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Master's Thesis vs. Non-thesis

kovikovi Posts: 6Registered User New Member
edited June 2006 in Graduate School
I've seen some schools that offer non-thesis (comprehensive exam) options for Master's degrees.. Would you say that the thesis option be better for one going onto Ph.D while the non-thesis for someone going into the workforce afterwards? Which option would "look better" on a C.V./resume?
Post edited by kovi on

Replies to: Master's Thesis vs. Non-thesis

  • tenisghstenisghs Posts: 3,955Registered User Senior Member
    If you want to do graduate school (PhD), you better do a thesis.
  • kihylekihyle Posts: 307Registered User Junior Member
    coursework master's programs are better for those who are preparing for a PhD program

    coursework master's takes only 1 year to complete and focuses on you successfully completing some classes, some of which will be same as the ones you'll have to take during first year of PhD program -- in the catalog of my school chemistry coursework master's, for example, is listed to be for those who are preparing to go into teaching or to apply to a PhD program in chemistry

    thesis is better for those who are planning to go into workforce -- these people have to demonstrate that they have necessary skills and ability to work independently -- they work 2 years and complete a "mini"-PhD: they produce one piece of materal of quality that can be published (and for PhD you take 2-3 times as long and produce a couple of pieces that are published) -- so in summary, thesis masters is like a short-term PhD and is intended for those who don't want to apply for a full PhD but rather want to finish up with school quicker and go into industry
  • LAGatorLAGator Posts: 387Registered User Member
    If you will enter a Masters program before getting a Ph.D, *definitely* do a thesis.
    A Master's w/thesis would look better on a resume'/CV than a Master's degree with the non-thesis option.
  • fitzgerkfitzgerk Posts: 43Registered User Junior Member
    There really is no one and only answer, it depends on what your programs comp exam entails. I know most involve a large written portion that is followed by an oral defense of your paper. If its something like this your doing were you formulate a research paper based on your coursework followed by an oral defense of your research youre just fine. If your comp exam is a 30 minute multiple choice exam on how a bill passes through congress you might want to look elsewhere.

    As far as thesis writing, many schools such as the cal states use this option and most of the time people at a CSU are not research based and Ph.D bound, so the moral of the story is pick where youre comfortable and have fun...and msot importantly explore for yourself and what works for you, dont trust half the crap posted on this site, mine included
  • morfinxmorfinx Posts: 370Registered User Member
    Here's my take on it:

    If you are going on to a PhD, definitely do a thesis option. At my school, at least for ECE, one can do a thesis or a nonthesis (all coursework) MS. Both take the same amount of time to complete(1.5-2 yrs), both result in a MS ECE degree (thus I respectfully disagree with LAGator's assertion on resume). While being a non-thesis MS has no bearing here to one's eligibility to pursue a PhD according to departmental regulations, note that some profs will only take you as a PhD student IF you are a thesis MS.

    If you want to go into the work force after your MS, then it could go either way. If you are interested in more than one focus areas and want to get decent amount of exposure for each, then coursework would probably be your best bet. However, if you know EXACTLY what topic you want to explore further, then thesis option will allow you to really get in depth about that particular area.

    The above are purely my personal opinion, like fitz said, do what you are comfortable with and take anyone on here's post (including mine) with a grain of salt ;)
  • kihylekihyle Posts: 307Registered User Junior Member
    i agree with fitzgerk on that there is no one answer

    non-thesis master's generally has the advantage of being shorter -- so that rather than spending 2 years on one project with thesis master's followed by 4-6 years of more work on yet another project, you spend just 1 year in coursework preparation and then you're ready to start on your one and only 4-6-year long project

    however, judging from responses above it seems like non-thesis and thesis programs vary in depth and length -- certainly if non-thesis program takes nearly as long as thesis program to complete, than thesis program has an undeniable advantage -- non-thesis program is best only if you think you can complete it at least one year faster than non-thesis option

