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Looking for Advice on MS v Ph.D. and Letters of Rec

  1. Sep 9, 2009 #1
    I graduated with a BS in Engineering Physics 7 years ago, and at that time I wasn't able to go to grad school. Since then I've been doing computer software and frankly hate it, and really wish I could have finished my education then. Anyhow, I would like to go pursue the advanced degree in physics so I can finally make that my career. My goal is to do research in gravity a la gravity waves and the general theory of relativity, but perhaps the computational route since therein lies my experience. So, my questions are

    1) Would it be recommended to go to a masters program or straight to a ph.d. program? and
    2) What recommendations can be made concerning letters of recommendations?

    Question 1 arises more from insecurity, I'm wondering if it's advisable to get the masters first because my overall GPA was shotty and my major GPA was only 3.00. I haven't taken the Physics GRE yet, but I'm not sure I'd score very high seeing as I haven't been doing physics over the past 7 years.

    Question 2 is really confusing me. Most schools look like they want 3 academic recommendations, but I haven't kept in contact with any profs from undergrad (not even the prof I did research with). So, I have no contacts for academic recs, but I can get professional ones no problem.

    Any insight is appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 9, 2009 #2
    I'd suggest the MS first. You need to paper over the fact that you haven't done much physics lately, and when you were studying, your results were a bit spotty.

    I think that professional recommendations are fine. It might be slightly better if you could get recommendations from people with graduate degrees... the recommendations should speak to your suitability for graduate studies, and I think that this is better addressed by people who know what this entails.

    Good luck!
  4. Sep 9, 2009 #3
    I'd say, go for an MS first. That way, you can get some research experience, academic letters of recommendation, brush up on physics, and probably get into a better PhD school. Unfortunately, you probably won't get any funding.
  5. Sep 9, 2009 #4
    Thanks for the replies! That's kind of what I was thinking and have been preparing for.

    Good insight on the professional recommendations, tmfkan64, thanks!

    I did do some undergrad research and got the results published (lucky enough to have my name first), but that was so long ago I'm thinking it's not going to carry a lot of weight. I also won a university-wide award for it :)

    Can anyone recommend a SoCal school with a decent MS program?
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