MPhil vs PhD: What to pursue after Masters?
Updated on Apr 21, 2016 - 5:29 p.m. IST by Bedasree Das

MPhil vs PhD
 : While most students are professionally inclined and focus more on honing their practical skills in order to be job ready, there are some whose inclination is more towards the theoretical aspects of study. And why not? Most of the academicians across the world are masters in their field only through an intense micro- level study in their respective fields. But the question here is what kind of research degrees can an aspirant explore? While PhD is by far the most popular research degree across the world, students can also explore other research degrees like MPhil, Doctor of Science, Doctor by Judicial Science, and so on. In fact, many students opt for an MPhil degree, which is a 1-2 years research based programme and which, in many cases, is seen as a first step towards a PhD.

However, most students are either not aware or are confused about the degrees and their differences. In this article, we explain the basics of both MPhil and PhD degrees in terms of structure, value and duration.

MPhil vs PhD: What is a PhD?

The PhD or Doctor of Philosophy is one of the highest levels of degree that a student can achieve in her academic credentials. A PhD is attained through detailed research on a micro subject following which the researcher is required to submit a thesis describing the result of her research.  Usually, a PhD can be taken up after Masters and MPhil. However, in certain cases, a research degree can be pursued even after Bachelors as is prevalent in USA. As the name suggests, a PhD is a doctorate degree and is mainly pursued by those who are interested in a career in academics. There is no specific time frame for a PhD. However, it generally takes upwards 3 years to complete a research which can go upto 7-10 years. A PhD is usually undertaken under an academician, working under a university or otherwise, who is known to have enough research experience to guide the PhD candidate.


MPhil vs PhD: What is an MPhil Degree?

The Master of Philosophy is a structured research degree that allows students to take up research oriented studies for 1 or 2 years. It is an intermediate degree between a Masters and PhD and sometimes seen as a first step towards a Doctorate. In MPhil, students learn the fundamentals of research work and may actually investigate the research of others rather than taking up their own research. An MPhil degree is more common in the field of Arts and Humanities, with many universities offering it as a replacement for PhD.


Again, an MPhil degree is not necessarily a research degree. In cases like that of Cambridge University, MPhil replaces the one year Masters’ degree and has a more coursework content. However, in other cases, the MPhil structure is inclined more towards research or the study of it.


MPhil vs PhD - What are the major differences?

While the inclination of both a PhD and MPhil is towards research, both are far from being similar degrees. Two of the main differences between the degrees are, of course, their lengths and content structure.  The table below highlights some of the differences between the MPhil and PhD degrees.


MPhil vs Phd:





Leads to a Masters equivalent degree.

Leads to a doctorate degree.


1-2 years

At least 3-4 years. May go beyond 7-10 years.


Could be both coursework and research

Only research oriented


Focus on the fundamentals of research. Refers to research by other scholars

Focus on original and fresh research studies by the researcher.  


After Masters and before PhD

PhD is generally done after Masters and sometimes an MPhil. Could also be done after Bachelors in some cases.


Does not include working under the guidance of an experienced researcher

Includes working under the expert guidance of a academician


MPhil students are not, usually, paid stipend during their studies.

PhD candidates are paid a stipend by the university or academician or the investor funding the.

What after Masters? MPhil or PhD

Generally speaking, pursuing Masters or PhD depends on the interest of the student. Both are research oriented programmes and lead to different qualifications. Since an MPhil is intermediate to a PhD, many students pursue it as a preparation for PhD. It has, however, been observed that MPhil degrees are mostly offered in the field of Arts and Humanities while STEM related fields focus more on PhD.

Further, MPhil courses are rare and not all universities offer an MPhil degree while most universities, especially research intensive ones, offer research opportunities in at least some of the subjects.


MPhil vs PhD: How to apply?

For PhD, the best way to apply is by searching research opportunities in the specific departments and write to them asking for opportunities. While Masters is a must for many universities many even accept Bachelors students, provided the student can show credentials which are impressive enough for the faculty members. PhD aspirants are required to submit a research proposal and their doctorate depends on whether the research proposal is accepted and an academician at a university is willing to take the student under her.


Here are few ways to apply for PhD across the world:

How to apply for Phd in UK?

How to apply for Phd in USA?

How to apply for Phd after Bachelor’s?

For MPhil, the requirements vary along with the universities. Since an MPhil degree does not require a dissertation; students are not required to submit a research proposal for the same. In fact, the process of applying for MPhil is more often same as for Masters. However, the university will look into your research interest during screening. Also, as in PhD, it helps to have majored in the same subject as you wish to pursue your MPhil in.


Stay tuned to for more news and updates on further studies

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