Those who are considering going to graduate school often ask if they should apply to Masters degree or PhD programs. This is an important issue that deserves some attention. Why? When your career goals, experience, and skills match up with the type of degree you are pursuing, you will likely (1) get more out of grad school, (2) more readily see the benefits of specific hurdles you will have to pass to complete your degree, (3) have a more meaningful graduate school experience, and (4) spend the appropriate amount of time in grad school. A match between your goals, experience, skills and the type of degree programs you are applying to will also help you GET IN!
Before we discuss the factors that you should (and should not) consider when making the decision between pursuing a Masters versus a PhD, let's talk about some background inside information. Masters degree and PhD students have very different functions within a University. It will be helpful in your decision making process to understand these functions:
What is the purpose of Masters degree students for Universities? Universities admit Masters degree students to fulfill two important goals. First, it helps the University to graduate classes of prepared, professional individuals who will make good impressions in their fields. When a University produces Masters degree students who appear bright, well-educated, and valuable in the workplace, the University benefits. Employers might be more likely to hire more future graduates of that University. They may even consider partnerships with Universities that consistently turn out students who become excellent employees. Second, Universities recruit Masters degree students to make money. It may seem cynical, but Masters degree students are a big money maker for educational institutions. Universities can charge students a lot, and often pay part-time instructors (with lots of real-world experience) to teach these students little.