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Programs Masters before Phd in Mathematics -bad idea?

  1. Sep 28, 2012 #1
    Masters before Phd in Mathematics --bad idea?

    Hi all,

    I am a senior at a regional campus of a large state university in the US. I have always thought that since I love math (and I do really love learning and doing math), that love of the subject would be enough to propel me through a PhD program, but now I am unsure. I have been doubting my ability to enjoy doing research to the point that I can complete a thesis, but moreover I have been doubting my ability to even be a capable enough researcher to even finish a thesis.

    To add to the problem, I am beginning to feel that I have not given applied maths a far shake at this point. I have really only taken more pure math courses and I worry that I might end up enjoying applied math more.

    So to my point, I really feel that getting a terminal masters degree in math and then reevaluating my abilities and desires pertaining to a PhD is the best fit for me, but I have heard that it is not recommended. I feel that in doing this however, I will get a better feel for what area of math I would enjoy most and it may be that all I need to sate my professional desires is a masters and I can just purse more advanced math as a hobby.

    So what would you all do if you were me and how did you all go about making similar decisions regarding your graduate studies. Also, what are some of the disadvantages of taking this route?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 28, 2012 #2
    Re: Masters before Phd in Mathematics --bad idea?

    IMO it is a good idea. I'm doing that now (though not on purpose.) From my experience grad level classes are MUCH different than undergrad classes. Not just harder, but different. I mean they are harder, but that's not just it. I think before you can really determine if you want to do math, you should take so e grad level courses. I know of at least one person who thought he wanted a Ph.D. but started in a masters program and has realised that he doesn't want a phd.
  4. Sep 28, 2012 #3


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    Re: Masters before Phd in Mathematics --bad idea?

    I don't think it's a bad idea at all, and your reasons for doing so seem well considered. If you later decide to pursue a Ph.D., you can explain in your essay why you went for the master's degree first. If anything, it will make you a stronger candidate because you'll be better prepared, although beware that some departments may have shorter deadlines for people who already have a master's when they start.
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