This post is part of my series on getting into CS PhD programs from the perspective of a current (AY: 2020-2021) college senior. You can find the master post here.


There are pros and cons for going to grad school. If you’re a student who is enrolled in a Swarthmore-like environment, then there will be many environmental and cultural factors pushing you towards going to grad school.

Pros Cons
- It’ll never be easier to get a PhD. Your living expenses are low and you are used to being a student.
- The opportunity cost of getting a PhD is huge
- You can always go to grad school later in life

MSc Vs PhD?

My understanding of this is that a Masters program brings you to the bleeding edge of a given field. It is really good if you want a pay bump from having just an undergraduate degree. MSc programs can either be research programs (you must do research, but the program is funded) or professional programs (the program isn’t funded).

A PhD program brings you right up to the he bleeding edge of a given field and then you push the field a little bit farther as a result of your PhD research and then thesis. Getting a PhD is also a pay bump but the ratio of work in to pay bump is far more favorable for the masters program.

Getting a PhD sets you up to direct research whether that be in academia, industry, or the public sector. A masters program increases your knowledge base – and therefore your marketability – but doesn’t change your role as a person who knows how to code well.

Factors To Consider

Recall that a PhD program is modern day from of apprenticeships. You’re looking for a person not a school. You’ll be tied with this person for 4-6 years. A MSc program is much quicker – two years tops!