners will be more prepared and better suited to take care of their patients.

While this goal has not been obtained, major universities are graduating an increasing number of DNPs each year. The AACN felt that this was important because nurses often work with other healthcare professionals in their field who have more training and education and a DNP can provide nurses with an education that is comparatively advanced. As of right now, the plan continues to be re-evaluated each year.

Healthcare is a fluid industry that is constantly changing with advancements in medicine and new technology. It is vital that advanced practice nurses stay abreast of recent changes and the trends that are emerging. Employers feel a key way to do this is through advanced education. While some jobs require a DNP it is still a relatively new and underutilized nursing degree. With bold position statements by the AACN and AANP, DNP programs are rising and the number of applicants is increasing on a yearly basis. 

MSN vs. DNP Compared

Infographic depicting different salaries and roles for nurse practitioners

Subscribe for the latest nursing news, offers, education resources and so much more!

Subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to know about our daily giveaways from shoes to Patagonia gear, FIGS scrubs, cash, and more!

  Back to News Home

School of Health Professions

Occupational therapy doctorate vs master’s: what’s the difference.

Occupational therapy doctorate verse master's

Are you comparing the occupational therapy doctorate vs. master's?

Occupational therapy doctorate vs master’s

If you are, you’re likely wondering if you should pursue a Master’s in Occupational Therapy (MOT) or a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy (OTD). Both paths work directly with patients who are dealing with an illness, injury, or disability. Patients may have to re-learn everyday activities to improve their quality of life.

In order to make a decision, it is important to understand the similarities and differences. First, both give graduates the ability to practice as an OT. Students learn to evaluate patients, create treatment plans, and document patient progress. On the other hand, an OTD incorporates advanced subjects focused on research and leadership. The length of time to complete the degrees also differ.

What is the benefit of a Master of Occupational Therapy?

What is the benefit of a Doctor of Occupational Therapy?

How do I decide?

Choosing between a master’s and a doctorate depends on your goals and future outlook. If you are interested in the quickest way to start your career with the option of advancing in the future, an MOT may be a good fit. Otherwise is you are not worried about the time commitment and want the opportunity to participate in research and teaching, an OTD could be your path. No matter if you know what path you want or not, we are here to help guide you in the process.

How do I become an OT?

After researching an occupational therapy doctorate vs master’s, it’s time to find a program. Concordia University offers a Master of Occupational Therapy and a Doctor of Occupational Therapy program. We offer a post-baccalaureate program geared for individuals whose bachelor’s isn’t related to occupational therapy. This allows students of many backgrounds to become an OT.

Program Director Dr. Carrie Bath-Scheel states: “There are many features in our program that stand out. Our MOT and OTD degrees are embedded together. In other words, all students start in the MOT program and choose which program to complete at the end of year one. Furthermore, the entry-level OTD is only one semester longer than the MOT. Our program focuses on how students can change and impact communities in their career”.

Concordia is here to help you succeed in your educational journey.

Ready to start?

If you want to know more about becoming an occupational therapist, you can contact the admission counselor David Hengst at 262.243.4397 or [email protected] He is equipped to answer your questions and connect you to the information you need. Otherwise, feel free to visit us here to learn about your options.

If this story has inspired you, why not explore how you can help further Concordia's mission through giving.

Affordable Online Masters Colleges

Page Content

Masters vs Ph.D.

Master’s vs. Ph.D. – What’s the Difference?

doctoral degree vs masters

The master’s and Ph.D. are two different levels of education. Which is better suited for an individual largely depends on the person’s career aspirations and personal and professional development needs.  

The differences are structural, programmatic, or conditional. And although there are similarities between the two, they serve different purposes and cater to different needs. 

The master’s and a Ph.D. vary in: 

This resource guide touches upon both programs, the many benefits they offer, key differences, and other insights, all of which can help those at the crossroads of deciding between a master’s and a Ph.D. make an informed choice. 

doctoral degree vs masters

Featured Online Programs

doctoral degree vs masters

Southern New Hampshire University

Online masters degrees.

Visit Website

Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.

We’re proud to provide affordable, accessible education that students can pursue on our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH, over our innovative online platform or at our regional centers in Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth and Salem, NH, and Brunswick, ME.

SNHU has earned the GetEducated.com Best Buy and Best of Business – Best Online Degree awards and is consistently ranked as a top Military Friendly® School by G.I Jobs®.

doctoral degree vs masters

What Is a Master’s Degree?

