Not everyone going to graduate school realizes that you do not necessarily NEED to pursue a Masters prior to going for a PhD. In fact, in some cases (career goals etc.) the PhD may be necessary “end-goal.” However, before you run straight to the college entrance people to see the requirements for your degree of choice, there are some pros and cons to bypassing a Masters.
1) Shorter time in school and therefore less debt
2) Higher pay due to level of education
1) Graduate work is VASTLY different than undergraduate (and this is coming from someone at the Masters level), don’t overwhelm yourself with too much too soon or you may not complete the degree.
2) A PhD or PsyD takes longer to complete than a Masters (4-5 years instead of 2-3). Having the ability to sustain pace and to financially support the completion of the degree should be considered. If you get halfway through the PhD and have to dropout due to a financial crisis, you will have no degree to show for it. On the other hand, if you complete the M.S, some of your courses may transfer to the PhD (if they are in the same field).
3) If you are making a career change, it would be better to get a M.S. and work in the field for a year or two to be sure you enjoy the work. No matter how much you think you know about a job, it never compares to actually doing the work. It would be horrible to spend 5years (post undergrad) only to find you despise your new vocation.
Personal preference is to go for the Masters first. The only instance in which I would have felt comfortable bypassing the M.S. would have been if money was no object. The household would have to be 100% secure without the potential graduate student’s income so that if the student could not work the degree would not be at risk. Additionally, the individual should have experience in the field he or she is pursuing, so there is knowledge about the career that will result from the degree. Finally, the person bypassing the Masters must be prepared to work harder than ever and to play catch up on academic writing. The PhD dissertation process is much more involved than simply writing a “long” paper. Research that process before making a decision.