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Accelerated Bachelors/Masters for physics?

  1. Jul 23, 2013 #1
    Hi, I am heading into my senior year this fall double majoring in physics and mathematics at NC State University. The university offers an accelerated bachelors/masters, where basically you can count up to 12 hours of graduate courses taken your senior year towards a masters. The non-thesis masters option only requires 1 more year of classes to attain. So, like advertised, I could attain a masters just one year after I get my bachelor degress. I do intend to go for a PhD in theory/computation and (hopefully) get a research position in academia. I have a few questions about this option:

    1)Overall, what are the pros and cons?

    2)Is staying another year at your institution detrimental at all in the eyes of graduate schools? As in, would I possibly have a harder time getting admitted to a PhD program (assuming I keep my GPA up)?

    3)Would taking the GRE this year (my senior year) still be advised? Or should I take it again my 5th year?

    Any advice from professors, graduate students, or anyone familiar with this process is very welcomed. Again, I do plan on applying to a PhD program.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 23, 2013 #2
    If your goal is a PhD, just apply for the program you want. You don't need a Master's degree before a PhD, if you can skip it [and you often can] you should to save time. 1 year non-thesis Master's are often intended for people who want to work in industry. This may not be the best path for you if you are interested in academia.

    On the other hand, maybe this would be a nice backup plan for you in case the PhD thing doesn't work out. I can't comment on how graduate admissions departments would see this, because I have no experience there.
  4. Jul 25, 2013 #3
    Thanks for the advice. I would *think* it would make you appear to be a more qualified applicant than someone with just a bachelors, but this may not be the case. I decided to meet with my schools graduate program advisor about it. Still, if anyone has any advice/experience I would like to hear.
  5. Jul 25, 2013 #4


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    Why do you think it would make one appear more qualified? You are spending an extra year to take courses you will likely have to retake at your PhD institution (many US institutions want their grad students to take all of the courses required for a PhD where the student earns his or her PhD). Why take an extra year to get a masters when you could already potentially be a year into your PhD research?
  6. Jul 25, 2013 #5
    Why would I have to take the core classes again? A number of institutions I have looked at accept transfer credit for the core physics classes. I certainly wouldn't consider doing this if I would just have to repeat the same year again.

    Is it really that common to start your PhD research your first year anyway? I can see that it would be best to be incorporated and familiar with your PhD program as soon as possible, but isn't it common to find someone to work with during your second year?
  7. Jul 25, 2013 #6


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    Possibly. I know my institution had someone transfer from a very good school who had already completed all core courses and had passed candidacy; our department made him retake all core courses. From what I understand, this is not uncommon. After all, if you are going to somewhere for your graduate degree, why NOT take your graduate courses there?

    About a third of my graduate class had be firmly engaged in research during their first year. I don't know why you'd want to prolong getting involved in your PhD program.
  8. Jul 30, 2013 #7

    I see. Sounds kind of risky. Thanks for the information
  9. Jul 30, 2013 #8


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    This isn't a "con" persay, but as a caution I would worry about jumping into graduate courses too early in an attempt to "accelerate" the master's degree. What are you missing by skipping senior undergraduate courses? Are you getting yourself in hot water by jumping into a course you're not ready for?

    Something like this might be a good idea however if you're the type of student who hasn't found undergradute work too challenging, or if you're trying to figure out what field you want to go into, or if you want to stay in the city you're in for another year. Another reason might be if you're not happy with your undergraduate GPA and have reason to believe that you can make it better by tackling graduate coursework.

    Some programs will make you retake courses that you've taken already. Others will accept graduate coursework from other schools. It depends on the program and quite often on the opinion of your supervision committee. So even if you've already taken a particular course, but struggle addressing questions on a certain topic, they may recommend that you retake the course at their institution.

    Look at opportunities like this as a tool that might help you get to where you want to go, not as a discount towards another notch on your academic pedigree.
  10. Jul 30, 2013 #9
    some schools will take one year of your PhD degree (so 5 becomes 4) if you already have a Msc Degree. just look up the policy of the schools you're interested in before you do anything.
  11. Aug 1, 2013 #10

    So the main "thing" about the accelerated masters program is that it enables you to count 12 credit hours of graduate courses in your senior year of undergraduate coursework towards a masters degree. So basically, here are the physics courses I will take senior year (regardless if I do the masters or not), and the courses I would take in my 5th year(if I did the masters):

    Senior year(level and textbook)


    Quantum 2(undergrad, griffiths)

    Nuclear Physics(grad, krane)

    Optics(grad, hecht)


    Particle Physics(grad, griffiths)

    Solid State Physics(grad, kittel)

    Senior Lab(last undergrad course required)

    Then for my 5th year it would be the usual:


    Quantum 1
    Electrodynamics 1
    Classical Mechanics 1

    Quantum 2
    Electrodynamics 2
    Statistical Mechanics
    Whatever else

    And those core classes would constitute the rest of the course requirements for a non-thesis Masters. I am currently doing research in the mathematics department in the field of nonlinear magnetics. I have also spoken to a particle physicist in the physics department who said that after quantum 2 I could probably start working with him, so I should still be doing research in year 5 if I were to do this, but it wouldn't be towards a thesis.
  12. Aug 1, 2013 #11
    Oh, and I would have to pass the qualifiers like all the other graduate students.
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