A master’s degree is a graduate-level program that mostly requires completing an undergraduate bachelor’s degree to enroll in. This degree typically consists of basic courses, electives, practicum experience, an internship, and a thesis . Master’s degrees also offer concentrations and specializations across a wide range of topics, making it easier for students to prime themselves for unique jobs in various work settings. Depending on these key aspects and the type of degree, students generally require 1 to 3 years to graduate. 

Some of the most common and popular types of master’s degrees are: 

Some common but less popular master’s degrees are: 

Master’s programs further branch out into several specializations, which demonstrate how they tend to target specific careers and sectors, such as: 

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is another fine example of a master’s that offers several specializations leading to promising careers. An MBA degree can be earned in, but are not limited to: 

A master’s program is best suited if: 

doctoral degree vs masters

What Is a Ph.D. or Doctorate Degree?

The Ph.D. is an abbreviation for “Doctor of Philosophy” and is the highest academic degree one can achieve. To enroll in a Ph.D., a master’s degree is usually required, although some programs accept bachelor’s degree holders. The program consists of coursework, research cores, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation . By and large, this degree entails substantial research work that may typically stretch the time to graduation from anywhere between 3 and 8 years, making it a time-consuming pursuit. 

A Ph.D. degree is best suited for educators at the university level, either in teaching, research, or both. Many students pursue their Ph.D. while simultaneously doing academic work. 

Another type of doctoral degree is the Professional Doctoral Degree, which focuses on building specific career skills and teaches students how to apply research to practice within their field. This degree is better applied to sectors outside of education and is best suited for students interested in professional careers rather than academic ones. Some examples of Professional Doctoral Degrees include: 

Note:   A Ph.D. has become increasingly important even in sectors other than education. Many modern businesses and nonprofits employ doctorates for top jobs and research with their organization.

doctoral degree vs masters

Differences in Admission Process

The main difference between Master’s and Ph.D. is who they target. A Master’s Degree is tailored for students interested in professional careers, whereas a Ph.D. is tailored for those who prefer to work in academia and research.

When it comes to admission, a Ph.D. will typically require students to submit any research work they may have undertaken in their graduate studies and face an interview, either one-on-one or in front of a select committee. Master’s programs generally do not require or consider research for admission and seldom ask applicants to appear for an interview (although some business schools do). 

Additionally, the GMAT or GRE may be required for master’s and doctoral students, depending on the program, institution, and when they are applying. Because scores are valid for five years, students won’t necessarily need to take the exams again if they are enrolling in a Ph.D. program after a master’s. It is also noteworthy that while many universities waive GMAT and GRE requirements, doctoral programs also frequently waive score submissions for those who recently graduated with a master’s degree or have substantial work experience.

Differences in Degree Requirements

Both the master’s and Ph.D. programs can demand time, effort, and cost. They also require higher levels of dedication and commitment than one expects from undergraduate programs. Students should know what it takes to pursue these challenging degrees and complete them by understanding their many requirements. Here are the typical masters vs. Ph.D. degree requirements: 

Differences in What Programs Entail

While a master’s program is intended to broaden and improve professional knowledge and abilities, a Ph.D. is a research-intensive program that aims to fill knowledge gaps in the industry by developing critical research, analytical and writing abilities. To achieve this, both use distinct approaches to coursework and study. Here are the typical masters vs. Ph.D. program differences:

Differences in Costs

According to Education Data Initiative, the average cost of a master’s degree is $66,340 [1] , while a doctorate is $114,300 [2] . These being average costs, one must note that the range of a master’s degree could be from $26,230 a year for a program from the University of Michigan’s School of Public Policy to $112,760 for a 2-year full-time MBA degree from Harvard Business School [1] . Similarly, a Ph.D. could range from $47,500 for a 2-year full-time online doctoral degree in Education at Thomas University to $294,200 for a traditional 8-year Doctorate in Philosophy at New York University [2] . But the exact cost of programs heavily depends on several factors, such as: 

Differences in Careers, Employment, and Salaries

Depending on the discipline and occupation, a master’s degree may suffice or require a doctoral degree. For example, professors, psychologists, physicists, and biologists are considered qualified when they have a Ph.D. In certain states, a Ph.D. is required to qualify for licensure. But for most professions, such as business administration, human resources, and engineering, a master’s degree is usually adequate. 

