Is a PhD in Physics the Right Choice for Me?

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In summary, the conversation discusses whether it is advisable to pursue a PhD in physics after completing a master's degree. The factors to consider include the field and country of interest, as well as personal motivations for pursuing a PhD. It is mentioned that in some countries, a master's degree is the terminal degree and there may be a stigma attached to it in others. Ultimately, it is important for individuals to carefully evaluate their reasons for wanting a PhD and the opportunities available in their chosen field and country.
  • #1
oliviajohnsonoj
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I have done master's in physics and I am not sure if I should also do PHD in physics or not. Can anyone help me out here and highlight the career opportunities there could be after PHD.
 
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  • #2
Depends on the field and country. Which one(s) are you interested in.
 
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  • #3
I'd say, a PhD in physics makes only sense, if you are interested in physics research for the sake of the physics. If it's only about "career opportunities", I think there are not so much better chances with a PhD than with an MSc.
 
  • #4
I think in the US, there is often a stigma attached to a masters in physics, because many such degreees are awarded to folks who "washed out" of PhD programs. This devalues the degree, perhaps unfairly.
 
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  • #5
oliviajohnsonoj said:
I have done master's in physics and I am not sure if I should also do PHD in physics or not.

malawi_glenn said:
Depends on the field and country.
Yes, the practices of the country of interest are important.

hutchphd said:
I think in the US, there is often a stigma attached to a masters in physics, because many such degreees are awarded to folks who "washed out" of PhD programs. This devalues the degree, perhaps unfairly.

But not, e.g., in Canada. Here it is not uncommon to register in a Master's with the intent of that being the terminal degree. It also is not uncommon to get a Bachelor's at school A, a Master's at school B, and a Ph.D. at school C.
 
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  • #6
Similar in Sweden, masters is before PhD. I can't think of anyone who has started their PhD without a masters degree here.
 
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  • #7
Here we go again. Every time this question comes up, there are many conflicting responses, depending on the country in which the OP is studying and on the country in which the OP plans to seek employment (and the country of the respondents). The OP's profile lists US as "country flag". But I'll wait for the OP to confirm country of study and country of employment before responding further.
 
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  • #8
Why does everybody who want to reply need to play Sherlock Holmes? Is it so hard to write in the OP what country and field that are of interest?
 
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  • #9
If you don't know whether or why you want a PhD, no you probably shouldn't enter a program.
 
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  • #10
Vanadium 50 said:
If you don't know whether or why you want a PhD, no you probably shouldn't enter a program.
A possible good question for the original poster is, why do you want a PhD in Physics? What do you want to do in order to earn a PhD in Physics? Or, what do you want to do DURING the earning of this advanced degree?
 
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  • #11
Here in the US I don't need no stinkin" master's degree........
 
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  • #12
hutchphd said:
Here in the US I don't need no stinkin" master's degree........
This makes me think of another question; not sure if it's a smart question or not:
Could person be qualified to enter a PhD program if person is qualified to enter Master Degree program? ANY country

Let me ask that a little differently.
IS a person qualified to enter PhD program if he is qualified to enter Master's Degree program?
 
  • #13
symbolipoint said:
This makes me think of another question; not sure if it's a smart question or not:
Could person be qualified to enter a PhD program if person is qualified to enter Master Degree program? ANY country

Let me ask that a little differently.
IS a person qualified to enter PhD program if he is qualified to enter Master's Degree program?
??? Well, if the student has completed only a bachelor's, and if the university requires completion of a bachelor's to be admitted to a master's program, but requires completion of a master's to be admitted to a PhD program, the answer would be, "No."
 
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  • #14
symbolipoint said:
Let me ask that a little differently.
IS a person qualified to enter PhD program if he is qualified to enter Master's Degree program?
Not in Engineering. But I'm not sure how that maps to Physics programs.
 
  • #15
symbolipoint said:
This makes me think of another question; not sure if it's a smart question or not:
Could person be qualified to enter a PhD program if person is qualified to enter Master Degree program? ANY country

Let me ask that a little differently.
IS a person qualified to enter PhD program if he is qualified to enter Master's Degree program?
In Germany usually you need an MSc to enter a PhD program.
 
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  • #16
The dirty little secret at some larger schools has been that the number of graduate assistants desired exceeds the number of PhD candidates who can eventually be supported. So admission to the PhD program will not always (even on paper) lead to the desired PhD degree. This presents a dilemma for potential candidates, perhaps allowing admission to the PhD program but hopefully they know the Damoclean sword lurks.
 
