Author Topic: Equivalency between US and UK graduate and doctoral degrees  (Read 819 times)

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katiescarlett

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Equivalency between US and UK graduate and doctoral degrees
« on: April 21, 2014, 11:35:28 AM »
I am in the process of looking for graduate schools, and I am highly interested in UK schools, as I want to study European and English history.  I even have exactly enough money put away for a year at the University of Edinburgh right now.  (Not enough to live on, but enough to pay tuition.)  I will graduate next May, but will begin applying to schools this fall, and am looking at all my options, of course at US schools, and also the University of Toronto, but am interested in UK schools especially.  If it helps, I am 34 years old, so saving the money myself might be a little easier as I have been working fulltime in health care for a long time now.  (Yes, I know, I am wanting a drastically different career, with teaching history  :))

Just curious on the equivalency of degrees.  If for example, I obtained a masters' degree in the UK, would I be able to come home to get a doctorate?

Deetee

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Re: Equivalency between US and UK graduate and doctoral degrees
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2014, 12:06:36 PM »
In general they are equivalent (though it's usually faster to get a UK degree). But you always want to double check with your prospective school.

Also, if you are planning to teach history at a college/university level, it is difficult to over emphasize how competitive that is. I do not want to dissuade you from this adventure but if you are planning this as a career change (And not a hobby) you need to be beyond excellent.

paintpots

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Re: Equivalency between US and UK graduate and doctoral degrees
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2014, 10:04:09 AM »
I would say the institution might matter here. E.g.  a masters from Oxbridge/Russell Group University (Edinburgh ticks that box) would be likely to have more weight than an ex-polytechnic (although there are many fine ex-polys in the UK, they are less likely to have a strong international reputation). It also depends on who you study with and their reputation in the field.

I think (or at least I get the impression) that graduate study in the UK is much shorter than in the US- 1 year for a full time masters, 3-4 years for a PhD (in my institution it's 4 years max), and that you can go straight into studying a PhD from a bachelors degree.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2014, 11:49:25 AM by paintpots »

nrb80

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Re: Equivalency between US and UK graduate and doctoral degrees
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2014, 11:07:50 AM »
I would talk to whatever institution you intend to get a PhD from, or trusted mentors in whatever field you intend to work in before making any decisions. 

University of Edinburgh is an excellent school with a great international reputation.  My concern is the idea of doing a masters rather than a D Phil there - I would ask hard questions of where you want to end up about whether a masters makes sense.  Assuming you have an excellent undergraduate record, you should be able to go straight to a doctoral program. Also, depending on the field, the masters might be a liability - either as a waste of time/money for your end goal, or an albatross on your CV.  For example, my husband (in his last job) was a major employer / hiring manager for a PhD laden field - one foot in academia, one foot in industry.  He hired PhDs or people with undergrad degrees - a vocational masters (MBA, MPA, MPH) was fine, but didn't get anything over an undergrad.  An academic masters was immediately tossed - too often it's a wash out degree, or it is seen as showing a lack of commitment to the field. 

If I were you, I would talk to as many people in the eventual field you want to end up in as possible, and get advice on what makes the most sense for your goals.

LadyL

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Re: Equivalency between US and UK graduate and doctoral degrees
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2014, 11:12:56 AM »
University of Edinburgh is an excellent school with a great international reputation.  My concern is the idea of doing a masters rather than a D Phil there - I would ask hard questions of where you want to end up about whether a masters makes sense.  Assuming you have an excellent undergraduate record, you should be able to go straight to a doctoral program. Also, depending on the field, the masters might be a liability - either as a waste of time/money for your end goal, or an albatross on your CV.  For example, my husband (in his last job) was a major employer / hiring manager for a PhD laden field - one foot in academia, one foot in industry.  He hired PhDs or people with undergrad degrees - a vocational masters (MBA, MPA, MPH) was fine, but didn't get anything over an undergrad.  An academic masters was immediately tossed - too often it's a wash out degree, or it is seen as showing a lack of commitment to the field. 


