Applying to European PhD Programs with a US Masters

  • #1
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I know this topic has been discussed a lot on this forum, but I had trouble finding an answer to my precise question.

Current Understanding:
I have read up on the differences between the US and European graduate systems. I understand US merges MS and PhD programs resulting in an average completion time of 6 years at the same institution, whereas in Europe you do the MS at one institution for about 2-3 years and typically the PhD is at another institution and lasts for about 3 more years. Please correct on any of this if it sounds wrong.

My Question:
I would like to know if a US masters in physics will be sufficient to apply to a European PhD program in either physics or astronomy.
  • Will it just depend on the program or is there some standardization among Europe about PhD prerequisites?
  • Will I have an advantage or disadvantage compared to other foreign applicants?
  • Are physics and astrophysics PhD programs more or less competitive than they are in the US?

Personal Background:
I was born and live in the US. I have a B.S. in physics acquired from a US University. I am considering applying to a masters program in computational physics at a local university. Afterwards I would like to acquire a PhD in either physics or astrophysics, and I would like to do so abroad; most likely in Germany, UK, or Norway.

Thank you all so much!
~Thomas
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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In general it should be sufficient. Does it have a grade? PhD programs can require a certain grade for the MSc.
Will I have an advantage or disadvantage compared to other foreign applicants?
That depends on you and the other foreign applicants. What you did by then will be more important than where you are from.
Are physics and astrophysics PhD programs more or less competitive than they are in the US?
I don't know but generally it shouldn't be too difficult to find a position if a PhD is interesting.
 
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  • #3
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Thanks for the input mfb.

Does it have a grade? PhD programs can require a certain grade for the MSc.
I'm not sure what you mean by grade here. Are you referring to my GPA after completing the masters program, or some kind of ranking of the masters program?
 
  • #4
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European MSc degrees usually come with a grade - just like your individual courses do. PhD programs can require a certain grade. Here is an example from Goettingen - the table in the first link has examples and is (mostly) translated to English, too.
If you don't get a separate grade the GPA might be used as reference.
 
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  • #5
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So to go back to your first question, mfb, you're asking if the US masters program I am looking at grades its students? I thought all US masters programs give grades, so I believe it does. I will be talking to them this week, so I will learn more soon.

On another note, the masters program has an optional masters thesis. Is it important for me to complete my US masters program with a masters thesis in order to apply to a European PhD program? My preference would be to gain the experience and do the thesis, but since I plan to work concurrently on both a job and the masters degree it would be nice to know what I can reasonably cut.
 
  • #6
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Is it important for me to complete my US masters program with a masters thesis in order to apply to a European PhD program?
Research experience will help a lot, thesis is secondary. European MSc degrees end with a thesis (so do the BSc degrees), so most other applicants will have at least several months of research experience by the time they apply for a PhD.

Ultimately you need two things:
- the formal requirements from the university. They are usually not very strict but the different systems can make that a bit messy.
- an advisor preferring you over all other applicants.

The second one will depend on a lot of different things. Research experience, what exactly you worked on, do you know the potential advisor, do you know someone who knows them, ...
 
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