Tex Ag wrote:
Depending on the PhD program, some (many) require a Masters first.
As far as a job, really depends on the program. It is probably too late to get into a program for next your–especially if you are going to want funding–so you are looking at getting a job. If you can get something that is geared towards the benefit of others (volunteering in New Orleans, aid work overseas, not-for-profits, etc.) that generally looks good within academia.
Thanks for the tips. This brings up another question of mine: is it more common to pursue a masters and PhD separately, or do them in one program? If I get a masters at one institution, will that limit my options when I go to get a PhD?[/quote]
Again, depends on the program. As far as programs that do not require Masters for PhD, often you will do the equivalent amount of course work and research as if you did a masters then a PhD. It is faster to get the Masters and PhD at the same place, especially if you stay on the same topic. It is not necessary and I would hesitate in suggesting you should plan to do so. Mainly, if you discover you really dislike the department you are in you have the option of finishing the masters and going elsewhere. Also, PhDs can limit your job choices (demand higher pay) and you might find yourself better severed with a Masters.
Again, depending on the program, what you get your undergrad and masters does not necessarily limit your PhD work. Completion of a degree, at whatever level, shows that you are capable to completing that degree. While switching fields may lead to taking more coursework to deal with deficiencies, your previous degrees will suggest your ability for future work.
To address your last question, letters of recommendation and ‘fit’ are the top aspects of moving from a masters to a doctoral program. You may get more out of going to a smaller masters program before going to a doctoral program if you are able to get more opportunities and attention in the smaller program (big fish/small pond).
What field are you thinking of pursuing?