    non-thesis masters worked out very well for me because i had significant hands-on work experience during summers and part-time during school -- i continued doing research while i was in non-thesis master's -- so while i wasn't tied down to any project for 2-3 years with a thesis master's, my resume still listed a lot of experience working in my field -- i wanted to learn more instead of do more with my hands, so non-thesis program seemed more appealing -- however, if you don't have that much hands-on experience in your field (depending on how important that is in the first place) then thesis might be a great opportunity to significantly improve your chances for acceptance into better doctoral programs
  • DespSeekPhdDespSeekPhd Posts: 991Registered User Member
    If you're applying to a PhD program and you do the non-thesis option, the PhD adcoms are going to wonder why. It does not look good to avoid research and review if you're applying to a program that will require just that. Many times your advisor at the master's program will advise you based on that - my advisor told me that if I was planning on going on to the PhD, he wouldn't let me do the non-thesis option (I was planning on the thesis, anyway), and I have heard the same from others. The name of the game in PhD admissions is how much research can you get on your application. Unless you're in a situation with a huge amount of previous research and work experience, the thesis option is the way to go for a PhD.
  • kihylekihyle Posts: 307Registered User Junior Member
    i don't see why would anyone require you to do a thesis -- PhD programs accept fresh graduates with BS/BA right out of college -- coursework master's is treated like a 5-year undergrad experience with a bonus in that you were able to complete everything in 4 years and that 5th year you'd be taking advanced courses -- if doctoral programs accept senior-year undergrads who haven't done any thesis, they should not bulk at accepting someone who graduated in 5 years with coursework master's -- all of this provided that during summer and perhaps the academic year you've done some in-field work/research (this is important for both undergrads and anyone already out of college)

    in my experience, you do not have to have a huge amount of research done -- i've finally picked my career path and started out on research the summer between 3rd and 4th year of college, which is quite late considering that majority of people start one or two summers before their last summer in college -- prior to applying to doctoral programs, i had no publications and experience working in 2 places related to my field of study (plus a few minor undergrad jobs) and doing research in 1 place -- my entire work/research experience included only two summers and one academic year -- that is hardly what i would call a huge amount of research experience -- yet, combined with ok GPA, good essay, good letters of rec, and coursework masters degree, it got me into a number of top 10 programs in my field
  • DespSeekPhdDespSeekPhd Posts: 991Registered User Member
    It isn't that they don't accept people - it's a matter of competitiveness. A person who has done the thesis is going to be more competitive than a person who didn't. And those who are accepted straight out of BA/BS, although some have done a senior thesis, have not generally had the opportunities that a master's student has. The point is that a master's student who avoids the thesis is going to raise questions, not whether it's required for application or admission.
  • kihylekihyle Posts: 307Registered User Junior Member
    i do not think that non-thesis program raises any questions -- it is not like anyone would intentionally avoid research -- to the contrary, there is competition for research positions at least in my field -- people who chose the coursework option generally have research experience elsewhere that they accomplished during summers or during undergrad academic years and they don't want to waste another year prior to applying to doctoral programs -- at least that is how it is done at my school

    there is definitely no absolute requirement for someone who has at least a year of research experience to go into thesis master's -- an extra two academic years of research experience will give you a benefit, but not a significant one if you already could boast at least a year's involvement -- now on the other hand, if your GPA is low and you don't have good letters or rec, then perhaps thesis option will improve your chances significantly -- to apply with a new and hopefully cleaner slate so to say -- but for someone with GPA above 3.0, at least one detailed letter of rec from a place of extended employment, and at least a year of research experience, a thesis degree will not significantly boost chances of getting into good PhD programs so you risk just wasting one more year plus having more stress in your life over having to complete a thesis

    with non-thesis option it is possible to do research in a lab meanwhile -- for me it was simply continuing my undergraduate research experience: taking 3 classes along with contributing at least 10h of research work a week -- and there is that summer before the master's program starts that you can also use for work or research

    non-thesis programs are also low-risk in that they depend on successful completion of required courses and passing some exams in most schools -- there is usually a definite timeframe in which you can plan to finish and be out of there -- with thesis program you have no choice but having to complete your thesis prior to graduation -- when you’ll be able to do so depends on how your work goes, which can be unpredictable if it is experimental in nature
  • morfinxmorfinx Posts: 370Registered User Member
    My question is for kovi, do you plan to go on to get a PhD after your masters, or go into the workforce? It makes a big difference.

    I believe DespSeekPhD and kihyle are both PhD track, while I'm terminal MS. So you may identify more with one of us based on your outlook.
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