In general, master’s graduates can expect professional careers in a wide spectrum of work settings across industries and sectors based on their specialization and type of degree. Those with Ph.D. degrees commonly find careers in top-level management or top research and scientific posts and universities as senior faculty members. 

When one compares average salaries, a study by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce finds (on page 3) that “there is strong evidence that advanced education levels continue to be associated with higher salaries” [3] . But one should note that salaries ultimately depend on a person’s qualifications, skills, certifications, licensure, experience, exposure, expertise, sector, location, and more. According to The College Payoff [4] , which offers a comprehensive overview of the trends, challenges, and vulnerabilities existing in the current U.S. graduate education system, the expected median lifetime earnings of individuals at different educational levels are: 

doctoral degree vs masters

FAQs About Master’s and Ph.D. Programs

doctoral degree vs masters

Additional Resources

For viewpoints, discussions, and data on master’s vs. Ph.D., aspirants of both programs should look for online references and communities that can help them understand the pros and cons of each degree and help them make an informed decision. Here are a couple of resources to get started: 


[1] Education Data Initiative – Average Cost of a Master’s Degree  

[2] Education Data Initiative – Average Cost of a Doctorate Degree  

[3] Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce  

[4] The College Payoff – Education, Occupations, Lifetime Earnings  

Stay up to date

By entering my email address and clicking “Sign Up” I agree to be contacted by OnlineMastersColleges for any educational products or services. Note that this submission is not required to use our site.

graduate programs for educators logo

Educational Leadership: Master’s vs. Doctorate Degree

Dr. Benjamin Washington

Home Educators Blog

In the field of education, there are various career roles that are outside of the classroom. Teachers who have spent time in the classroom can decide to become curriculum specialists, guidance counselors, or school administrators. Those who want to pursue a career in educational administration must obtain a specific certification to do so. Educational leadership is one area of research, training, and practice that helps serve the needs of students and advance the educator in their careers.

There are two specific degrees that an educator can obtain in pursuit of an educational leadership degree . One degree that can be obtained is the master’s in educational leadership, and the other is the doctorate in educational leadership.

To understand how these degrees impact the school, teachers, and students, it is important to know just what educational leadership is.

What is Educational Leadership?

Educational leadership is how educational leaders collaborate with others to ensure student success. These efforts come from combining instructional leadership, school personnel, and student needs to bring forth the best outcome for the student and the school. Educational leaders come in many forms, whether it be a teacher, guidance counselor, school principal, or district level administrator; all of these are examples of educational leaders.

To further develop these skills, obtaining a master’s degree in educational leadership is a great idea. The skills, perspectives, and professional development involved in a master’s educational leadership program will give the practitioner knowledge of facilitating educational leadership in the school setting. This makes a direct impact on students, teachers, and the school. Focusing on educational leadership holistically will bring forth changes in academics, school culture, and communication systems.

What does a Master’s Educational Leadership Program Focus On?

A master’s degree program is a graduate-level program that optimizes the practitioner’s knowledge, pedagogy, and practical skills. Classes in an in-person or online master’s in educational leadership program focus on research and assessment, school and community relations, curriculum and instructional leadership, and school law. These various topics prepare the educator to facilitate educational leadership on a school-wide level.

Most master’s educational leadership programs come with a certification or licensure for the principalship. Although this is true for most programs, it is essential to check the college or university and their degree’s curriculum to ensure that certification is included. After completing the degree program, most educators will be on the path to becoming a building-level administrator. This can be in the form of an assistant principal or principal . For those who wish to go further with their academic and career pursuits, a doctorate in educational leadership is the next option.

How Does a Doctorate Educational Leadership Program Differ from and Expand Upon a Master’s Program?

A doctorate in educational leadership differs from a master’s in that it prepares the student to learn about educational leadership at the highest academic and practical level. Educational leadership doctoral programs online or in-person allow the leader to think and utilize skills on a broader level for systematic change.

Ed leadership programs at the doctoral level can come in doctor of philosophy or doctor of education; Ph.D. or Ed.D. Generally, a Ph.D. focuses more on academic research while an Ed.D. focuses on practical and problem-solving skills that impact students and teachers daily. A doctorate in educational leadership expands on what the leader learned in their master’s program.

Examples of classes in an Ed.D. in educational leadership program are superintendents and executive leadership, data-driven leadership, research design and data analysis, organizational development and change, and diversity and global development. Both doctoral programs come with a culminating project in completing a dissertation or capstone project.

