Should I do a second masters and then a phd?


I am so confused any advice would be appreciated!!

About me:
I studied computer science with mathematics at the University of Sheffield. I did a 4 year integrated masters degree. I graduated in 2018. Since then I worked as a QA engineer and tutored. I have been completing a data science certification recently, to transition into the data science career ( i thought this would introduce analysis and research and I wanted to apply that into the domain of cognitive psychology).

However, in doing this I have realised I actually want to go into academics and research.
I don't have qualifications in psychology/neuroscience. (apart from a psychology a level)
Should I do another master but in the area of cognitive psychology followed by a phd, or can I go straight into a phd?

Doing a masters in the related field first:
- ease back into research and education
- get foundation knowledge in the area of research
- enables me to figure out the particular research I want to do for a phd.
- if after the masters i decide I don't want to do a phd then I can go back into the career world but with another master (potentially have more career options available)
- but more costly
- and it would add an extra year

straight into Phd:
- less money spent
- no extra year taken to do masters
- do I have enough background qualifications to do the phd research in cognitive science?
- maybe i can take some online courses to get a background and still apply for a phd?
- can i get into UCL, Oxbridge, Warwick with my background?
- I'm not exactly sure of the research topic I want to study.

I would be applying for 2022/23 entry.
And so i have a full year before starting my studies.. I am currently self-employed as a programming educator...
what can I do this year to work towards my goal?

That was a lot of information! Any advice would be appreciated!! Thanks in advance


I have an MEng, the place I got into for my Ph.D. valued this. However, the feedback from some applications I made for a Ph.D. was that others had MSc qualifications. I found that views of integrated masters qualifications varied. I would advise getting an MSc if you have the time and funds, particularly as you are making a change of direction in respect of discipline. You will be competing against others who have MSc qualifications and publications from those.


Hi, shynightmareland,

You stated that one of the benefits of doing a master is the possibility of not going ahead with a PhD if you change your mind at that stage. This tells me that actually you have not really made up your mind about the PhD yet.

I have a series of question about what you want to do with your career life.

1) Why do you want to do academics and research?
For pursue of knowledge and passion?

2) Does career instability bother you?
Academics spend a lot of time writing grants to get research funding to pay for their salary and research costs year after year. And there is an average 10% grant success rate. Permanent tenure is currently 1 in 200 chance. Are you ok with this?

3) What field are you most passionate about? Does it matter if it is not a hot area and less likely to be funded?
Data science, your current field, is highly in demand. If you play your cards right, you should be able to secure a high-paying job with good career trajectory in industry in the future.

I can't say the same about cognitive sciences. You will have to check the rate of grant success in this field compared to hotter areas such as drug development. Do you know of people who excel professionally in cognitive sciences? Perhaps you can ask for their most honest answer about the job prospect in this field.

If your passion triumphs career prospect, then please ignore this comment. To each their own life and decision.

4) Life in academia
Gone are the days where researchers can independently study on whatever they want. These days they are all tied to which areas will be funded. There is a very strong system of hierarchy and politics are strong as you need to collaborate with the strong researchers to get funding. A fact of life in academia due to the publish or perish culture. Are you ok with this?

Do have a think about all these considerations before you decide what is best for your life and career. I wish you all the best. Regarding your original question on whether to do a master or a PhD first, I would say choose the supervisor first. If your supervisor s happy for you to go straight to PhD without a master and is willing to fund you, you have your answer. If not, maybe master first. Try to not go into debt over your master/PhD study as there is no guarantee of a job after that anyway.