1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Programs From Undergrad Scotland to PhD America, theoretically what would the steps be?

  1. Aug 26, 2012 #1
    I'm just beginning my undergraduate course (Physics) and have been thinking/dreaming :) what, Ideally, I would like to do. I understand I can't really decide on where to do post-grad until I've decided what I want to do more specifically, but what are the general steps that need to be taken to go from where I am Undergraduate in Scotland to a PhD at a top American Uni?
    Is it possible?
    Is this an answerable question?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 26, 2012 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    The big difference between getting a PhD in the U.S. and in Europe is that in the U.S. you enter a PhD program immediately after the bachelor's degree, and don't go through a separate master's degree program first. Basically, a U.S. PhD program includes both master's level coursework and the research which produces your PhD dissertation.

    You apply for PhD programs during your last year of undergraduate work, and need to take the Graduate Record Examination (both the general GRE and the physics GRE) during the fall of that year. When you apply, you generally need to submit GRE scores, your academic record (transcript), letters of recommendation from (usually) professors who know you and your work, and some kind of statement of interests.

    There's a sticky thread at the top of this forum "So you want to be a physicist" which has a lot of information that is targeted at US students but should nevertheless mostly apply to people like you, as far as graduate school is concerned.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2012
  4. Aug 27, 2012 #3
    Thanks for directing me towards that, it's very helpful and clarifies the American system quite thoroughly.
    Does anyone have any knowledge of how a BSc from Britain is viewed by American Universities, how they compare for example a GPA of 4 to a 1st in Britain? or GPA of 3.5 to a 2.1 in Britain?

    I have the option to do a fast track course that is 3 years, or a normal 4 year course. An advantage of the four year course is I am able to get in to a year abroad in America. How much of an advantage, if any, would having a year abroad in America give my application?
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2012
  5. Aug 27, 2012 #4
    I did a 3 year degree in the UK and was talking to a guy at Northwestern University in Illinois about doing a PhD.

    He said that a 3-year British degree was "at least equivalent" to a 4-year American undergraduate degree, particularly if you have done a research project in your 3rd year. There isn't an established relation between GPA and degree-type between the countries (i.e. a first isn't considered a 4.0). What they do is have someone who is familiar with the UK education system look at your application and judge whether it is good or not.

    In the end I didn't pursue it, because the first 2 years of the doctorate were course-work (which would have given me an MA) and then at least 3 more years of research, meaning getting a PhD in 5+ years rather than 3 years if I stayed in the UK.
  6. Aug 27, 2012 #5
    The OP should bare in mind that this is not strictly the case, some research work is often started in the first years of graduate school. It does of course depend on what discipline.

    The extra two years can actually be an advantage, if like me, you are changing fields (physics -> atmospheric/ocean science) and need extra knowledge in slightly different areas.

    Bare in mind that wherever you want to do a PhD, research experience is a serious advantage. You should try and get summer research placements. Sometimes they are funded and you can earn money too!
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook