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BA/MA or MA/PhD?

BookspineBookspine Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
Hi all, thanks for reading.

I'm graduating from a fairly well-known University in the US this fall, either can continue in through the BA/MA program into the MA General Linguistics here next Spring, or to wait and apply to programs for Fall 2017. My BA degree is in Comparative Literature and Spanish Linguistics. I'd like to solicit your thoughts on a few things.

Some background information:

+ If I get into the MA, I will have funding for the MA (through a 3rd party scholarship), but it doesn't cover living expenses.

+ I have a very good shot at the MA as it's designed for students in the school. (I've spoken with the faculty about this.)

+ It seems like a lot of MA/PhD programs in Linguistics provide living stipends and also guarantee teaching experience.

+ It seems like a lot of MA/PhD programs don't accept a lot of transfer classes. I don't want to have to redo my MA, if I decide to continue on in a MA/PhD program.

+ If I do continue into the MA program at my school, I can start next Spring and finish next year. The faculty in my subfield are good, and I will have some solid research and a masters. My school's Linguistics program is respected and known by other Universities.

+ However, I may be better suited towards a Hispanic Linguistics PhD, rather than a Linguistics PhD, as I speak Spanish and Portuguese, and my research focuses on language contact in Latin America.

+ I'm also considering doing something else first (such as teaching English abroad), maybe this is a better use of time. However, if I do this, I forfeit my chance to continue in the BA/MA program. It's a great opportunity and I don't want to squander it :)

Questions:

Will getting a Hispanic Linguistics PhD limit me on the job market later, compared to a general Linguistics PhD? Should I get the research experience now with the MA, to strengthen my resume, or is the MA a waste of time? I don't have student debt right now, and am trying to remain as such. Also, the MA degree allows me to change my mind later if I would like... is that reason enough to get the MA separate from the PhD? Whew, sorry for the long post. Any thoughts and advice is appreciated! <3

Replies to: BA/MA or MA/PhD?

  • happymomof1happymomof1 Registered User Posts: 28,084 Senior Member
    What can you do with an MA that you can't do with a BA?

    Will the MA work build skills that will make you a more viable PhD candidate? And will your advisors help you get into that PhD program elsewhere?

    If you enroll in the MA, will there be a teaching or research assistantship available to help pay for your living expenses?
  • FluentInCarbsFluentInCarbs Registered User Posts: 112 Junior Member
    I feel like a spamming bot, but you should go on thegradcafe and ask this question. i don't know anything about your field. Sorry!
  • harvestmoonharvestmoon Registered User Posts: 954 Member
    What did your professors do when they were in graduate school? Ask them, especially since they probably know your specific skills and area better than we do.

    And what is your ultimate goal with the PhD? Teaching? Research? This will affect things as well.

    Fwiw, I was a French major and all of my French professors got their MAs first. Two got MAs in translation before switching into literature, so I think content areas are kind of gray.

    I was also a writing major and all my professors also got their MAs first (some also in different disciplines, such as a linguistics MA and a rhetoric PhD).

    The credits and transferring all probably depend on your field. My field (composition and rhetoric) doesn't typically even admit a PhD student without an MA in hand, but other schools are different.

    Good luck!
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,472 Super Moderator
    Everyone has a different opinion on whether you should get an MA before the PhD. When I was making the same decision I talked to a lot of different professors and heard a lot of different opinions. Ultimately, I concluded it really didn't matter and decided to just make my own decision based on what I really wanted to do. I know in the humanities it's more common - because PhD programs in the field are so competitive that an MA beforehand raises your application quality, and importantly gives you the language development time you need. But it's not 100% necessary for most PhD programs.
    + If I get into the MA, I will have funding for the MA (through a 3rd party scholarship), but it doesn't cover living expenses.

    Does your department offer TAships or other graduate assistantships that you can earn living expenses through? Are jobs plentiful for MA candidates? If not, then I imagine that this will mean you will have to borrow $40-50K depending on the cost of living in your area. This is not bad for an MA, but if you already have debt from undergrad, it can add up.
    + It seems like a lot of MA/PhD programs in Linguistics provide living stipends and also guarantee teaching experience.

    The vast majority of them do, and you should never go to a PhD program without full funding anyway. So you should count on not incurring much more debt after the MA.
    + It seems like a lot of MA/PhD programs don't accept a lot of transfer classes. I don't want to have to redo my MA, if I decide to continue on in a MA/PhD program.

