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Programs Apllying to PHD math program with only a BA

  1. Nov 26, 2009 #1

    I currently have a BA in math, and wish to pursue a PHD.

    My questions are how common is it to go straight from a BA to a PHD program, and would I be better off applying to a MA, or MS program and then transfering to the PHD program?

    Thank you,

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 26, 2009 #2


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    It's very common to enter a PhD program with a bachelors. However, that doesn't mean you're skipping the masters - you'll do the masters en route to the PhD. Your first few years will involve taking masters coursework, and possibly a masters thesis and/or qualifying exam before moving on to PhD work.
  4. Nov 26, 2009 #3
    Where do you study? In the US this route is pretty common, but in parts of Europe (most I think, but not sure) you usually get a 2-year masters following a 3-year BA/BSc before doing a PhD.

    EDIT: By "this route" I mean directly from BA to PhD.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2009
  5. Nov 26, 2009 #4
    Most of the schools with large Ph.D. programs only want you to apply to their master's program if you are going to stop at the master's level. If your end goal is receiving a Ph.D., then you need to apply to the Ph.D. program, as these programs are setup for better funding that usually lasts the duration of the program. Most people who apply to Ph.D. programs have bachelor's degrees. Those who are applying that have a master's degree are a small subset of applicants as they are either switching subjects, transferring schools, or going back to school after a break. Some who originally just wanted a master's degree will just stay at their original school and continue on to the Ph.D. program there if they decide to continue.

    Most Ph.D. programs have certain levels of completion. For example, my school (which is in the U.S.) has qualifying exams (taken at the end of the 1st or 2nd year), comprehensive exams (to be taken sometime during the 3rd or 4th year), and then the Ph.D. dissertation. I would say most school's programs will be similar to this. The master's degree only requires coursework and a lowered level of pass on the qualifying exams. If you are in the Ph.D. program and want to be explcitly awarded the master's degree along the way (so you can get a job that requires a master's degree, like at a community college during the summer, for example), then you just apply and are awarded it if you satisfy the requirements. At my school, there isn't any thesis option for the master's. I would speculate that this is because they don't want master's students taking up possible advisors for the Ph.D. students, which is understandable.

    Hope this helps clarify things.
  6. Nov 26, 2009 #5


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    Sorry, yes, I was referring to programs in the US. I do know however that for US institutions, if they grant PhDs, they are less likely to consider you if you apply as a masters student only - programs are ranked by how many PhDs they graduate, so you'd have more luck getting into the program applying as a PhD student. You can always leave after getting a masters if that's all you want - many students will do this, even if they didn't plan to. And you'll have a better chance of getting funding if you apply as a PhD student.
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