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Combined Masters and PhD Programs in the US

I was asked by a reader if one can opt for a joint master and PhD program in the United States right after an undergraduate degree. My answer to that question would be YES. Most universities in the US accept students into their PhD programs right after a bachelors degree. US universities work according to the credit system. Each degree requires that the student earns a certain amount of minimum credits. In an integrated program, once you finish your master’s coursework (in 2-3 years) and earn the requisite credits/grades you can dive into full time research and the PhD portion coursework.

What are the entry requirements of MS + PhD programs?

The entry requirements are essentially the same that the school asks from its masters and PhD applicants. Undergrad grades, test scores, letters of recommendation and work experience are taken into account. Yes, your profile must be strong enough to be considered for such a position. An applicant must prove that he/she has a strong inclination for research and can continue in the program for 7-8 years. And if English is not your native language, you will likely have to prove your English ability by taking the TOEFL or another English exam. Admissions offices need to know that you can function in an English-only environment.

Masters students are usually offered only partial scholarships, depending on the availability. Many schools at least try that the international students receive some tuition waiver/scholarship. If chosen as a combined masters-PhD candidate it’s likely that the school will offer a fellowship and offer a TA/RA position. If not immediately, the RA/TA position comes in after the first semester or even the first year. Please note, this funding is entirely on the discretion of the department and it’s best to ask admissions/graduate coordinators about such policies when applying.

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The advantages of such programs

If someone is absolutely sure that a doctoral degree is his/her ultimate goal, I would strongly advice opting for a combined degree. It’s a good career move to set on the research and PhD path right after an undergraduate degree. You’re set once and for all without the hassles of applying again. Additionally, the cost of applying to schools twice- once for masters and then for PhD- can be saved. Test scores are valid for a limited period of time and if it expires before the PhD cycle of admissions, an applicant is expected to appear for it again.

Combined programs are rigorous as there is a lot to learn before embarking on research. An undergrad is a novice when considering the demands of higher research. When choosing such a program be prepared to venture on a demanding, long and tough journey.

On the flipside, it’s completely alright if you want to pursue a doctoral program after completing your masters. Separate masters and PhD degrees offers you the flexibility to change schools, specializations/area of research and the option to work/research for a few years before heading for your PhD.

Best of luck in deciding which way you are headed after your undergrad!

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43 Responses to Combined Masters and PhD Programs in the US

  1. Shajib February 2, 2017 at 1:34 am #

    In a combined MS+PhD program does the student receive masters certificate if he/she doesn’t continue the PhD program after completing the masters?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 3, 2017 at 6:23 am #

      Hi Shajib,

      Typically yes, this is the case that a student earns the MS or MA qualification along the way, but it is not always in the subject matter of the PhD itself. These are questions that should be clarified with an individual university department. 🙂

  2. Rahul February 6, 2017 at 11:08 pm #

    Can you provide the list of colleges which offers combined masters and PHD course or how to discern from the official website of the college if it offers the above mentioned course ?

    • David Recine
      David Recine February 7, 2017 at 3:00 am #

      It’s hard to compile a full list of these kinds of programs, for a few reasons. For one thing, universities don’t always make it obvious that they have a combined grad program. If you see that a university offers a Master’s and PhD in the same subject, there’s a chance that their program combines the two degrees. But you may need to contact the school to find out. It’s also possible that a school may offer a Masters in one subject, a PhD in another, but combine these two grad degrees into one double-major program.

      Specific kinds of joint degrees are easier to find lists for. Some types of combined Masters/PhD are very popular and very specific, so that lists of all such programs are available. This is definitely true of the combined JD/MBA. Many different websites have lists of JD/MBA programs. I personally like Wikipedia’s JD/MBA list.

      To find a list of combined Master’s/PhD programs that’s useful for you, search just for the subject area (or areas) you intend to study. That should help you come up with a good list of your options.

