Everyone has his own academic career course, but if you're planning on getting your Master's as a terminal degree, there is a lesson I learned the hard way: make sure the programs you're applying to actually exist. And I'm not joking. Two years ago, I applied to Rice University's applied physics program at the Rice Quantum Institute. RQI's website claimed to offer both M.S. and Ph.D. programs, and the application said to check the "M.S." or "Ph.D." box, based on which program you were applying to. Since I only wanted an M.S., that was the box I checked. Well, it turned out that Rice did NOT offer an official M.S. program; the M.S. program was only for already-admitted Ph.D.'s that changed their minds about getting a Ph.D.. So why did the application not specifically state this? Because for years, Ph.D. programs have invested their money (and time) in Ph.D. students, only to have them drop out after two years and leave with their M.S. degrees. Some students even plan this: they know going into a Ph.D. program that they'll drop out in two years with an M.S. degree. So, Rice (and also other universities) finally wised up and claimed to offer both programs, so that applicants would have no reason to lie; that way, Rice would know the applicants' true intentions from the start. And anybody (like myself) who checked the "M.S." box was automatically rejected for admission. So I learned something the hard way: if at all possible, visit the schools you're applying to, and ask people about the programs. Lots of times, the websites and applications say TOTALLY different things than are actually offered at a university's physics department.