  • #17
hutchphd said:
The dirty little secret at some larger schools has been that the number of graduate assistants desired exceeds the number of PhD candidates who can eventually be supported. So admission to the PhD program will not always (even on paper) lead to the desired PhD degree. This presents a dilemma for potential candidates, perhaps allowing admission to the PhD program but hopefully they know the Damoclean sword lurks.
In trying to understand what that means, I am thinking, "Maybe person can be accepted to a graduate degree program, gain an assistant teaching position, but not actually finish to earn the graduate degree - for some reason."
 
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  • #18
symbolipoint said:
In trying to understand what that means, I am thinking, "Maybe person can be accepted to a graduate degree program, gain an assistant teaching position, but not actually finish to earn the graduate degree - for some reason."
In the schools that hutch is talking about, the "some reason" is usually failing to pass the qualifying examination.
 
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  • #19
CrysPhys said:
In the schools that hutch is talking about, the "some reason" is usually failing to pass the qualifying examination.
That's helpful for the understanding. On the institutions' end maybe they know some will succeed and some will not; but they want the teacher assistants/ graduate students to help with the workload. That was probably the point.
 
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  • #20
symbolipoint said:
That's helpful for the understanding. On the institutions' end maybe they know some will succeed and some will not; but they want the teacher assistants/ graduate students to help with the workload. That was probably the point.
Yes. This was decades ago at my university (my understanding is the situation has now changed), but when I entered my physics PhD program, the typical entering class size was ~100. The pass rate for the qualifying examination (2 attempts permitted) was ~50 %, by design. The physics PhD program had an excellent research reputation, but the school also had a large number of engineering undergraduates who needed to fulfill required physics classes. Hence a large number of graduate teaching assistants were needed, but there weren't enough research slots for all of them to advance to.

The department defended its policy by saying this practice was more democratic than that at peer universities with stricter admissions policies (i.e., the percentage of admitted students who did not complete the program was fairly small). By opening up the number of admissions, it gave students with a weaker undergraduate record a chance of redeeming themselves and obtaining a PhD from a first-class physics research department. A scenario that would be appealing to some students who post in this forum these days.
 
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  • #21
symbolipoint said:
This makes me think of another question; not sure if it's a smart question or not:
Could person be qualified to enter a PhD program if person is qualified to enter Master Degree program? ANY country

Let me ask that a little differently.
IS a person qualified to enter PhD program if he is qualified to enter Master's Degree program?
Not necessarily and it depends on the country. There's a very wide range in the type and quality of master's programs and the calibre of students they attract. Not all students who opt for a master's degree are targeting PhD admissions. Many do so for professional accreditation, improved career prospects, or as an immigration pathway. Some master's programs also are exploitative and of dubious quality existing solely as a money making endeavour for the university. They will admit students of low ability/preparation who may not be capable of even making it through the program.

In the US if a student's end goal is a PhD, the vast majority will only be doing a master's first because they aren't competitive for direct admit to the PhD of their choosing. They aren't necessarily incapable, they just may not have been able to demonstrate adequate preparation during their undergraduate career, or they may be looking to switch their field of study so need additional educational preparation, or a small subset may be qualified to be admitted to a PhD but are looking to make themselves more competitive for admission to more selective programs.

In other countries where having a master's first is a requirement for admission to a PhD, you'll still get students attending for a variety of reasons including obtaining a terminal master's degree for professional advancement. Not all would be qualified for admission to a PhD nor would they be wanting to be. The more selective the program however, the better the academic strength of the students and these students would most likely be targeting thesis based research master's degrees rather than course based master's more intended for professional accreditation and advancement.
 
  • #22
I didn't see if the original poster of the question give any indication of location or background so what I say will have the following presuppositions: You're a student in the United States and took a traditional path as far as education, undergrad right after high school and graduate school right after undergrad.

That being said, I've know people who've gotten Ph.Ds in various subjects. Some have regretted it and some didn't. You're going to be on your own with your research and it can be a lonely existence. If you had the motivation to complete a masters degree then I don't doubt your love and passion for the subject. However, it sounds like at this stage in your life, you're on the fence. I would recommend working in industry for a couple of years and see where you are then.

Best of luck,

clb
 
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  • #23
To all of those who have posted here:

As far as I can tell, the OP has not replied, or in any other way has been at all active, on this thread or any other thread on PF. Which leads me to question whether the OP seriously wants the input of the PF community, or is even real.
 
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