POD to this advice. In some fields an MA is a waste of time/money. For research fields this seems particularly true - in the 2 research jobs I had before starting my doctoral work, I replaced people who had an MA and I got paid the same as they did.

Nibsey

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Re: Equivalency between US and UK graduate and doctoral degrees
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2014, 11:54:00 AM »
University of Edinburgh is an excellent school with a great international reputation.  My concern is the idea of doing a masters rather than a D Phil there - I would ask hard questions of where you want to end up about whether a masters makes sense.  Assuming you have an excellent undergraduate record, you should be able to go straight to a doctoral program. Also, depending on the field, the masters might be a liability - either as a waste of time/money for your end goal, or an albatross on your CV.  For example, my husband (in his last job) was a major employer / hiring manager for a PhD laden field - one foot in academia, one foot in industry.  He hired PhDs or people with undergrad degrees - a vocational masters (MBA, MPA, MPH) was fine, but didn't get anything over an undergrad.  An academic masters was immediately tossed - too often it's a wash out degree, or it is seen as showing a lack of commitment to the field. 


POD to this advice. In some fields an MA is a waste of time/money. For research fields this seems particularly true - in the 2 research jobs I had before starting my doctoral work, I replaced people who had an MA and I got paid the same as they did.

Actually my experience in History specifically is that even with a 1:1 degree you won't be accepted for a Phd without a Masters (And it's difficult to get a job in history without at least a Phd). I did a postgrad in History and also worked as a administrator for a History department in a large university. Now I know Ireland and the UK are not exactly the same but we had enough lecturers from the UK in our department to have a fairly similar system. If a student was the top of the top and had a brilliant research proposal they were allowed to go directly into a MLitt with the idea of then upgrading it to a Phd but I actually saw that happen only the once.

The main reason I would recommend moving OP is that I was doing my Phd in English history and was constantly having to commute from Dublin to London in order to access primary sources. There are plenty of primary sources in my area in Dublin but do not underestimate the number of sources you will need to look at for even a Masters degree.
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nrb80

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Re: Equivalency between US and UK graduate and doctoral degrees
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2014, 12:02:54 PM »
University of Edinburgh is an excellent school with a great international reputation.  My concern is the idea of doing a masters rather than a D Phil there - I would ask hard questions of where you want to end up about whether a masters makes sense.  Assuming you have an excellent undergraduate record, you should be able to go straight to a doctoral program. Also, depending on the field, the masters might be a liability - either as a waste of time/money for your end goal, or an albatross on your CV.  For example, my husband (in his last job) was a major employer / hiring manager for a PhD laden field - one foot in academia, one foot in industry.  He hired PhDs or people with undergrad degrees - a vocational masters (MBA, MPA, MPH) was fine, but didn't get anything over an undergrad.  An academic masters was immediately tossed - too often it's a wash out degree, or it is seen as showing a lack of commitment to the field. 


POD to this advice. In some fields an MA is a waste of time/money. For research fields this seems particularly true - in the 2 research jobs I had before starting my doctoral work, I replaced people who had an MA and I got paid the same as they did.

Actually my experience in History specifically is that even with a 1:1 degree you won't be accepted for a Phd without a Masters (And it's difficult to get a job in history without at least a Phd). I did a postgrad in History and also worked as a administrator for a History department in a large university. Now I know Ireland and the UK are not exactly the same but we had enough lecturers from the UK in our department to have a fairly similar system. If a student was the top of the top and had a brilliant research proposal they were allowed to go directly into a MLitt with the idea of then upgrading it to a Phd but I actually saw that happen only the once.

The main reason I would recommend moving OP is that I was doing my Phd in English history and was constantly having to commute from Dublin to London in order to access primary sources. There are plenty of primary sources in my area in Dublin but do not underestimate the number of sources you will need to look at for even a Masters degree.

I think this is why it's so important for the OP to get feedback from those directly where she wants to end up - I'm in the US, and have a number of friends/former classmates that are history professors or perennial post docs with PhDs from great places, and in each case they only have the MPhil/MA that is subsumed into the PhD depending on university procedure.  But the masters that gets awarded with the PhD or as a washout degree seems to be an American thing only...

nrb80

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Re: Equivalency between US and UK graduate and doctoral degrees
« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2014, 12:06:57 PM »
In general they are equivalent (though it's usually faster to get a UK degree). But you always want to double check with your prospective school.

