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Canadian MSc versus American MS?

  1. Dec 22, 2007 #1
    Hi, could someone please explain the difference between getting a masters in Canada versus the States? I live in Canada currently, and am an undergraduate still in progress.

    From what I read it seems like the Canadian masters is more involved, but might be better preparation for a PhD. Is this true? Do employers know that there's a difference between getting a masters in Canada and the US?

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 22, 2007 #2
    In the Canadian system an M.Sc in physics is simply seen as a hoop students jump through before they start a PhD. This is unlike the American system in which an M.Sc is usually regarded a "failed PhD".

    The Canadian M.Sc is fairly similar to the first two years of the American PhD in that students take a lot of courses and work on a research project. From my experience it seems that about a third of students change supervisors and/or universities between their MSc and PhD in Canada.

    One complaint I've heard from foreigners with masters degrees admitted to US PhD programs is that they are required to take a lot of coursework that they have already covered. This can be a waste of time. The common wisdom is also that Canadian students with bachelor's degrees are better prepared than US students with B.Sc's, so introductory graduate courses in the US are pitched at a lower level than introductory grad courses in Canada. However, I suspect that the variation from school to school is much larger than the variation from country to country.

    As for whether employers know the difference between a Canadian MSc and an American MSc, I'm willing to bet that this all depends on who is hiring you. But in either case, I don't think that having an MSc will make you less employable....

    In Canada it is possible to transfer to a PhD without first completing an M.Sc, but there is really no motivation to do this.

    I feel that one major advantage of the Canadian MSc is that it allows students to change their focus without being penalized. I really feel that students coming out of a BSc aren't yet properly equipped to make a decision about how they will specialise and I think the Canadian system makes it easier to change fields. There is a surprising amount of traffic between theory and experiment and I have known quite a few people who have switched out of hard condensed matter or AMO into soft matter.
  4. Dec 22, 2007 #3
    Wow, great response. Thanks!
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