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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?
  22. Mar 5, 2012 #21
    You do what you have to do. Besides, you're implying that I'll go straight into poverty when I graduate.
  23. Mar 5, 2012 #22
    Nowhere in that link does it say "lazy" nor was I implying that you are. Please don't accuse me of saying such a thing. :smile:

    2 or even 3 PhD's is not a realistic goal and it would easily put you in school for a ridiculous amount of time. The average time to complete a physics PhD is 6.2 years. Add 4 undergrad years and then assuming a chemistry PhD takes the same amount of time. You'll be in college for at least 16 years. Then if you slap on another PhD you'll break 20 years in college. If that's not a perpetual student I don't what is...

  24. Mar 5, 2012 #23
    Well, the list of things in that link includes desire to avoid a job, and many other characteristics of a lazy person. So one would be safe in assuming that by posting that link by itself that you're referring to one as a lazy person?

    Okay, so would a physics PhD and a chemistry master's be more realistic?
  25. Mar 5, 2012 #24


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    My point here was (I don't know much about chemistry, but I'm assuming it's similar), physics in a high school classroom is very different from physics at a university level, which is different from physics at a post-graduate level. I don't mean to question your desire to continue studying these things, not at all, but simply to state that being so specific about what you want to do (double phd, and you know the university!) when temporally you are so far away from that seems a stretch. If you're a freshman right now, that means you're ~15? When you'll be starting a phd is 8 years from now, that's over half the time you've been alive! I'm just saying, things change a lot, and while it's (very) important to keep goals in mind, I think being too specific can be limiting in a lot of ways.

    Haha, no not at all, you misunderstand. It's just not exactly an easy lifestyle, especially if during that stage of your life you start to think about starting a family and whatnot. If you have fellow friends from university, at that point they will probably be making salaries 2,3,4x yours, and so you can see why this might be difficult. Money doesn't often seem that important, but again just something to think about. (The situation is the same going to graduate school in general, but doing a phd twice makes it [likely more than] twice as prominent).

    Just things to think about, advice coming from someone who's already done (essentially) what your next 8 years look like.
  26. Mar 5, 2012 #25
    As time goes on you'll see that this is basically ridiculous.

    I'd follow the advice of some of the other posters and find what you like about Chemistry and Physics and then find the program that gives you the best blend when that time comes.

    Take chemistry for example, you generally have 4 main branches: Analytical, Inorganic, Organic and Physical. Within those branches there are all kinds of sub specialties. When you get a PhD you may become an expert in micro and nano photonics but you will in no way be an expert in using nucleic acids for biosensing or in elucidating gas phase reaction dynamics.

    Sure you pick up other skills that transfer, but you are really narrowing in on a topic as a PhD candidate. That's part of why multiple science PhDs don't really make sense even before you consider the practical reasons others have mentioned.
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