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Are master's 'easier' to get into than PhD?

  1. Jul 6, 2015 #1
    I'll give you my questions first, so you don't have to read the rest of the mess if you don't feel like it.
    1. are (non-thesis) master's programs typically less picky than a PhD program?
    2. are master's programs typically a good place where I could bolster my GPA with some mathematics courses that I probably should have taken at the undergrad level? I'm lacking in stats/prob courses pretty badly
    3. will schools and jobs usually look more at the major-specific GPA (which is > 3.0), or will they take the overall GPA heavily into account, even if there is a trend of "becoming more serious about school"?

    //begin obligatory "i have a bad GPA sob story", I'll put it in a spoiler if you don't want to read it.

    I'm at a big but relatively non-descript school (when it comes to sciences). When I started school back in 2011, I was "studying" English, but really just in school because of parents wishes and I put more of my time into learning guitar than going to classes. So as you can guess - my GPA was <strike>pretty</strike> REALLY bad for the first 3-4 semesters of my uni studies. "Academic probation level" bad.

    I'd come to my senses, realized "I'll need a job", and switched to a community college where I got an A.S. in Computer Programming (where grades started to rise, but still ~ 2.9 to 3.0 for that overall, but ~ 3.5 for the CS courses), and am now back at the university studying mathematics, which it turns out I really love to do.

    However, because of the rough start my GPA is not only bad, it's hard for me to get back on track with both how to study, and the weak base from earlier maths (rote memorization to just "pass" exams) has left me really struggling to climb out of that hole. I have become really proficient in Algebra and calculus at this point (even tutor people in the subjects), but I spend almost as much time trying to rebuild what should have been a solid foundation as I do trying to learn the actual coursework.

    Lastly, I am married, and have to work, so while I'm taking a full time schedule every semester to get caught up and graduate sometime in the near future, it hurts my ability to sit down and concentrate (and sleep).

    //end sobbing

    Despite all of that, I am still working very hard and my GPA per semester has begun to rise; last semester I had a 3.0, with only one C in a math class and I'm on track to do even better over the summer. I'd really like to continue my education out of my enjoyment of the subject, but I would also like to get a good job in the field.

    As a last side note, these are some of the fields I would be interested in working in:
    • applied/theoretical CS (from the mathematical side, ofc)
    • mathematical physics (I will have a couple of quantum physics courses under my belt by next spring)
    • an engineering field, especially aerospace or electrical. I'm particularly interested in signal processing, and I have taken ODEs, PDEs, and Numerical Analysis
    • governmental or contractor stuff. I think cryptography or applied group theory/etc would be a lot of fun.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 6, 2015 #2
    It all depends on circumstances. I'm in Europe and we have two types of Masters programs - taught and research. For taught Masters there is generally a minimum entry requirement and a limited number of places. For the research Masters it comes down to funding. From what I've learned, your institute/supervisor are looking at you as an investment. Can they put faith in you to get a certain piece of work done. For a Masters its an easier answer because if it turns out to be a bad investment its only two years of funding as opposed to four. I'm in a situation where I didn't meet the min entry requirements for my taught Masters but am still being considered because of other work that I've done. I'd suggest having independent projects done, in something like CS or complete a couple of simple (or not so simple) computational problems and put them up on github or somewhere like that. Independent learning can count for more than just what is seen in your transcripts from your college.

    As for where you'd like to work in the future, again have preliminary work done that can feed into those areas and you should be good to go.
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