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Programs Big difference in the duration from Bachelors to PhD in USA/UK?

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In the USA, a bachelor is required to be accepted into a PhD program. A bachelor takes 4 years, and a PhD takes about 5-6 years (https://www.postgrad.com/study-in-usa/phd-in-usa/). If you have a Masters degree it may take 1 year less (which is weighted out with the duration of the master). So it basically amounts to a total of 10 years or more.

However, in the UK, a bachelor degree has a duration of 3 years, and a PhD also takes 3 years! It is often not required to have a Masters degree, so it adds up to a total of 6 years, which is almost half the duration of the american counterpart. It did surprise me that a person in the UK could have completed a PhD by the age of 23, while in the USA it seems rare to find people under 30 with a PhD.

So, due to the differences in the duration of the programs, is it considered a PhD in the UK the same as a PhD in the USA? Does a PhD in the US have more prestige/value?
 
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jtbell

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A bachelor [in the US] takes 4 years, and a PhD takes about 5-6 years
And people in the US normally start a bachelor's degree at age 18.
in the USA it seems rare to find people under 30 with a PhD.
I'd bump this down by a couple of years.
 
125
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And people in the US normally start a bachelor's degree at age 18.

I'd bump this down by a couple of years.
People in the UK start a bachelor's degree at age 18 as well, don't they?
Yeah maybe not exactly 30, but certainly not under 28 (unless they skipped some years in High School, etc).
But anyway I suppose that a PhD in the UK is considered the same as a PhD in the USA in terms of research ability and related academic abilities, despite the difference in the programs' lenghts, right?
 
However, in the UK, a bachelor degree has a duration of 3 years, and a PhD also takes 3 years! It is often not required to have a Masters degree
Are you sure this is accurate? At least for the higher ranked ones Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London seem to require a Master, or at least a four year Bachelor. They also list the time to graduate as 3-4 years rather than 3 years, so this would put you at 7-9 years depending on wether you take a one or two year master, vs. 9-10 years in the US, which would still be at the higher end but not quite as drastically...
 

Vanadium 50

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Does a PhD in the US have more prestige/value?
I have seen quite a number of UK PhDs fail to advance in postdoc searches because US PhDs have more experience.
 
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Different countries different systems. First an interesting fact - the 3 years honors degree degree in the UK (a normal bachelors is just 2.5 years - but nearly everyone goes for the honors ) is exactly the same as an American 4 year degree. This I know because I decided to get an actual physics qualification so have enrolled in the UK Open University in mathematical physics - but may switch to just math - they have exactly the same 3rd year electives - I probably will do a post about that in the academic advice section. I would have liked to go straight to a masters but my Bachelors is so old they will not give me credit for it - it has to be done in the last 16 years - drats. The Australian Open University doesn't have any math or physics degrees so I had to go elsewhere. OU UK has gone to the trouble of getting accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education to be exactly the same as a US 4 year degree. And interestingly some UK universities have accelerated ones you can do in 2 years (you have 3 semesters a year instead of 2) - yes an American 4 year degree in just 2 years - the mind boggles. And you can start the open university at 16 - younger if you can make the case you are up to it - the youngest they had was a 9 year old Indian - the next Ramanujan maybe? :)):)):)):)):)):)):)):)):)):)):)):))

But IMHO teaching in the UK is more efficient. You generally do not waste time going to lectures - that's where Feynman was so bored he spent the time drilling small holes in his shoes. Same here in Australia - I went to lectures where I just took copious notes that I rewrote to cement it in my mind. Better off just writing out supplied notes on my own time and taking any issues to a tutorial instead of wracking my brain nutting it out for myself. In the UK you instead watch a video and/or read some material, maybe go along to the occasional lecture, then go along to small group tutorials - no slaking off drilling holes in shoes in those - but really would have it made any difference to someone like Feynman?

The Bologna accord has its own path to a PHD that takes 5 years overall and universities here in Aus are moving long that path:

You do your basic 3 year degree, a two year Masters of Research, then a 3 year PhD (you can also do a two year Master Of Philosophy in between which automatically admits you to a PhD if you want to do one - otherwise you need a distinction average in the Master Of Research) - all up 8 years from 18 so you finish at 26. But if you are not good enough to get a distinction average you can still go - it will just take 2 years longer. There are acceleration opportunists around that allow you to enter university early. For example at any age you can do two units from the Australian University of Open Leaning - passing 2 units at credit level will get you admitted to a BA degree at the university I linked to - Macquarie. Science/math people like us would probably do the math BA:

Then take as electives physics, chem, biol, computing etc subjects or simply transfer to the the appropriate program after a year with a years credit. That way you can complete your PHD earlier.

