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Graduate student development by country

  1. May 6, 2010 #1
    The path students take going from undergrad to PhD seems to vary greatly between countries, and I was wondering if some natives could illuminate me on how it works in their country.

    In Australia the process is (typically) as follows:
    3 year undergraduate
    1 extra year of undergraduate (honours year) which is about 30% research project, 70% coursework
    3-4 years of PhD.

    My feeling is that Australians graduate very young, and very uneducated, compared to our American and European counterparts. Our universities typically have splotchy curricula - where I did my undergraduate there was no condensed matter physics and no number theory, but I have done a bit of quantum field theory (at the level of Peskin and Shroeder) and algebraic topology.

    My impressions from are that in America the route is
    3 year undergraduate (which is typically very broad - i.e. physics majors having to take humanities subjects)
    5ish year grad school

    Where grad school includes around 2 years of high-level coursework followed by a major graduate exam and 3 years of research leading to a PhD.

    The European route seems to be roughly:
    3 year undergraduate
    2 year masters: mostly coursework with a research project at the end
    3 year PhD.

    Can anyone elaborate on this?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 6, 2010 #2


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    The way you've presented it, there doesn't seem to be any difference in the number of years of study!

    I'm from the UK; the path is usually 3/4 year undergrad (the trend is now moving towards "undergraduate masters degrees", which are 4 years as opposed to the Bachelors which is 3), then 3-4 years PhD. Of course, the latter can take a lot longer.
  4. May 6, 2010 #3


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    The normal undergraduate degree (B.S. or B.A.) in the USA is 4 years. In other countries, it may take less, but my impression is that in those countries, students progress further before they enter university. That is, the first year of university in the U.S. corresponds roughly to the last year in "high school" in many other countries.
  5. May 6, 2010 #4


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    In the Netherlands it's usually 3 year undergraduate, 2 year masters, 4 years PhD.
    Yes, that's my understanding too.
  6. May 6, 2010 #5
    I know I'm getting repetitive with the "Canada questions", but does your statement apply to Canada, as well?
  7. May 6, 2010 #6


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    In Argentina the undergraduate studies in Physics is 5 years long. You can however apply directly to a Ph.D. like in the US without passing by a Master.
  8. May 6, 2010 #7
    From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bachelor's_degree#United_States
    In my case, my school will require 48/120 semester credits from physics classes if I want to major in physics. Based on people I've spoken to, it's 5-6 years of graduate school for a Ph.D in physics in USA.
  9. May 6, 2010 #8
    USA is 4 years and you don't cover TOO much material in your major, because basically 2 years is general education in a bunch of different subjects.

    From what I understand, Europe is about 3-4 years but you pretty much spend most of your college years doing your particular field, so you come out way more knowledgeable about your field with just an undergrad degree.

    European system sounds better. Most people just blow off gen ed courses (I don't, I have a wide array of interests, I love gen ed!) and never learn the stuff.
  10. May 7, 2010 #9
    Hi, is the "undergraduate masters degrees" equivalent to a Bachelor Honour degree there?
  11. May 23, 2010 #10
    In Mexico typical undergrad school takes about 4.5 years of specialized curricula (either math or physics, no general culture) then 2 years of masters and 4 years of PhD.
  12. May 23, 2010 #11
    In England anyway :smile: In Scotland, the high school system works a bit differently so undergraduate degrees are 4/5 years.

    In the UK post-graduate masters degrees normally take 1 year. And, as cristo says, PhDs are 3 or, more commonly nowadays, 4 years.
  13. May 23, 2010 #12


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    No, when I said Bachelors I really meant Bachelors honours degree (ordinary, or non-honours, degrees are pretty rare). An undergrad masters is a 4 year degree, the first three being common to the bachelors (hons) degree, with a fourth masters year.
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