    • Zerina September 27, 2019 at 1:19 pm #

      I am mechanical engineer, soon I will have my Meng degree. I have two years of work experience and zero research papers. Can you please tell me do i have chance to get accepted and get assistantship at MS+PHd program in Management/Marketing (because of my engineering background)? I haven’t had any connection with bussines-related fields but I am 100% sure I want to study this!
      Thank you so much!

      • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
        Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 8, 2019 at 5:30 pm #

        Hi Zerina 🙂 Unfortunately we don’t have any expertise in admissions chances. You’re welcome to discuss here in the comments, but we can only help you prepare for the exams you need. I recommend reaching out to your schools of interest to ask what admissions standards they use.

  3. ayushi April 1, 2017 at 8:13 am #

    What’s the total duration for an integrated masters and PhD course. ?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 2, 2017 at 3:58 am #

      Hi Ayushi,

      There is no single answer for this. The masters coursework typically takes 1.5-3 years and then you progress to the PhD portion, which honestly can take a decade sometimes, but typically is a 5-6 year endeavor.

  4. sabrena hausa April 8, 2017 at 1:15 pm #


    I did only one semester in one of the Universities in the UK in English and then I have withdrawn the course, and I would like to do this Combined Masters and PhD Programs in the US.

    Do I need to provide TOEFL or IELTS to get the offer?

    Or it is enough to provide a proof from the university that I have withdrawn from?

    because I do not want take IELTS again.


    • David Recine
      David Recine April 10, 2017 at 6:46 am #


      If you have just one semester complete in an English speaking environment, most American universities will still want to see an English proficiency exam of some sort.

      Whether or not you need to take the TOEFL or retake the IELTS depends on how long ago you took the last test. If you took the IELTS less than two years ago, you don’t need to retake it. US universities accept both the IELTS and the TOEFL, so long as your scores are less than two years old at the time of application. (Or sometimes they need to be less than two years old at the time you start your studies— contact the schools you’re applying to if you need to check the exact policy.)

      However, if your IELTS scores are more than two years old, and you don’t have newer (less than two years old) TOEFL scores, you’ll need to either retake the IELTS or take the TOEFL.

      Hope this helps! 🙂

  5. Anita Joshi April 26, 2017 at 1:30 am #

    Hi can we pursue joint ms phd programme in bionformatics after doing a year in master’s from india

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 27, 2017 at 6:59 am #

      There is no way to answer that as it will depend on individual universities and your school’s accreditation. Reach out to the schools you want to attend and see what they say! 🙂

  6. Samalee Banerjee June 3, 2017 at 10:09 am #

    In case of these programs where I will apply for a direct PhD program(combined masters and Phd) will i earn a ms as well as phd degree or will I receive certificate of only the Phd degree at the end of the course?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 5, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

      Hi Samalee,

      Our expertise is in test prep, not admissions and academic advice, but I think that in most cases, the school will award you a master’s before you continue onto the PhD coursework and research. My recommendation would be to research schools and programs that interest you in order to determine their requirements and schedule 🙂

  7. Sarthak Agarwal July 11, 2017 at 11:05 pm #

    Typically, what are the achievements in the resume of a student that gets selected for the MS + PhD course?

    • David Recine
      David Recine July 13, 2017 at 9:57 am #

      That can be a little hard to predict, since grad programs look at many different factors. That being said, relevant work experience is always a plus. If you have presented at any academic conferences or gotten a subject-related paper published in an academic journal, that helps as well. Past research or TA experience is good too, of course!

  8. Deepshikha August 6, 2017 at 10:22 pm #

    I am currently in my first year of Masters and am looking to apply for an integrated MS-PhD program.
    For such a program, is a subject change possible for PhD? I mean, if I do my MS in Biological Sciences, can I switch to another related subject like Immunology for my PhD?
    Thank you!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 8, 2017 at 1:29 pm #

      That depends on a lot of factors, so you should ask the departments you would be part of. Some would allow this type of thing and others would not. Unfortunately, we are not experts in this type of thing, so the best source of information is the schools themselves. Good luck!

