What do you think?
I am a chemist with an MS degree with considerably over ten years experience in industry,
I think the experienced MS may have an easier time than a newly minted PhD, since after ten years of work not only can the MS demonstrate research experience in nonacademic settings, but also tends to present as more attuned to corporate/industrial/nonacademic culture. On the other hand, I suspect that when facing an interview committee of PhDs, the MS candidate would still be at somewhat of a disadvantage, However, most experienced professionals know how to prepare for specific interview situations and are generally pretty confident with any level.
How would the new PhD distinguish herself/himself from the seasoned MS competitor? I think the new doctorate should show the potential to contribute, and to imply the advantages to the company of the authority that tends to be attributed to PhDs. If the position is for a research associate, the PhD should somehow demonstrate that s/he could reach senior scientist, director, and more. Thei ntervviewee should give a polished, confident presentaiton of research, have good communication skills during the interview, and display knowledge of the company as a business. If a new PhD appeared to have the potential to become as knowledgeable as the MS already is, I think that the PhD could be favored.
Most importat is the industrial experience.
No one wants to hire people with academic experiences not even the academia or research institutes.
One thing is sure a person with PhD IS NOT considered for a MS job no matter how many experineces has, so has less opportunities.
I am applying for both, not even an interview.
It seems to me in today's job market that the majority of positions are advertised as requiring a PhD and most of them are not even willing to look at someone who does not have the degree. If I were doing the hiring I would rather look at the MS or BS people with longer relavent experience than at most PhD candidates. My experience is that 90% of the people with PhDs are not worth the water that holds their bodies together when it comes to real world knowledge. However, that does not seem to be the norm with the majority of the companies that advertise open positions nowdays. So it really depends on the company and the person that has the hiring authority, but my recent experience is that the piece of paper is more valued by most companies than the real expertise and knowledge is.
I'll take relevant experience over degree any time.
As memory recalls the basic difference between a MS and a PhD is the research thesis. After so many years you would expect that difference to be minimum. Yet that is not the case. I have a BS and a MS and did a thesis for both, over 20 years of practical experience and have written 3 books. Yet when I applied for a job (which was an administrative position) I was told "we are really looking for someone with a PhD".
I can understand wanting a PhD for a research position, but not for a position that has no research involved. At one job I had I was told that the Lab DIrector wanting to hire only PhD, for the status, but changed his mind after hiring the last PhD. It turned out he admitted it was the biggest mistake he made.
I am just now waiting to become graduate in my Ph.D. on next March, 2011. I, completed M.S. two times in different fields relating to Organic Chemistry with thesis. But there is no doubt, my Ph.D. research training obviously better than my two M.S.
I am a retired scientist with an MS in Chemistry. I found over the 30 years in the profession, that a PhD was unnecessary for advancement in my fields of interest. These projects, in both academia and industry, involved early studies in the viral etiology of cancer, earth sciences studies for interplanetary exploration, classified chemistry projects for the development of detection systems for chemical warfare agents, development of blood compatible materials for blood vessel replacements and cardiac assist devices, and the development and use of biological/chemical process safety equipment and systems. My career has spanned a fascinating variety of projects such as these, and in others that have been intensely rewarding, intellectually and financially. I agree that in these times an MS degree and many years of experience is more marketable.
Several additional thoughts on this discussion topic:
1. Education is really a continuum of learning experiences, and it's therefore often incorrect to assume that you need a Ph.D. to perform certain work (or the converse, that a B.S. or M.S. could not perform this work). There are B.S. and M.S. folks who can run circles around Ph.D.s, depending on experience. On the other hand, there are fields of study that almost certainly require the training and experiences obtained as part of a Ph.D. program. There will also be jobs for which a Ph.D. is not sufficient, and you need that, plus a post-doctoral experience, plus years of experience working in personnel management, budgets, regulatory environments, etc. (think manager of a complex technical division of a large, multinational research organization).