Thanks
Bill
 
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Are you sure this is accurate? At least for the higher ranked ones Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London seem to require a Master, or at least a four year Bachelor. They also list the time to graduate as 3-4 years rather than 3 years, so this would put you at 7-9 years depending on wether you take a one or two year master, vs. 9-10 years in the US, which would still be at the higher end but not quite as drastically...
In the UK it would normally go something like this at the moment. Remember their 3 year honors degrees are equivalent to US 4 year degrees and the 3-4 years means you do the 4th if you hang around for a masters. The normal requirement for entry to a PhD is a masters in the UK, and a PHD takes 3-4 years. So 7-8 years all up. It would be 8 years minimum here in Aus - but you are better prepared for research by doing the two year master of research first - hence Vanadium's comment.

However that may all change with how much uptake in the UK there is with 2 year Bachelors - some even offer a combined 3 year Bachelors Masters.

Thanks
Bill
 

Zap

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Isn't it true that an American Bachelor's degree is longer because we have to take general studies courses, like speech and psychology, whereas in Europe they don't? So, in the end, the European degree may be stronger, since it is more focused on the chosen field of study, despite being less drawn out.
 

symbolipoint

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Isn't it true that an American Bachelor's degree is longer because we have to take general studies courses, like speech and psychology, whereas in Europe they don't? So, in the end, the European degree may be stronger, since it is more focused on the chosen field of study, despite being less drawn out.
Yes, about the general ed. requirements. Other members can comment about the stronger-or-not part.
 
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In the UK it would normally go something like this at the moment. Remember their 3 year honors degrees are equivalent to US 4 year degrees and the 3-4 years means you do the 4th if you hang around for a masters. The normal requirement for entry to a PhD is a masters in the UK, and a PHD takes 3-4 years. So 7-8 years all up. It would be 8 years minimum here in Aus - but you are better prepared for research by doing the two year master of research first - hence Vanadium's comment.

However that may all change with how much uptake in the UK there is with 2 year Bachelors - some even offer a combined 3 year Bachelors Masters.

Thanks
Bill
In the UK, some univerisities' minimum requirements for a PhD is a bachelor's degree (for example, in Computer Science, that is the case in UoM, Bath, and even Cambridge does not state that a Masters is required, they just require a bachelor).

It is true that some universities in the UK, depending on the faculty, require a Masters, but most of them don't. Thus it adds up to just 6 years (3 for the bachelor, 3 for the PhD). That's what I wanted to highlight, in the UK you can get a PhD at age 23 (assuming your birthday is on September or so) following the standard academical path.
 
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Isn't it true that an American Bachelor's degree is longer because we have to take general studies courses, like speech and psychology, whereas in Europe they don't? So, in the end, the European degree may be stronger, since it is more focused on the chosen field of study, despite being less drawn out.
No - that is not a requirement for accreditation as the fact UK OU has US accreditation. It's just one of those things that's traditional.

Thanks
Bill
 

CrysPhys

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For those who are familiar with education systems outside the US, could you please clarify the starting point for the bachelor's degree? In the US, one typically completes 12 grades of primary and secondary education (the terminology and divisions have changed over the years and vary with locale, but still add up to 12), then proceeds to a 4 yrs bachelor's program. I believe in many countries (at least at one time, but education systems have changed), one enters a bachelor's program after 13 yrs of primary and secondary education; so a 3 yrs bachelor's program outside the US would end up taking the same total 16 yrs as within the US. Is this correct? If so, please identify the country.
 

jtbell

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Isn't it true that an American Bachelor's degree is longer because we have to take general studies courses, like speech and psychology, whereas in Europe they don't?
Also, I think bachelor's students in the US generally start out at a lower level of coursework than in many other countries. That is, much first-year bachelor's material in the US tends to have been covered already in high school (or whatever secondary school is called) in other countries.
 

f95toli

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In the UK, some univerisities' minimum requirements for a PhD is a bachelor's degree (for example, in Computer Science, that is the case in UoM, Bath, and even Cambridge does not state that a Masters is required, they just require a bachelor).