Also, if you are planning to teach history at a college/university level, it is difficult to over emphasize how competitive that is. I do not want to dissuade you from this adventure but if you are planning this as a career change (And not a hobby) you need to be beyond excellent.

I cannot tell you how many friends I have with PhDs from the top school in their field or from Harvard who are currently living a nomadic academic lifestyle - post-doc to post-doc, or visiting professor to visiting professor.  It's incredibly tough.

That said, they are some of the happiest, and most fulfilled people I know.  The lifestyle has not allowed them to pursue certain relationships, kids, etc., but for some people it's living the dream, even if not financially lucrative. 

Deetee

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Re: Equivalency between US and UK graduate and doctoral degrees
« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2014, 12:44:39 PM »
In general they are equivalent (though it's usually faster to get a UK degree). But you always want to double check with your prospective school.

Also, if you are planning to teach history at a college/university level, it is difficult to over emphasize how competitive that is. I do not want to dissuade you from this adventure but if you are planning this as a career change (And not a hobby) you need to be beyond excellent.

I cannot tell you how many friends I have with PhDs from the top school in their field or from Harvard who are currently living a nomadic academic lifestyle - post-doc to post-doc, or visiting professor to visiting professor.  It's incredibly tough.

That said, they are some of the happiest, and most fulfilled people I know.  The lifestyle has not allowed them to pursue certain relationships, kids, etc., but for some people it's living the dream, even if not financially lucrative.

I agree 100% that academia can be amazing and rewarding experience. My post-doc was simply the best time (challenging, interesting, fantastic research, successful research, great people) I put in 60 hour weeks cheerfully on a regular basis and when I wasn't doing that, I was putting in more time. It was invigorating and awesome.

What it didn't do was give me a job. (Or more correctly, it didn't give me a job in the smallish city where I decided would live). I don't regret the time I spent in pure research. But I wouldn't ever suggest that someone count on a position after completing academia, especially if you have limitations due to relationships or preferred geographic location.

For what's it's worth, my post-doc was at the top engineering school in the world and I excelled at it. It simply wasn't enough to swing a permanent position.

And history/english/arts is even more competitive than the sciences.


katiescarlett

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Re: Equivalency between US and UK graduate and doctoral degrees
« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2014, 03:29:31 PM »
Thanks for all the information. I really want to do a doctorate, and would prefer to do this all at one place.  The problem with overseas, for me, though, is money.  I can get funding in the US for that, but are there scholarships available for international students?  I am also part Choctaw, and will receive some money from them every semester.

I am also aware of how poor the jobs prospects are, and would be lying if I didn't say that worries me.  My bachelor's degree will be in English, with my minor in history, and I will have that completed by next May.  I am looking at all my options right now, including staying in the job I am now (though I hate it, and do not want to do that).  If I had the money in my account right now, and an acceptance letter in my pocket, I would go to Edinburgh, or a school in England and stay there through the doctoral program. 

katiescarlett

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Re: Equivalency between US and UK graduate and doctoral degrees
« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2014, 03:34:21 PM »
In general they are equivalent (though it's usually faster to get a UK degree). But you always want to double check with your prospective school.

Also, if you are planning to teach history at a college/university level, it is difficult to over emphasize how competitive that is. I do not want to dissuade you from this adventure but if you are planning this as a career change (And not a hobby) you need to be beyond excellent.

I cannot tell you how many friends I have with PhDs from the top school in their field or from Harvard who are currently living a nomadic academic lifestyle - post-doc to post-doc, or visiting professor to visiting professor.  It's incredibly tough.

That said, they are some of the happiest, and most fulfilled people I know.  The lifestyle has not allowed them to pursue certain relationships, kids, etc., but for some people it's living the dream, even if not financially lucrative.

With this said, I am not married, and have no plans to have children, so this appeals to me.   :)