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Caltech Master's and Ph.D. Programs

  1. Mar 4, 2012 #1
    Does anyone know if Caltech allows you to get your Master's and Ph.D.? I've heard that some universities allow you to get one or the other, but not both, and to acquire the Doctorate, you have to go somewhere else. Is this true for any school, specifically Caltech?

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 4, 2012 #2
    I think it will depend on your degree program. What are you planning on doing? In my experience, people in the hard sciences don't get an MS unless they left their PhD program early for some reason.

    http://www.cce.caltech.edu/index.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  4. Mar 4, 2012 #3


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    That is strange. In the US, the rule tends to be you apply for PhD, and get a Master's after passing several courses, and qualifying exams. The master is usually a consolation prize, if you don't finish the PhD.
  5. Mar 4, 2012 #4
    I want degrees in Chemistry and Physics. My goals include two, POSSIBLY three Doctorates, and I was under the impression that you get a Master's and then continue onto the Ph.D. program. Is this incorrect?

    Thanks for the info! Are you aware of whether that standard applies to Caltech?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  6. Mar 4, 2012 #5
    First, it took me about two minutes to find this webpage, since my impression is that many schools have similar policies -


    Interdisciplinary degrees are quite common, and many institutions are quite agreeable to such situations. I am sure a more thorough online investigation will provide details of the graduate programs at Caltech, of course.

    In general, though, there are a number of US universities which offer degrees in chemical physics through interdepartmental programs between the chemistry and physics departments that you might find suitable.
  7. Mar 4, 2012 #6
    I have a chemistry background and did a little undergrad research. The general feeling in the department I was in in the United States, doing inorganic chemistry research, was that a Masters degree is for someone that flunks out of a PhD program. I would be willing to bet it is the same for Physics. Look at a few CVs from professors who you would like to work for; I doubt you'll see MS listed.

    Other fields are different and some actually require a Masters degree first.

    The other catch for you is the idea of several graduate degrees. Undergraduate degrees are meant to be broad. Graduate degrees generally allow you to focus in an area and become an expert in that thing. You might see a PhD with an MBA, MPH, MD or JD but you won't normally see a PhD with a second PhD.
  8. Mar 5, 2012 #7
    Thanks for the information everyone!
  9. Mar 5, 2012 #8
    Watching too much Big Bang Theory, are you? :P

    Ben Breech happens to have two PhDs, one in Computer Science and one in Physics. As Mike says, that can be done concurrently only. Dual PhD degrees are quite rare. One can often find dual-graduate degree programs, such as the MD-PhD (medicine and a related field) JD-PhD (law and finance, for example).

    OH! Princeton, if I'm not mistaken, do offer other dual PhDs! But I doubt both can be in the sciences. Go through their website yourself. I remember reading about their dual PhD in Philosophy (of Science?) and a "science" PhD.
  10. Mar 5, 2012 #9
    Haha. I like that show, but that's not my inspiration.

    Are you saying that it's not possible to acquire a Doctorate in two different sciences?
  11. Mar 5, 2012 #10
    No, just that it's unlikely. Whether it's a viable pursuit or not, is not for us to judge. Ben Breech did it. Maybe you can too. But be sure to read through his experiences or maybe even e-mail him - who knows, he might reply and have some more interesting things to say. One PhD alone is hard/time consuming enough. (apparently...)

    At any rate, you should really take the effort to go do your own research. Things won't magically fall on your lap all the time...
  12. Mar 5, 2012 #11


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    Since most programs grant a masters after you've finished the coursework (and often a thesis and/or qualifying exam) most people earn a masters as well as a PhD without having failed out of the program (it's called earning a masters en route).

    While two or more PhDs makes someone 'extra smart' on TV, it doesn't work like that in real life. A PhD is easily 4-8 years of hard work, long hours, and a ton of dedication. Very few schools will consider admitting you for a second one, since you'd basically be telling them 'well, I just spent 8 years studying X, but now I don't care about it anymore and I want to study Y!' They're making a big investment in you as a student, and they aren't going to do that if you've already flaked out on one degree.
  13. Mar 5, 2012 #12
    Just to clarify - I was referring to an interdisciplinary situation where one ends up writing one dissertation for one Ph.D. degree, but you might have two advisors (one in department X and another in department Y) and may need to take additional coursework above and beyond the minimal requirements for a doctoral degree. I know a number of people who have been in such situations.

    Here's the real question - why do you think you need two (or more!) doctoral degrees in the natural sciences? If you want to switch fields or expand your horizons, well, that's one reason why people do postdoctoral stints. And if you don't feel confident in your ability to learn something new on your own after completing a Ph.D. degree.....you just wasted your time doing your first Ph.D., I'd say.
  14. Mar 5, 2012 #13
    Not to be contrary, but a lot of people earn a master's without necessarily flunking out of a PhD program. The master's is all they desire at the time. Of course, earning a terminal master's means you're (most of the time) paying for it yourself.
  15. Mar 5, 2012 #14


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    True - the smart thing to do is enroll for a PhD even if you don't want one and leave with a masters, because then your masters was funded. And there are some programs that only offer a masters in physics. It is too bad it's often seen as a drop-out, because it still requires passing a lot of graduate level classes and earning a hard degree.
  16. Mar 5, 2012 #15
    I didn't think that it would work like that. I already stated that the most popular science T.V. show is not my inspiration, regardless of how similar the situation may be. I don't mind the amount of years it takes. I want to be a researcher for a university anyway, so I planned on spending quite a long time in school. I don't think it's appropriate for a school to come to that conclusion on someone wanting more than one Ph.D. Wouldn't you say that it's possible a student may be interested in pursuing more than one topic?

    Well, I happen to enjoy Physics and Chemistry the same amount, so if I am going to become an "expert" in one, why not become an expert in the other?
  17. Mar 5, 2012 #16


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    I'm sorry, but you're a high school freshman. How do you know you like either of them?

    I was going to write a lengthy post about why the concept of double phds doesn't make much sense, but instead I'll just say this: A phd essentially amounts to ~4 years of 70+ hour weeks making only slightly more than minimum wage.
  18. Mar 5, 2012 #17
  19. Mar 5, 2012 #18
  20. Mar 5, 2012 #19
    Because I do research in Chemistry on my own right now, and I am taking a Physics class in high school?

    And? Are you saying that research is worthless because you don't make much money?
  21. Mar 5, 2012 #20
    why dont you try something that combines chemistry and physics, like materials science?

    im serious, you don't know how bad living on minimum wage is until you've tried it. you're in high school so your parents are shielding you from poverty but in the real world no one will shield you anymore. let me ask you:

    have you lived in a public place for days and brushed your teeth in public bathrooms?
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