conundrum re: my age and a masters


Hi all
I'm a 35-year old who's just finished a psychology conversion course doing it alongside a full-time job. Been to see potential supervisor re: PhD - he's the same guy (nice bloke) who supervised conversion final project, giving it 68%. He said a team could be assembled on my PhD topic choice as a few people in the department have relevant interests. Then he would apply for funding and nominate me as the PhD student. We don't have ESRC status, so he'll approach other bodies and I don't know how likely he is to succeed at gaining funding, but he appears confident enough in my abilities.

But I only scraped a Distinction, with pals doing better than me, and as I only got 68% in my research project, I'm wondering whether it might be better to do a full-time MSc (also in my topic area) at another uni, despite my advancing years, just to hone my science a bit more before starting a PhD.


On one hand I think it would give me confidence, experience and contacts prior to a PhD, on the other hand perhaps I'm too old to fanny around for yet another year. Two of my lecturers from the conversion went straight from BSc to PhD as mature students, but other PhD students I know have MScs already.

My potential sup actually said that the students at highest risk of dropping out in our dept tended to be women of my age (we can all speculate on reasons why). But perhaps it makes sense to make the journey to PhD as smooth as possible with a Masters in between so that I can head off this possibility, as after years of boring jobs I would really like to see this through and work in academia.

Aaaarrrrggghh!?!? I must make my mind up in a matter of days. Any wisdom?


I went straight from a BSc to a PhD and I am glad I did as it meant less debt in the long run.

I got a 2:1 in my BSc (68% ) and didn't judge myself against other friends who got firsts or who had MSc's.

I'd *personally* say.. go straight to the PhD, if your supervisor is being supportive then that's fantastic... and although it might be a steeper learning curve as long as you don't completely piss around and not do any work... then you might find it less of a shock to the system as you think.


Since you are continuing in the same field I would just carry on. You could apply for a masters place in case the funding doesn't work out (unless you don't need funding in which case don't bother). You don't actually need a 1st or even 2.1 to do a PhD - it has become necessary because of competition for funding.

I did a masters becasuse I was changing field after a long gap - I was 39. There was no way I could have got a PhD place at all, much less funding, without one.


It's unusual in psych to get onto a phd without an MSc so if you have the opportunity, go for it!

Best of luck



If you already have a supportive supervisor then I would go for it! I didn't know that about women your (and my!) age dropping out - eek!


Just one caution - try and find out what the career destination of recent PhDs from your department was and the % who completed. Not having research council recognition means usually that it's a weak dept. in research terms or has such a bad record at supervising PhDs to completion that recognition has been withdrawn. I don't know what the academic job market is like in pyschology - it may be better than in other subjects but you need to be aware before starting, as many people aren't, that it's not a given outcome that you will be able to get a full-time permanent lectureship (the extent of casualisation particularly in the newer universities is shocking). Where you did the PhD is a factor in getting academic employment in my subject area so a weaker dept in research terms may need thinking twice about.


It IS worth finding out why you are not ESRC approved. My dept is not ESRC approved because technically, my dept title is just not on the approved list. Which is a total pain as I have an otherwise typical ESRC type project. However, if your supervisors are able to get funding from other sources, then presumably they are still haing to meet funding level criteria - i.e. there are no easy sources of funding that just give it away to anyone!


Thanks for all your replies.

Well we have +3 recognition, but not 1+3. Think we were 3a in the last RAE. Another option for me would be to do an ESRC-accredited MSc - then I'd have the world at my feet...

Think I'll force myself to decide by the end of the week...


Statistics are just that...I would not let someone's view of whether you are likely to complete or not shade your decision!!! YOU know better than anyone if you have what it takes to complete, as its said over and over on here, it comes down to sheer grit and determination and tenacity above all, so it would seem. If you are determined to make it, then, I would say the odds go up as to whether you will, all of the other factors playing in as well, of course.


As a mature student, I say my age and life experience gives ME a boost--I would have been a flake at this 20 years ago, and would probably have been PhD roadkill....because I was far more interested in pubs, my boyfriend, a suntan ( if that does not date me what does??!), marvelling at the new thing that music came out on that would replace 8-track tapes ( the CD)--no one owned a VCR machine, you rented them along with your film...but I digress...

Age and life experience can give you that perspective and determination to carry on. Not saying that younger students lack the drive and determination. I think at any stage of life that you do a PhD it has its own plusses and minuses...its up to YOU to tally them as to whether it works now for you. I say go for it.


As a result of your very helpful replies I've decided to go for it and am now brainstorming my research proposal for PhD.

Only worry is that during my chat with my potential supervisor earlier in the week I told him that my lack of confidence meant I was STRONGLY considering doing a Masters first.

I expect this is paranoid, but you don't think he'll remember what I said and think I'm not cut out for a PhD personality-wise now that I've admitted lack of confidence? When we met he started speaking about a PhD and it was me that changed the subject to Masters courses. It's just that I tend to take a long time to make major life decisions and I tend to say all the steps on the way out loud lol.

Am just hoping that actions speak louder than words and I can do an impressive proposal. You don't think he'll hold my previous honesty against me, will he?


Remember that YOUR PhD does not feature as centrally to the supervisor as it does to you. It takes over your life, in a sense, but is but one of many things that a supervisor has going on.


Insane computer posted my message, before I wanted it to :/ anyway, I meant to go on and say, the supervisor may or may not remember the conversation, and may or may not recall it the way you do. What I would say, put it out of your mind, and carry on. Actions speak louder than words anyway, so if you settle down to work, and reliably meet your deadlines, produce whatever work you are being asked to initially, attend meetings well prepared ( both with questions and answers!) then the supervisor will see you as the ideal PhD student.


Thanks Olivia

I reckon they only hear a fraction of what you say anyway. This guy only really responds to bullet points, written or verbal...