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I wish to pursue PhD in Medical Physics. But Masters first?

  1. Jan 22, 2015 #1

    I will be getting a bachelor's degree in Radiation Health Physics in near future, and my ultimate goal is to study PhD in medical physics. However, I think it would be unlikely that I will get admitted right after undergraduate graduation, due to my mediocre GPA and limited experiences. Is it common for a MP PhD to have studied MS prior to applying for the doctorate degree?

    Also, I am planning to apply for almost dozen schools at once for MS. Do you think I should at least apply for a few PhD programs as well?

    For your information, I have 3.24 GPA (horrible first two years during pre-RHP, dramatically better last two years during pro-RHP) and my GRE scores are 152V 156Q 4.5A. I am an international student receiving international scholarships. I have several shadowing experiences in biomedical laboratories but no actual research or internship.

    Thanks a lot!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 22, 2015 #2

    Quantum Defect

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    I would encourage you to look at PhD programs. In most sciences at most places (not sure about Medical Physics) you will often be granted the MS along the way to PhD. If you enter a PhD program, and decide after two years that a career in research is not what you want, you can leave with a MS. In most PhD science programs, most students have their tuition paid and are given a stipend. I have seen some terminal MS programs where the student pays for both. If you end up going to an institution with a terminal MS Program and decide to switch institutions to get a PhD, the PhD institution may not accept your "time-served" at the other institution -- it may take longer than if you had just gone to the PhD program from the outset.
  4. Jan 22, 2015 #3


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    Different schools are going to have different ideas about whether you should get the MS first. Sometimes quite strongly different ideas. You will see many possible attitudes from MS is strongly encouraged all the way to MS is considered a "consolation prize" for those who don't manage to finish the PhD. The differences are somewhat associated with different countries. For example, in the US it is more frequent to get a PhD without an MS, but certainly not universal.

    I would suggest you contact the schools directly and find their opinions. Google is your friend finding the web sites of the schools. You want to find the graduate program advisor or graduate office or graduate chair or some such position, and find out what information they have on their web site. Also, if you can figure out which prof you might like to work with, contact that prof if you can. Send an email saying you are considering applying for graduate work at the school and ask what requirements they have, do they prefer you to get an MS then a PhD or just the PhD, etc.

    While you are asking those questions, ask if there is anything else you need to know such as Visa requirements, scholarships you could be considered for if you applied, teaching opportunities during your degree work, any other special requirements, etc.

    Many schools will have a package of information that they will automatically send you when you make such enquiry.
  5. Jan 22, 2015 #4


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    In medical physics it's quite common to do an MSc first and then a PhD. That's definitely the case in Canada where the general rule is to follow a progression from an MSc to a PhD. In the US, often what I've seen is that students try to find a residency or employment after the MSc and then go back to get the PhD if that doesn't work out. (Although it's not uncommon for American students to just opt for the PhD right out of undergrad as well.)

    I'm not generally a fan of the shotgun approach to applying for graduate studies. If you're applying to a dozen schools, it's difficult to make an concentrated effort to assess each one individually to see if it will be the right fit for you and you could end up with an acceptance at a place you really had no desire to attend.
  6. Feb 2, 2015 #5
    I have contacted with the schools I'm interested in, and it seems that having an M.S. prior to pursuing PhD is common in this field. I'm probably not the most competent applicant, so I think I should go for the M.S. first. Thanks for the comment!
  7. Feb 2, 2015 #6
    Thank you, I did contact the schools I'm interested in and received some detailed information about their policies. It seems that most schools encourage students to have finished the M.S. first. I think I will be going for a master's degree first. Thank you!
  8. Feb 2, 2015 #7
    You are right. It seems that medical physics schools in the U.S. expect most students to earn a M.S. and then PhD in medical physics.
    I think I will be applying to about 6~7 schools, I'm more interested in 3 of them but since I'm not the most competent applicant for medical physics, I thought applying to more schools can give me more chances or options. I hope that works out for me.. Thank you for the comment!
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