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Programs Graduate, PHD, Undergraduate I give up!

  1. Feb 20, 2008 #1
    Could anyone explain the University System to me, im completely stumped!

    This is what i think i know;

    Undergraduate goes for 4 years, then, then i get lost.

    Do you do a PhD when doing graduate study? How long does graduate go for? Can you graduate/ get a PhD in maths and physics at the same time?

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 20, 2008 #2
    Actually, that sums it up pretty well.

    Seriously though:

    Undergraduate includes Associate's & Bachelor's degrees. The latter is a standard 4 year degree, the former takes two years and can lead to a Bachelor's after another 2-3 years of study (sometimes it doesn't transfer completely to whatever you're studying).

    Graduate includes Master's & Ph.D. aka Doctorate. Masters is generally 2 years, Doctorate is 4-6+ (basically you finish it when you finish it...). Sometimes you can do Masters first, but Doctorate is basically a research program rather than a series of courses like undergraduate study, while Masters is basically more of the same as undergrad but harder and maybe writing a thesis paper. Getting a Doctorate (or getting partway through and quitting) can entail also earning a Master's, but due to the differences in focus you can't always jump right into a Doctorate after finishing a Master's and expect the time remaining to be B - A.

    Normally you get a Ph.D. under the supervision of one and only one department (or some interdisciplinary arrangement)...but arrangements like a double major at the undergraduate level are very uncommon. And generally pointless. If you do physics, you'll be expected to pick up whatever maths it requires as you're doing it, and anything else you're interested in on the side...the higher up you get in the education system, the more responsibility you're expected to take and the less grades are used as a measure of your experience and ability. On the Ph.D. level (and after) the main thing people care about is your research (although sometimes there are Quals, which are lol and omfgwtf and will eat your soul Raiders-style).
  4. Feb 20, 2008 #3
    So what about, for example, MIT physics/math courses. In there website, they have there courses divided into 2 sections. Undergraduate and graduate. I've noticed that the graduate courses are quite important. For example there is 3 Quantum Field theory courses, surely you'd need to know that before getting a PhD in, say, Mathematical Physics! So my question is, whats the go with that?
  5. Feb 20, 2008 #4
    The program of study for a Ph.D. depends largely on your specialty, the group you're working with, and what your adviser expects you to know. Usually you take classes for the first year or two, and focus as much as possible on the research for your dissertation for the balance and graduate whenever that's done. You also generally hold down a teaching or research assistantship (supplying you with a tuition waiver and a stipend to live off of).
  6. Feb 20, 2008 #5
    Just wanted to add something here. While physics PhDs are heavily research oriented, they typically require about two years worth of additional coursework as well. It's basically the same as getting a Master's degree, except you don't do a Master's thesis. I, for example, am taking 11 credits of coursework this semester (plus teaching duties).

    Heh, I can vouch for that.
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