It is true that some universities in the UK, depending on the faculty, require a Masters, but most of them don't. Thus it adds up to just 6 years (3 for the bachelor, 3 for the PhD). That's what I wanted to highlight, in the UK you can get a PhD at age 23 (assuming your birthday is on September or so) following the standard academical path.
The system in the UK is changing and there is more and more focus (and funding) on Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs); these are somewhat similar to graduate schools in the US in that the first year is mainly coursework (for a "normal" PhD in the UK you only need to do a few days of coursework, e..g. courses in how to write a thesis). These are 4 years and AFAIK they all require you to have a MSc or equivalent if you want to apply.
It is still possible to do "normal" PhDs (although funding is tricky) and the latest guidelines for a PhD in science (any project funded by EPSRC ) now states that a PhD should be at least 3.5 years. 3 years PhDs are very much on their way out. Note also that in the past it was not at all uncommon for 3 year PhDs to be extended and turn into 4 years (or more) . These days it is much harder to get an extension.

Even for a "normal" PhD there has -effectively- been a requirement for the student to have a MSc for many years; these are not always formal requirement and you will find the odd student who has gone straight from bachelors to a PhD (I've had such a student) but it is not the norm. Also, when this happens the university will often insist that the PhD should be a bit longer (up to one extra years) which makes finding funding tricky (since the funding cycles are normally 3.5 years) which in turn means that there are far fewer opportunities.

Lastly, yes it is very much true that the short duration of a PhD is an issue and does make students from the UK less competitive when applying for international post-docs. I t is therefore quite common (again using my former students as an example) for people to first do a short (1-2 year) post-doc in the UK and before applying for an -ideally longer- international post-doc (having done a post-doc abroad makes you much more competitive when e.g. applying for starter grants).
 
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For those who are familiar with education systems outside the US, could you please clarify the starting point for the bachelor's degree?
Its a bit of a tricky business especially these days where things are so much more diverse.

First here in Australia, depending on the state, you start grade 1 at 5 or 6 then do 12 years schooling and go to university for 3 years. Where I am in Queensland you started grade 1 at 5, finished at 17, then finished uni at 20. But Bond University burst on the scene and by having 3 semesters a year instead of 2, so you could do your Bachelors in 2 years and finish at 19. Couple this with a tendency in private schools for grade skipping at the drop of a hat, it was not unheard of for some students to graduate uni at 18. There has been a bit of a push to standardize education between states and now starting age for grade 1 is you must turn 6 by June 30. Also since then we have had the appearance of the Australian University Of Open Learning which is open admission at any age. You can do two subjects with a credit average and get admitted to uni at any age - although some institutions have a minimum age requirement of 16 or 17, many do not. My old uni the QUT requires you to be 18 unless you did the normal grade 12 route.

In England you start at 5 and have what is called your GCSE in grade 11 at 16. Some are even good enough to do them by age 15. Interestingly some US Universities like ASU will admit you with GCSE's so you can start at 16 or if you are smart enough to finish it in grade 10 at 15. After GCSE in grade 12 you generally do what is called AS levels - you only need 3 subjects - but many do 4. You then do three of those at what is called A levels at age 17. A levels are generally equivalent, and many universities in the US give you credit for it, to two 4 unit first year subjects, so you generally have sophomore status and finish in 3 years. That's why in the UK you only need 3 year degrees and why they are generally considered equivalent to US 4 year degrees. Then there is the UK Open University anomaly - since they have 3 year degrees with no admission requirements you can finish a US accredited 4 year degree equivalent at 19 if you start at 16 - earlier if you can talk them into admitting you. i always thought you needed to do a Masters, which is generally an extra year, but someone pointed out that is only sometimes required. In effect you could do your PhD in 6 years. In Australia there is now a tendency to do a Masters of Research before the PhD giving a student research experience before their PhD.

I think I understand the US system reasonably well but really have to say its all over the place there - for example they have Simons Rock College:

Woody Allan's and Mia Farrows child was admitted at 12 for example - of course he was a child genius. It required a bit of creativity for Terry Tao to get his Masters at 16 here in Aus - but no need to go into exactly how he did it- because we do not have anything like Simon's Rock.

Usually however in the US you do 12 years of education starting at 6 then 4 years at uni to get a Bachelors. A high school diploma is usually, but not always required, to get in. Harvard for example actually has no strict academic entrance requirements - its just if you can convince them to admit you.

Personally, for what its worth, I believe, as a person from Simons Rock posted on Twitter 'The time has come to shorten the length of elementary and secondary schooling and start college, with a liberal education, two years earlier ... Simon's Rock @SimonsRock Apr 15.' Not sure about the Liberal education thing - but that is obviously another thread.

Thanks
Bill
 
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