  9. Arun September 27, 2017 at 2:13 pm #

    Hi. My wife has done MCA in india and has IT experience of 5 years. Planing to do PHD but her GRE scores are less than 300. We are hoping to choose combined MS+PHD as they are colleges who would allow her MS without GRE. However, would you know if GRE has to be written again once she complete her MS or does this depend on universities? Thanks for your reply

    • David Recine
      David Recine September 28, 2017 at 10:56 am #

      This really does depend on the standards of each university. With a lower, sub-300 GRE score, you wife probably can get into some PhD programs. But can she get into the specific ones she’s most interested in? For the answer to that, she should check the policies of her specific target schools.

  10. Sadia October 22, 2017 at 10:23 am #


    First of all thank you so much for such a nice information. i have done two years graduation and afterwards i graduated in Law with 3.8 CGPA. I am fairly keen in master+ Ph. D program in USA and Canada. Could you please recommend some universities who offering full bright scholarship in the said program.

    Kindly reply me soon.I will be really great full if you E-mail me.

    Thank You

    Kind Regards,

  11. reena December 15, 2017 at 6:22 am #

    i m having a score of 289 in gre i m having plans for ms as well as phd…i m looking for a teaching proffession in US. Any advices?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 16, 2017 at 10:16 am #

      Hi Reena,

      Our expertise is in test prep, not admissions advice, so I’m afraid I can’t provide you much more information than what we give in this blog post! I would recommend, however, that you consider retaking the GRE. This depends on your program of study and target schools, but in my experience many graduate schools, especially PhD programs, are looking for minimum scores of 300 or higher. I may be a bit biased here, but if you’re looking for an affordable and high quality test prep program, I highly recommend Magoosh 🙂

  12. Gulmina January 6, 2018 at 12:24 pm #

    Hey i need guidenss for preparation of ilets can u help.
    And i want to know that is it compulsory to give both GRE (general and subjective) or do we have option in that?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 8, 2018 at 12:07 pm #

      Hi Gulmina,

      We have many resources to help you prepare for the IELTS! Our IELTS blog provides you with study support and study schedules, and our comprehensive Premium IELTS program will provide you with all of the information and practice you need to excel in the IELTS!
      The GRE requirement varies by school and program. Most graduate schools require that you take the General GRE Test. Some programs also recommend or require a GRE Subject Test. You’ll have to research the requirements of your target schools for more information 🙂 You can start your search with some general information about the GRE General and Subject tests on our GRE blog 🙂

  13. Siri June 6, 2018 at 1:19 am #

    Which test is to be written to get into an integrated Phd program?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 6, 2018 at 11:56 am #

      Hi Siri,

      This depends on your course of study, and you should check the admissions requirements for some of your target schools for the most accurate information! Most schools will require the GRE for graduate studies, along with an English language test like the TOEFL or IELTS.

  14. sanidhya July 19, 2018 at 11:54 pm #

    Do we need work experience for this joint venture??
    And how many letter of recommendation is required?
    What about GRE do we need to take GRE?

    • David Recine
      David Recine July 22, 2018 at 11:59 am #

      As Omanjana mentioned, work experience is taken into consideration. However, work experience is not necessarily a requirement some combined Masters/PhD programs will require work experience, but others may accept applicants who don’t have work experience. Policies on experience vary from program to program.

      Policies for letters of reference also vary from program to program, although you should assume that all programs will want at least one reference letter, usually more.

      Policies for GRE vary as well. Most combined Masters and PhD programs at top ranked universities will require the GRE. However, some top programs may require the GMAT, MCAT, LSAT, or another graduate exam, depending on the program type. Mid-tier programs are not asl likely to require GRE scores if their focus is humanities or teacher training. However, the GRE is commonly asked for if you are applying to a mid-ranked combined Masters or PhD that’s very science oriented.

  15. Sheharyar March 24, 2019 at 10:00 am #

    What about work permit after completing PhD in USA?

    • David Recine
      David Recine April 8, 2019 at 5:50 pm #

      There are a different ways to get a work permit after your PhD if you are an international student. If you can get an American employer to give you a long-term job and sponsor your visa, that’s one way to stay on and work. To get such a job offer and visa, you need to have unique, advanced skills that few other job applicants have. But with a PhD, you just might.