It is important to know that obtaining a doctorate in educational leadership can prepare the student to take administrator and leadership roles in the K-12 or higher education setting. For principals who aspire to be an assistant superintendent or superintendent , an Ed.D. educational leadership with a concentration in superintendency is the best route.

Aspiring higher education administrators such as deans, provost, vice presidents, and presidents should pursue a Ph.D. or Ed.D. with a concentration in higher education. Furthermore, it is important to know that colleges and universities will hire leaders with either a Ph.D. or Ed.D.

Understanding the pathway for you comes from knowing the benefits of each degree.

Master’s vs. Doctorate: Benefits of Each

Both graduate-level programs have their benefits to the degree pursuer. Teachers and instructional leaders who aspire to be building-level administrators such as principals, will need to complete their master’s degree in educational leadership. District-level positions are also available with a masters such as directors of elementary or secondary education and executive directors of student services.

It is possible to be a superintendent with a master’s, but having a doctorate will make the candidate more knowledgeable and marketable when running a school district. The benefit of both degrees is that it helps the degree holder find pathways to lead from where they are and move forward. Whether it is the school building, district office, or the university setting, completing a master’s or doctorate in educational leadership is very beneficial.

How Do I Decide Which is Right for Me?

Deciding which degree is right for you comes from knowing your short and long-term goals for your career. Writing down and establishing a three-to-five-year plan is a great way to organize your future and your goals for career advancement. Understanding your personal needs in family life, career goals, and the learning format is vital to making a final decision.

Regardless of the degree program, a master’s and doctorate in educational leadership creates opportunities positively impact the lives of students, the school, and the communities they serve. For the educational leader having the knowledge, communication skills, and a deeper understanding of how schools and educational institutions work is an asset to their organization and their professional development. Obtaining a master’s or doctorate in educational leadership is a way to positively impact others while creating systemic change in education for the future.

Ready to collaborate with others to ensure student success? Explore our available educational leadership programs and start your next journey today!

graduate program favicon

Looking for a graduate program?

We are here to help ..

Privacy | Sitemap | K-12 Teachers Alliance

Copyright ©2023


  1. Bachelor Vs Master Vs Phd / A master's degree in nursing helps students become clinical nurse

    doctoral degree vs masters

  2. MBA vs. MSA: Which One is The Best for CEOs? (Infographic)

    doctoral degree vs masters

  3. Bachelor Vs Master Vs Phd / A master's degree in nursing helps students become clinical nurse

    doctoral degree vs masters

  4. PhD vs Master’s

    doctoral degree vs masters

  5. Pin by Nabila Saleh on Graduation regalia in 2020

    doctoral degree vs masters

  6. What Are the Differences Between a Master’s Degree and Doctoral Degree Program?

    doctoral degree vs masters


  1. Grad School for Undocumented Students

  2. Is The Captain Running And Ducking The Selah Shalom & Oahspe Bible?


  4. Dunk 720 vs NBA dunks

  5. PhD Course Work 4

  6. US President Bill Clinton's 1996 Visit to Chulalongkorn University (Part 1 of 3


  1. Master's vs Doctorate: Which Degree is Right for You?

    The focus of master's degrees and doctorate degrees is different. A master's degree is designed to deepen career-oriented knowledge and skills. A doctorate degree is a heavily research-based degree, designed to develop critical research,analytical and writing skills in an effort to fill industry knowledge gaps.

  2. Doctoral Degree vs. Master's Degree: Which Is Right for Me?

    A master's degree program usually takes about two years, with students completing between 30 and 40 credits. Doctoral degree students must complete up to 62 credits, as well as participate in in-residence workshops and doctoral research that could take several years.

  3. Master's vs PhD

    The two most common types of graduate degrees are master's and doctoral degrees: A master's is a 1-2 year degree that can prepare you for a multitude of careers. A PhD, or doctoral degree, takes 3-7 years to complete (depending on the country) and prepares you for a career in academic research. A master's is also the necessary first step to a PhD.

  4. Master's and Doctoral Degrees: What's the Difference?

    In some cases, a master's degree may hold advantages over a doctoral degree. For example, a master's degree in social work (MSW) may be more cost-effective than a doctoral degree, given the time and funds required to earn the degree and the pay differential.