2. Another aspect to having a certain degree level, one which I don't see mentioned very often, is that obtaining a certain degree level demonstrates to a potential employer that you have the discipline, organization, and level of commitment required for that degree. In other words, the value of a degree is not just that it demonstrates what you know, but that you had the discipline and commitment to take it to completion. That means a lot in the eyes of a potential employer.
3. Personally, one of the most valuable experiences of my Ph.D. experience was not just learning more about chemistry, but being exposed to a large number of really bright people (the professors) and a large number of people seeking the same degree (the students). Both of these aspects taught me a lot more about how R&D is done (at least in academia).
From what I've seen, a Master's degree in Chemistry may be not the happiest place to be. Too educated for some jobs and not educated enough for the ones that demand a high education. Still, I think employers would find 10 yrs experience more useful than a high degree.
The harsh reality is, however, that many employers do not consider the years of experience to be equal to or more valuable than the piece of paper that represents a PhD.
The experience of earning a PhD is not something that can be easily reproduced by "work experience." In the process of putting together a doctoral thesis, one not only learns how to set up reactions, perform experiments and use different instrumentation, but one also develops an understanding for how to science works and how to conduct research in an efficient and productive manner. If the only experience someone has is working for industry on a specific project, with set milestones, in a very narrow and specialized field, there is no way to develop the critical thinking pathways that allow one to become a good scientist. Again, to second what Bryan Balazs said: the discipline and perseverance that it takes to actually earn a PhD is unlike anything that can be accomplished in an industrial setting. If you don't like your job in industry, chances are you can find another one. If you don't get a long with your academic advisor, you better suck it up and find a way to get along with him or her otherwise you have wasted a great deal of time and energy without anything to show for it. So no matter how you slice it, several masters theses and lots of work experience does not equal a PhD.
As one good turn deserves another, I'd like to second what Yanika posted, and go a bit further: I have seen in some postings what I believe to be a fundamental misconception of an MS vs. a PhD, statements along the lines of, "Well, if I spent 2 years on my MS, and have 5 years job experience, then I have the same qualifications and skills as someone who spent 5 years on a PhD and has 2 years job experience, right?" Maybe, maybe not. A PhD is not simply "several more years of doing the same thing as an MS degree." I do sincerely believe that someone with an MS and 5 years experience (using the above example) could indeed be more productive and valuable to an employer than the PhD employee. However, the employer may be looking for someone who has substantial experience doing independent research, from being able to identify a scientific problem, define the boundaries of the problem, establish a research course of action to address answering the problem, conduct the research, recognize when dead ends or wild goose chases are creeping into the research, interpret the results and identify possible sources of error or bias, discuss with peers, and publish the information, results, and conclusions in a scientific paper, all skills that should be learned as part of the PhD degree process (whether they *are* actually learned is another story). While some MS employees may have learned these skills at some point, the chances are greater that a PhD will have them.
If you didn't learn how to set up reactions, perform experiments, use different instrumentation and develop an understanding of how science works in undergraduate school I would go ask for your money back. I learned all of those things in the process of getting my BS in chemistry.
Bryan I was able to learn all those things you listed as a result of my undergraduate and graduate schooling in combination with work experience and yet life's complications did not allow me to finish obtaining that little piece of paper that people seem to think so highly of. Personally after 30 years of working in industry I would not give you a wooden nickel for most of the PhDs I have worked around in that time. They were much less capable in my experience than people who have the basic education and work experience mixture.
Reading the comments here verifies my impression that getting a Ph.D. is like getting a prison record on your job record. You eliminate yourself from 90% of the jobs out there but the remaining 10% may pay very well. Right now I would 10 times rather go for an MBA or a J.D. if I wanted to continue my education. There are way too many Ph.D.s out there in the job market competing for way too few jobs. Why we continue to educate so many people to such a level when there are not jobs for them is beyond me.
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