M.A./Ph.D. vs. M.A. Plan II

What is the difference between the MA for the MA/PhD program and the MA Plan II?

The MA portion of the MA/PhD program, also called the MA Plan I, is different in focus and intent from the terminal master’s degree program, referred to as the MA Plan II.  The Plan I MA is specifically designed to prepare for and lead to the PhD here at UCSB (which is why we do not accept applications for the MA Plan I as the final degree objective); Plan II is a final degree.  That is, the Plan I MA is intended for those whose ultimate goal is to teach or conduct research in a university setting; the Plan II MA is a broader degree intended for those with other career goals in mind, or who do not plan on teaching beyond a junior college level.  However, with thoughtful planning and advising, the MA Plan II degree can prepare students for PhD work in other programs, taking advantage of the theoretical richness and deep expertise of the program’s faculty, and especially the languages offered in the Department and throughout the campus.  Those who have successfully completed the MA Plan II in our department include journalists specializing in news stories focused on religion; artists working with religious imagery in their work; practicing doctors and psychologists or pre-med students wanting a better understanding of the various religious beliefs of their patients and clients; high school and community college teachers; etc.  Because the requirements for completing the MA Plan II are minimal, there is great flexibility for students to explore or to focus according to their individual goals.

How long does each program take? What requirements does each program have?

The MA Plan I is typically a two- to three-year (and sometimes more) program that requires units and specific coursework, required language study, the formation of a thesis committee, and the writing of a master’s thesis. The MA Plan II is typically a one-year program that includes the completion of a minimum 36 units (24 of these at the graduate level), and one required core course (RG ST 201).  The selection of the rest of the courses is up to the student, within parameters specified in the General Catalog, and, we recommend, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and/or faculty in the areas of interest.  Language study is optional in the MA Plan II, but students may in fact choose to focus their coursework on gaining language competence as preparation for going on to PhD work at other universities and programs. There is no thesis requirement for the MA Plan II.

Is it easier to get admitted to the MA Plan II?  Is there a different application?

The same application and criteria are used for admission to the MA Plan II and the MA/PhD programs.  The graduate admissions committee reviews the statement of purpose, transcripts, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and writing sample for all applicants.  In addition, faculty in the department comment on applications to help the committee make its selections.  Since MA Plan II students participate in the same graduate seminars as MA Plan I and PhD students, their applications are held to similar levels of assessment to ensure they can engage in graduate-level work.  It is important that applicants are clear in their statement of purpose about what they intend to do with the MA Plan II degree so the admissions committee can evaluate whether the objectives of the applicant match the intended purposes of the program.  For example, if an applicant to the MA Plan II program indicates a desire for a future PhD in Religious Studies at UCSB, the reviewing committee will not recommend that applicant for admission.  Also, it is important for applicants to review their application materials so that the MA Plan II choice is clearly indicated on forms and in the statement of purpose.  The MA Plan II is, therefore, not “easier” to get into; the MA Plan II applicant is evaluated as rigorously as those hoping to get into the MA/PhD and PhD programs.  If all the parts of the application (statements, letters, GPA and GRE scores, etc.) are competitive, the key is whether the applicant’s goals can be met in the MA Plan II program.

If I am admitted to the MA Plan II program, can I later request to continue for the PhD?

The MA Plan II is a terminal master’s degree program; it does not continue into the PhD here at UCSB because the differences between the two MA degree requirements are designed for separate purposes.  Our department does not permit participants in the MA Plan II to switch over to the MA/PhD program.

Is funding available for applicants to the MA Plan II?

Unfortunately, no fellowship funding is available for MA Plan II students through either the department or the Graduate Division. Because the time commitment for the MA Plan II is relatively short (typically one year), our funding resources must prioritize those in the programs with much longer time commitments and thus more costs to support.  The department is committed, however, to offering MA Plan II students one guaranteed Teaching Assistant position (which covers fees, tuition, and pays a stipend) to help offset the cost of the degree.  As with all students, MA Plan II applicants can apply for Federal financial aid via the FAFSA (consisting of loans and/or work study jobs), and some of our MA Plan II students have been known to find additional TA positions in other departments.