Do You Need a Masters to Get a PhD [2024 Guide]

By Brenda Pyzik
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on July 4, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
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Do you need a masters to get a PhD? Learn if you need a master's degree to pursue a PhD. Explore direct-entry and dual programs and accelerate your journey.

Do you need a masters to get a PhD? It is possible to earn your PhD without a masters program being completed first. This direct entry bachelor’s to PhD option can be a helpful way to reduce the time and money required to complete your education.

Masters to Get a PhD

Earning a PhD degree may put you on the path to exciting and rewarding career opportunities in a variety of fields. It may also specifically prepare you for a career in research and teaching.

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While in many cases it is possible to earn your PhD without a masters, completing a masters program may sometimes be a better fit for your personal educational journey and career objectives.

Do You Need a Masters to Get a PhD?

Masters degree student studying in library

No, a master’s degree is not always required to earn a PhD. A number of schools may allow you to enroll in a PhD-level program without having previously obtained your master’s degree if you meet the school’s and program’s admission criteria.

In some cases, Ph.D. programs may allow you to skip the need to obtain a master’s degree. These programs allow direct enrollment from a bachelor’s degree program into a PhD or doctorate program. Other schools may offer dual programs. These programs allow you to obtain a master’s graduate degree while you complete coursework for a PhD.

However, a growing number of universities now offer one year masters programs that may be beneficial to you and some of the highest paying masters degrees may be worth exploring before considering direct-entry PhD programs.

The availability of direct entry bachelor’s to PhD programs and dual master-PhD programs may vary from school to school. So, it can be helpful to research specific schools and fields of interest before applying.

Pros and Cons of Earning a PhD Without a Master’s

Earn a PhD Without a Master

Earning a PhD without a master’s can offer some unique benefits, but depending on your career goals and personal objectives, it may come with some cons as well.


  • Save time. Earning your PhD without a master’s will often save you time, as you won’t need to complete the 1 to 3 years required of a master’s education.
  • Save money. Skipping a masters program may also save you money, as you get to avoid the tuition costs of a masters program.
  • Enter the workforce more quickly. Attending a direct entry PhD program may allow you to enter the workforce more quickly and achieve advanced positions in your field sooner than other educational routes.


  • PhD not always required. Depending on your career goals, a PhD may not be necessary or helpful in achieving your target. In these instances, earning a doctoral degree may simply increase the time it takes for you to begin working in your field of choice.
  • Master’s degrees can offer clarity and experience. Earning a master’s may offer perspective in terms of choosing a trajectory for your studies in a PhD program. A master’s also allows you to experience postsecondary studies that are more self-directed than bachelor degree programs.
  • Master’s degrees can offer competitive advantage. In some cases, it may be more challenging to compete with other students who have completed a master’s program when it comes to being accepted into a PhD program or competing for certain research topics.

Enrolling in a direct entry bachelors to PhD program may not be right for everyone. It may be a good option for you, though, if you’re interested in obtaining your PhD and finishing your educational journey in less time and at lesser cost.

If you are interested in changing careers and you do decide that a masters degree is right for you, you may want to consider the best master’s degrees for career change that many universities offer their grad students.

Can You Get a PhD Without a Masters?

mature students in university

Yes, you can get a PhD without first obtaining a master’s degree. A number of universities offer direct entry to PhD programs from undergraduate or bachelor degree studies.

In some cases, specific schools or programs may prefer that applicants hold a master’s degree. Other options that may exist are dual master and PhD programs, which are available from certain universities.

Admission criteria to a PhD program will vary from school to school. Criteria may include the completion of an application form, submission of GRE or GMAT scores, payment of an application fee, and a written statement of purpose.

Other criteria for admission to a PhD without masters program could include submission of a resume, letters of reference, and transcripts from previous postsecondary studies, such as your bachelor’s degree.

How Hard Is It to Get into a PhD Program?

PhD students in library

Entry requirements for doctorate degrees vary from school to school and across programs.

Some common requirements, though, that you may come across include the completion of a bachelor’s degree program, a letter of interest, and a submission of a CV or resume. Some schools may require you to submit GRE or GMAT scores, but this requirement is becoming less common among accredited programs and institutions.

Once accepted into a PhD program, you may be required to undertake a significant amount of self-directed study and research, complete advanced coursework in your field of study, and fulfill a dissertation requirement.

What Can You Do with a PhD?

executive manager meeting with staff

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are a number of rewarding careers that may be available to you with a PhD. Some career fields in which a PhD is valuable include health, education, finance, management, and governance. Postsecondary health education and physical therapy are among the highest paying PhD degrees available.

Some positions that you may qualify for with a PhD include psychologist, economist, postsecondary teacher, political scientist, anthropologist, archeologist, and biochemist. Other positions could include engineer, historian, and chemist.

Understanding what a PhD degree is can help you plan your career goals. It is common for a PhD education to lead to careers in research, where you can contribute to the existing breadth of knowledge and understanding in a particular field. Teaching is another professional area common to PhD graduates, including teaching at universities and colleges.

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD Without a Masters?

Phd students in university classroom

Completing a master’s degree generally takes anywhere from 1 to 2 years, depending on the type of program and attendance schedule.

Obtaining a PhD without a masters degree is a unique opportunity that may allow you to shorten your academic journey. Traditionally, a bachelor’s degree takes 4 years to complete while PhD degrees can take anywhere from 3 to 5 years, depending on the program and school you attend.

Earn Your PhD Online

PhD Online

Earning your PhD online without a master’s may be a beneficial way for you to achieve advanced level education. You may complete a terminal degree in your field of choice while saving time and money. You may also benefit from advancement early in your career.

There are a variety of direct entry and accelerated PhD programs online available from accredited schools. You may find that obtaining your PhD without first earning a master’s degree allows you to enter into your profession of choice much quicker than expected.

Ready to start your journey?