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Is going for a second masters worthy?

  1. Sep 19, 2015 #1
    Well, I've recently obtained an integrated masters degree (Mphy Astrophysics (4 years) from the UK with 63% of average. I would like to specialize in theoretical high energy physics in one of the top universities in the world (mine is around top 30 in the UK). I believe if I get another masters with high scores (perhaps over 80), probably an Euro masters (2 years) in either phyiscs or mathematical physics, plus few publications, I will have greater chances to get one of the top universities for the PHD. Furthermore, I will not repeat any of the subjects that I'm gonna study in my second masters. For example we didn't even have a choice to study quantum field theory which is normally taught in master level. Also I have an average above 70% (4.0 gpa in US) for all the mathematical and theoretical physics subjects, and 71% for my research project (GR and gravitational waves) which worths half the credits of my final year (60 out of 120). Do you think it's worthy going for a second masters? What are your ideas? Thanks in advance!
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 19, 2015 #2


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    What pulled the marks down? Your average was 63% but everything you've mentioned was above 70%.
  4. Sep 19, 2015 #3
    Well mostly computing, programming and experimental subjects.
  5. Sep 19, 2015 #4


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    Ok, I see a problem here. Your experimental subjects were low and your project mark of 71% doesn't seem that great. I didn't do physics but I had a big project and got 80%. And IMHO, markers are willing to give 80% if a project has some level of excellence. If they can't call it excellent, they are more likely to give a mark like 70%.

    So taken together, low marks in experimental stuff and a project mark that seems to be not quite hitting the mark, a conclusion that one sees there, and it may well be the wrong conclusion, but can you see that someone might look at that and say, this person seems to be someone who is a good studier, has good habits, but didn't have a knack for physics? When it came to experiments, when it came to the project, his marks dropped a little.

    And I'm not saying this is true, because it's tough over many years in college to score consistently well when you have many different teachers and some subjects are just not that interesting. But the big worry for me is that project mark. To say, it's okay, I'll do another Masters and take theoretical subjects, that then looks like you didn't do well on the experimental side and you moved toward the theoretical. And no one really trusts someone who is purely theoretical. The other thing to think about is that you need to get a job at the end of this. Is another Masters learning QFT going to get you there? How much value does it add to what you have now? It think it adds little if you shy away from everything you did bad in. One can already see, I think, that you did well in the theoretical stuff. I think it adds something if your second Masters is applied, so that you are more rounded.

    They do say, jack of all trades, master of none. In that sense, there is an argument that being excellent is what it's all about, even if there are things you aren't excellent in. But I think the argument that you put it right beats any advantage that one has from being a very good theoretician or whatever.

    PS. Just because I said it, doesn't make it true.
  6. Sep 19, 2015 #5


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    I can't help, but wonder if in pursuing a second master's degree you would be trying to solve a problem that is not yet proven to exist.

    I have no experience with the UK or European systems, so I can't offer any insight as to how competitive you would be for the PhD position that is your eventual goal. But it would seem that the ideal route would be to attempt to get into the PhD program that you desire, and if that doesn't work out, then re-evaluate your situation to see if a second master's degree would help the situation. That way you don't go through an MSc program for no reason (other than perhaps picking up the additional classes).

    If you're worried about timelines and you're unsure about your chances of acceptance you could apply to both concurrently.

    It might also be worth investigating whether this is allowed at all. Some schools (in the Canadian and US systems) won't accept you for a second MSc if you already have a related one.
  7. Sep 20, 2015 #6


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    Just going through the program is not the point. The point is to tailor the program to be about practical stuff. At the moment, his CV is lacking on the practical side. Is this not something to consider? I think that would still be an issue even with a PhD. Like I said, no one really trusts a pure theoretician. I question whether sparkling theoretical stuff can outweigh the perception that there is an issue there with practicality.

    Other threads on the same topic have suggested that a second Masters won't help because anyone would do well doing a second Masters, so what does it really say? But when your first Masters is saying, "I stuck my head in a book because I couldn't handle the rigors of practicality", that is a red flag to me.

    If it is the case that having a PhD means no one looks at the Masters, then it is okay, but I suspect that it's not true and people do look at past results. The good must counter the bad. If a PhD can do that, then okay. But at the moment, I'm seeing someone who IMHO underperformed in the Masters. And even being a PhD, how one did as a Masters student would seem to say more about the practical than the actual PhD. If I'm wrong in this point, I will hold my hands up and apologize. And please step in to correct me. But if I'm not wrong, it would help the OP to flush out the weakness that is not proven to be an issue but may turn out to be one. Now is the time, right?

    You want the best CV possible. At the moment, he is not competing as a Masters, IMHO. He can do the PhD but he needs to compete then as a PhD and this Masters performance is always there, is it not? At the end of the day, no one should think that school isn't about getting the best result you can. It is about learning skills and this does count, but you are there to achieve and do well. IMHO, OP dropped the ball somewhat, it's not terminal by any means, but there is a perception there and a second Masters could correct it. And he was already thinking about a second Masters, although having it be all about pure theory (QFT, etc) is, I believe, missing the opportunity of eradicating this perception for good.

    Perhaps I can package-deal it. A second Masters could be worthwhile if it demonstrates that you are competent practically and can be trusted to get on with it and produce high-quality output. I don't see how that could be bad. A second Masters could fail to be worthwhile if it furthers your knowledge but leaves the practicality issue dormant.
  8. Sep 21, 2015 #7
    Thanks a lot guys. Perhaps as Choppy suggested applying for another masters and a PHD concurrently is a good idea.
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