I've heard some schools do this. True in general?
Where are you from?
I've never heard of anything like this happening in the UK anyway, but (assuming you're American) our system is slightly different. Still, I can't see why this would ever be a general rule.
Hopefully someone will come along with a better answer, but it seems that (in America) applying to a PhD program with a BS is better than doing your MS first and then applying.
I'm sure there are many reasons, not the least of which is financial reasons (how long they have you as cheap labor).
I'm not saying this is fair, but where I'm at, doing a terminal MS degree implies that you were rejected from every single PhD program you applied to.
It seems that most people in Physics either search for employment after undergrad, or they go all the way to PhD. No one does the MS unless they "have to."
Again, I'm not saying that's fair....and I may be wrong about how grad programs view it, but that's how people seem to stigmatize the MS students at my University.
*I'm not saying I agree with the idea that an MS means "couldn't get into a PhD program." I'm a physics major but really enjoy math. I would love the opportunity to spend a few years getting my MS in pure math before moving on to a Physics PhD program. (I realize I'll have the chance to take extra math courses in grad school, but I'd like to do more than that)
This is probably much less true in engineering. There is a much higher proportion of engineers who are not at all interested in academia but go to grad school to enhance their professional skills. For this group, the PhD doesn't usually make sense vs just getting the MS and working.
Then again, I don't know how many of these types of students end up applying to PhD programs. Those interested in PhDs usually still just apply straight to the PhD program. People change their minds of course, and that's certainly something that can be explained in the app.
It depends on the school. At mine, a good chunk of the engineering/comp sci phds got masters degrees and then realized that they wanted to go into phd programs. A friend of mine applied specifically for a masters program and was told she could probably get funded for a phd if she continued on. Basically, from what I've seen of engineers (US, public university), getting a masters doesn't kill their chances of getting into a phd program.
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