    This is true - most PhD programs will probably, at most, accept about a semester's worth of credits from your MA. The value of the MA isn't so much cutting time and classes off the PhD as it is additional preparation for applying to and studying in a PhD program.
    + If I do continue into the MA program at my school, I can start next Spring and finish next year. The faculty in my subfield are good, and I will have some solid research and a masters. My school's Linguistics program is respected and known by other Universities. However, I may be better suited towards a Hispanic Linguistics PhD, rather than a Linguistics PhD, as I speak Spanish and Portuguese, and my research focuses on language contact in Latin America.

    Many linguistics departments may have faculty with which you can study Hispanic linguistics - or even a concentration in it - without calling it "Hispanic linguistics" formally. Focus more on the resources at a university/department and not simply the name on the degree.
    + I'm also considering doing something else first (such as teaching English abroad), maybe this is a better use of time. However, if I do this, I forfeit my chance to continue in the BA/MA program. It's a great opportunity and I don't want to squander it

    One of my biggest regrets is that I did not teach English abroad between my BA and my PhD. I went straight into graduate school. The thing to remember is - people will always say "Oh, you can do that later" but...you really can't! First of all, one big program that allows you to (the Fulbright) closes to you after you finish the PhD; you are ineligible if you have one. Second of all, after you finish the PhD, if you want an academic career you have to go straight into it. There's really no time to take a gap and teach abroad for a year or two; when you come back, academic employers will judge you harshly for the gaps in your CV. Especially in the humanities, academia is a bloodbath these days.

    However, you can teach abroad after you finish the MA, so there is the possibility of doing the BA/MA, then teaching abroad for a year or two, and then going into a PhD program after that.

    The thing is, even if you don't continue into the MA in your own department, there are lots of other linguistics MA programs out there you can do. You say you have a third-party scholarship - can you use it for a different program (or put it on hold)?
    Will getting a Hispanic Linguistics PhD limit me on the job market later, compared to a general Linguistics PhD?

    Possibly. Look at the PhDs of people who are doing what you want to do. And ask your advisors. Also, ask about the placement rates of Hispanic linguistics PhD programs - you can contact the departmental secretary of these programs and ask about their placement.
    Also, the MA degree allows me to change my mind later if I would like... is that reason enough to get the MA separate from the PhD?

    Yes! I wish I had gotten a master's first after my PhD. I would've stopped there.
  • BookspineBookspine Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    @happymomof1 The MA in Linguistics would strengthen my resume for a PhD program, but it seems like you need a PhD to work in Linguistics research jobs.

    @FluentInCarbs Thank you for your advice! I'll consider bringing up the question over there too :)

    @HarvestMoon1 I'll definitely check with them, I'm not sure. I know a few completed master's degrees seperately. Thanks for your insight, it's nice to see that with the MA's they were able to change there focus a bit (from translation/linguistics to rhetoric). I love my field, and research in my field, but a MA/PhD is a huge commitment.

  • BookspineBookspine Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    @juillet Whoops, I'm double posting but I though it may make this easier to read. Thank you for insight- I really appreciate it.
    Does your department offer TAships or other graduate assistantships that you can earn living expenses through? Are jobs plentiful for MA candidates? If not, then I imagine that this will mean you will have to borrow $40-50K depending on the cost of living in your area. This is not bad for an MA, but if you already have debt from undergrad, it can add up.

    My department offers ~2 TAships, and there are about 10 to 15 students in the program at any given time. It has been hit with funding cuts. While students commonly teach lower language classes for other departments, one has to wait until after all the grad students in the department proper have been placed, before being eligible for additional space. I know the Romance Languages department, and could teach with them - but funding and teaching experience are not guartanteed in my school's Ling MA program. And I really want to avoid debt (as I'm studing very much so in humanities, haha.)
    This is true - most PhD programs will probably, at most, accept about a semester's worth of credits from your MA. The value of the MA isn't so much cutting time and classes off the PhD as it is additional preparation for applying to and studying in a PhD program.

    This is very useful, thank you. Also, I'm definitely focusing on resources now, rather than just the name of the degree. I have an idea of which school's have research that I like, and similar to my interests.

    My third-party scholarship only covers in-state costs, and my school has the only Linguistics program in my state. It's an established school/program, so I feel that it would meet the need. However, I'm trying to find more research on MA programs - in particular with those with more established funding. Also, I feel like I may grow more in a new envirnoment.

    However, there is one program I like a lot (I love their research), and it *seems* like you can go, and be fully-funded while completing the MA and teaching. Then you have the option of continuing on or not after completing the MA (it's not like your dropping out). I'm not sure if that's just my naviete with the grad school process, but I love the school. The idea of doing a funded MA seems great.

    Yes, I really want to teach abroad so I'm definitely have a lot to weigh. Thanks again for your comment!
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