Second Master's degree or PhD?


Hi everyone. I am a South African student who recently finished a Master's degree (research based) in microbiology (with a focus on virology and molecular biology). I applied for a PhD program in virology at the same university. I have been approved for the program (of which I will receive funding) and is about a month into it. However, last year being a totally confused student I applied for a Swedish Scholarship to do a second Master's (taught based, two year duration) in infection biology at Uppsala University in Sweden. As it turns out I got the scholarship (full tuition fees, travel fees and a monthly stipend included). Only a few of these scholarships were handed out and I feel extremely honored.

At the moment I am more confused than ever! I don't know whether i should accept the scholarship and do a second master's abroad or continue with a PhD in my home country? I am 27 years old and have never been overseas to another country. Should I take this opportunity to study abroad acquiring a second master's or should I complete my PhD.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


It depends on what your goals are…

Do you want to work an academic career? As in, PhD, post-doc, continued research?
Do you want to get out of SA for a while, or even live outside SA thereafter?

Doing the second masters wouldn't hurt your opportunities of funding a PhD afterwards at all (unless you flunk it). It may even increase them, with you having experience of studying abroad, it would suggest you're able to work a PhD abroad.

It will also depend on your circumstances…

Do you have kids/think you might have them in the next few years?
Do you think you'd still want to do a PhD when you're 29?

Personally I'd say do the second masters. It won't hurt your potential academic career whatever (if you do well on the course), and you'd be studying in one of the greatest countries there is – seriously, they do most things right over there. It's one of the most difficult countries to 'get in to', and you'd sort of have your foot in the door. Go for it!


And I'd say do the PhD. You can always go abroad for a postdoc afterwards, but you never know if you will get onto a PhD again.


Hi, JJ_13,

I would ask that you sit down and consider what your aim in life is and importantly where you want to be.

1) If you want to be in South Africa and in academia, then please just continue on in your current project.
2) If you intend to leave and perhaps stay in another country, then you may wish to consider the masters as it gives you international experience which you can leverage in future to apply for jobs elsewhere or another PhD program. If you want to stay in Sweden, this may give you a chance at that too.
3) If your PhD in South Africa is highly recognised world wide and you want to leave for a different country one day, you may also do so after finishing your PhD.

No one knows your circumstances or your career and life aspirations. Decide what is best for yourself. Take care.


Yes, you just have to balance it all up! Only you know because you know your circumstances and ambitions. Personally, I'd go for the Masters in Sweden - as it is fully funded and sounds quite prestigious - and what a great opportunity! But that's not taking into account other factors people have mentioned - e.g., other commitments you may have. In an ideal world, I'd defo do that, then come back and do my PhD (or else stay in Sweden* or go elsewhere and do my PhD!).

*If it works out well, you may end being offered PhD funding there!