  5. Masters vs. Doctoral Degree Programs

    In general, it is my opinion that it is better to pursue a doctorate. Most (but not all) research jobs will require the PhD, and the better professional psychology careers will go to those with a doctoral degree. Some of my colleagues disagree with me and see a masters degree as a good option.

  6. Master's vs PhD/Doctorate Degrees

    A master's degree is designed to teach you the knowledge and skills that you will need in your future profession. A PhD or doctorate degree, on the other hand, is designed to develop your critical thinking as well as your analytical and writing skills and is usually a years-long commitment to independent research on a specific subject.

  7. Master's Degree Vs Doctorate: Which Is Your Best Option?

    The master's degree is the next level beyond a bachelor's and tends to be a more career-focused degree, designed to provide the skills and in-depth knowledge needed to succeed at the higher levels of an industry or field. Doctoral degrees are a level beyond that; however, this does not mean that a doctorate is always superior.

  8. Doctorate vs Master's Degree

    In most cases, a master's degree is also essential, but there are programs that allow you to enroll yourself without a master's degree and earn it along the way. A doctorate, however, requires consistent academic and research excellence. Average Cost

  9. The Difference Between a Masters and a Doctorate

    Master's degrees are more versatile than doctoral degrees, and have a wide range of professional and academic applications. The most common master's degrees are Master's of Arts (M.A.) and Master's of Science (M.S.) . Additionally, there are three types of master's programs:

  10. Masters vs. Doctorate in Clinical Psychology

    In general, it is the case that Master's degrees lead to fewer job opportunities and lower salaries than Doctoral degrees. One could argue that this is a function of the amount of...

  11. Master's vs PhD

    Master's: A typical master's degree program takes about two years full-time. However, there are accelerated programs that can be completed in just a year or so. PhD: A PhD, in general, requires five to six years of studying, teaching, and research. However, it may even take some students up to eight or nine years to graduate.

  12. DNP vs Masters NP: What is the difference?

    As a doctoral degree, this post master path often prepares students for a different educational path and career path than the MSN. Most often, a DNP focuses on leadership roles in the industry. Students may pursue a nursing career to work in management of healthcare systems, work as a nurse educator, or work in other areas of public health. ...

  13. Occupational Therapy Doctorate vs. Master's

    A master's degree in occupational therapy is more suited for those eager to save money and start earning immediately. However, if you're more inclined towards research, academics, and policymaking, a doctorate is the perfect option. While a master's degree can take up to years to complete, doctoral degree programs span over 3-4 years.

  14. PhD vs master's degrees (differences between them)

    Because doctorate degrees are one of the highest academic achievements you can earn, they are generally considered superior to master's degrees. Although a master's degree may provide a variety of career opportunities, a PhD typically provides more opportunities in the workforce.

  15. MSN vs DNP: Comparing Differences Between The Two Degrees

    A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) are both graduate nursing degrees; however, the differences between them involve the required length of study and personal career goals. Both degrees will prepare the nurse for an advanced practice career, and provide opportunities for other roles including faculty nurse educator and leadership positions.

  16. Ph.D. vs. Doctorate: What are the Differences?

    While studying for a doctorate entails asserting oneself to an extensive amount of quality time and money, its significance and purpose usually pave the way to a lucrative end. After having finished the Master's Degree, students begin to think about their next step in their academic career.

  17. NP vs. DNP

    According to Payscale, nurses with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree earned an average base salary of $107K as of June 2022. Nurses with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, on the other hand, earned an average salary of $98k, $9k less per year than the DNP degree.

  18. Occupational therapy doctorate vs master's: What's the difference?

    After researching an occupational therapy doctorate vs master's, it's time to find a program. Concordia University offers a Master of Occupational Therapy and a Doctor of Occupational Therapy program. We offer a post-baccalaureate program geared for individuals whose bachelor's isn't related to occupational therapy. This allows students ...

  19. Master's vs. Ph.D.

    While a master's program is intended to broaden and improve professional knowledge and abilities, a Ph.D. is a research-intensive program that aims to fill knowledge gaps in the industry by developing critical research, analytical and writing abilities. To achieve this, both use distinct approaches to coursework and study.

  20. Educational Leadership: Master's vs. Doctorate Degree

    A doctorate in educational leadership differs from a master's in that it prepares the student to learn about educational leadership at the highest academic and practical level. Educational leadership doctoral programs online or in-person allow the leader to think and utilize skills on a broader level for systematic change.