Masters or PhD

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Masters or PhD

Postby Michael » Thu Feb 10, 2005 6:53 pm

I'm currently in between my B.S. in biotechnology and looking to go for either a masters or PhD. I would like the degree to give me the best chance for work in the biotech industry but my biggest concern is whether to get the masters or PhD. I'm shying more towards the masters simply because I want to make money now and based off of some literature that I've read in different forums. I have read that a masters can be more beneficial than the PhD especially in industry. And yes I know I shouldn't go for the PhD unless I have that "Drive" to do so but the answers to these questions might be my drive. So IN GENERAL which degree would give me the best bang for the buck.

Masters or PhD

Postby Ken » Thu Feb 10, 2005 7:43 pm

This is a common question. First of all, if you are going to do one or the other, you may as well enter a PhD program. They award an MS along the way, in slightly longer than an actual MS program, but they pay you. If you decide you want to only get the MS, you can bow out; you don't have to decide now, you can see how it goes.

Second, to address "bang for the buck", initially you are probably going to do better as an MS. There are more MS jobs available in industry, and an MS level job will tend to pay a bit more than a postdoc. However, after the PhD finishes his postdoc, he is going to command a bigger salary than all but the most experienced MS, and will still have room to climb. The MS will hit the proverbial glass ceiling.

Now, there is no reason that that is necesarily a bad thing. If you look at the ceiling and that's high enough (in salary and responsibility) then there is absolutely no reason to do the PhD.
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Masters or PhD

Postby Tom » Thu Feb 10, 2005 9:25 pm

What would you define to be the "glass ceiling" for MS in terms of responsibility? Is management even a possibility? I've heard in small biotechs it is definitely a possibility, but at large companies (e.g. Merck, Pfizer) it is impossible and are only commanded by Ph.Ds. Is this true?

Masters or PhD

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu Feb 10, 2005 11:04 pm

What small biotech did you hear about that has MS level managers? My guess . . . this is a very small overall number. Most small biotech's are very "PhD-centric" and we have, as recruiters, trouble getting them around requiring a PhD on EVERYTHING. You'd think a Business Development position wouldn't require a PhD, but most ask for it, etc.

In some companies, there are indeed examples of MS level people who have risen up to run departments and/or entire companies. It is just that many biotech co's are actually spun out of academia, so they believe that you must have the pedigree in 80% of the cases.

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Masters or PhD

Postby Kevin Foley » Fri Feb 11, 2005 8:07 am

It all depends on how far you want to go on the scientific/management track after you leave school.

If you want to run the show (or even a modest piece of it), you need a Ph.D. I've known a couple of MS's that have risen to high levels of responsibility in industry (department heads) due to their exceptional qualities, but that is relatively rare. And they typically have to stay at one place and rise internally in order to accomplish this. Dave might know better, but they probably have less job mobility. Another exception would be someone with an MS, but also an advanced degree in another area (say a JD), but they might not be doing research.

Also, the whole grad school/postdoc experience is "on the job training" for critical scientific and thinking skills. Even with many more years experience, few MS scientists ever reach the level of scientific sophistication equivalent to a good PhD, largely because they are just not give the degree of independence that would enable them to do so. And, although years of industry experience are very valuable, they do not teach the same things that one would get from grad school & a postdoc.

All that being said, if you are happy with the opportunities available to someone with an MS, there is no reason why that isn't a perfectly legitimate career choice. You can get a job a lot sooner, there are more jobs, salaries are decent, and you can still do great science and have an impact.

You can also search out companies (typically small) that are relatively less focused on credentials and more on what you can do. One sign of this is whether a company?s internal phone list lists titles and degrees or not! Some companies purposely try to be more egalitarian. Those are great companies to work for, whether you have an MS or a PhD.

All the above is in reference to my area of experience, biotechnology, and may not apply to other fields.

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