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Programs Is a master's degree harmful for a us student applying for phd programs?

  1. Oct 20, 2012 #1
    I am currently a us student in undergraduate math and physics, doing well in courses, having taken graduate courses in both areas, and have finished degree requirements for both math and physics during my second year in undergrad, but I stayed for one more year anyway.

    So, now, its my third year, and I think that many people still take 4 years in undergrad even if they can graduate in three. So, if I have to compete against these guys, I was thinking that I could take some more course work and do more research for an "extra" 4th year.

    But on the other hand, I already started working on a senior honors thesis, and have already taken the gre exams. I found out that if I do stay at my undergrad institution for another year, I will have taken the equivalent of a master's degree, and working on a master's thesis during a 4th year would give me some more research experience, and would be a LOT cheaper than undergrad, since my institution TA coordinator said that I would have a TA position if I did MS degree.

    So, basically my question is: Is it reasonable to estimate whether doing a master's degree as a way to supplement undergrad research experiences and coursework would be considered bad or harmful by admissions committees when I apply for a PHD degree? ( I have every intention to complete a PHD degree ultimately)
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 21, 2012 #2
    sorry- I forgot to add that most of my advisors said that it won't hurt, but when looking at e.g. Princeton's admissions page, it says that "undergraduate work" will be reveiwed, so I don't know if that means that if I do research as part of a master's, that won't be counted for some reason?
    I must say, QFT (even mathematically rigorous attempts/explanations) is much easier to understand than grad school admissions!
  4. Oct 21, 2012 #3
    You're way over thinking this! The reason why Princeton says they'll review "undergraduate work" is because they expect their applicants to be undergraduate students (since the norm in the US is to go straight to PhD from undergrad). I can't imagine any way having a master's will hurt you. In fact, I think getting a master's w/ thesis in the time most people get a bachelor's w/o thesis is very impressive and will reflect favorably upon you as an applicant. As an undergraduate applying to physics PhD programs, I can only wish I had your credentials.
  5. Oct 22, 2012 #4


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    Honestly, I wouldn't worry too much, the fact that you got your masters in 4 instead of maybe 5 and even 6 years is impressive and will probably stand out favorably for you. The only possible down side is that some graduate programs require students who already achieved a master to be completed with their PhD earlier than those without a masters.
  6. Oct 23, 2012 #5
    Thanks very much for your replies, I was thinking just what you were saying--that essentially, its as if I just did a 4 year degree, whether it's called an "MS" and two BS or not
  7. Jan 15, 2013 #6
    Slightly old post, but I am literally in the same exact position as you! (Thank the ap credits). I will probably do exactly what you are, take an extra fourth year to get a masters and really build up that resume for colleges. I think its a great idea
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