      You can also find short-term work (that could eventually become long-term work) after receiving a degree through a special kind of work status called “optional practical training” (OPT). With an OPT work permit, you can work at a job or do voulunteer work that is relevant to the degree you’ve just completed. So for example, if your PhD is in law, you may be able to get some short-term work through OPT if you work at a law firm.

      For more information about OPT, I recommend checking out Magoosh’s interview with Othman Zaimi, an international student services specialist at the University of St. Thomas. I would also recommend contacting the international education offices of the schools you’re applying to. International student regulations can change as time passes, and different schools have their own different work requirements and restrictions. So the offices of your target schools are your best source of accurate, up-to-date information about work after your PhD. But again, the interview with Othman is a great place to start! 🙂

  16. Raviraj May 11, 2019 at 2:09 am #

    Hi,I want to Ms and phd integrated course in mechanical abroad. Which university offer this type course.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 15, 2019 at 7:27 pm #

      Hi Raviraj!

      Our expertise is in test prep, not admissions and academic advice, so unfortunately, we can’t offer you very much help with this. With that said, this website may be a good place to start your search. From there, you can contact the schools directly for more information on their available programs. 🙂

  17. Chirag Gupta May 27, 2019 at 9:55 pm #

    How can we change our area of research after ms and before PhD? Because since our ms was in a different field won’t our chances of getting rejected increase??

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 5, 2019 at 2:29 pm #

      Hi Chirag! That’s a great question, but one that would have to be answered by a specific program. I can only say that it varies. Some programs like students with a diverse background and some might want students who have stuck to one track. Be sure to reach our to your programs of interest and see what sorts of students they look for 🙂

  18. shabana October 29, 2019 at 9:31 pm #

    Hi, can you please guide me to US universities that offer integrated Phd in biomedical science or biotechnology? Appreciate your help.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 7, 2020 at 2:20 pm #

      Our expertise is in test prep, not admissions advice or school specialties, so I’m afraid we aren’t the best people to answer this question! I recommend using this post as a starting point, and reaching out to your target schools for more information.

  19. Srikanth March 3, 2020 at 2:40 pm #

    Thanks for the above information. I have few more questions
    1)I heard that the MS+PhD program is 5 years course, Is it true? or it will take more than 5 years.

    2)if i join master’s in one university and then transferred to another university which offers combined program, Do i need to start from scratch or some subjects get waived in new university.

    3) you are mentioning that there are different requirements to get combined program
    admit depends on university, What are basic requirements for any university, If i want to apply from India.

    Thanks in advance

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 4, 2020 at 10:19 am #

      Hi Srikanth,

      These are all good questions, but I’m afraid we aren’t the best people to answer them. Our expertise is in test prep, not admissions advice. As we mention in this post, everything depends on the program and school you are applying for. A combined program could take more or less than 5 years, and whether your master’s degree transfers depends on the degree and the program. Each program has it’s own requirements, but generally you would have to take standardized tests (likely the GRE and TOEFL), write essays, provide your transcripts and fill out any supplemental material for the school. I recommend reaching out to an admissions counselor for more information 🙂

  20. Ishita Chakraborty December 28, 2020 at 5:27 am #

    Hi ,

    Does having a work experience considered as a disadvantage or advantage to apply for MS+PhD programme?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 8, 2021 at 1:36 pm #

      Hi Ishita,

      Our expertise is in test prep, not admissions advice, so we aren’t the best people to answer this question. In my experience, work experience is almost always a positive thing in the application process, but you should contact your target schools directly for more information.

  21. Kashmira Ghatge February 12, 2021 at 11:52 pm #

    Do we have to pay tuition fees for MS-PhD integrated programs in USA?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 16, 2021 at 7:17 am #

      Hi Kashmira, I’d recommend reaching out to your target schools for more information on tuition and financial assistance offered in these kinds of programs.

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