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Master's in Applied Physics

  1. Jun 20, 2008 #1
    Hey guys, I just had a question concerning graduate school.

    I completed my freshman year at college and will begin sophomore year in the fall. I'll be taking Classical Mechanics and Advanced Lab. I have taken Physics 1, 2, 3, and a physics elective (medical physics). As for math, I've done Cal I, II, III, and Diffy Q.

    Anywho, currently, I am doing what is called a "liberal arts" education. Well, I'm pre-med and I have to take these time-consuming honors classes (usually 2/semester). I will basically only have time to finish a BA in Physics (minor in math). Thus, I want to go to graduate school and try for a Master's degree in engineering physics or applied physics before attempting to do anything else so I have an advanced, more solidified background in physics.

    My question is: How competitive are master's degrees in applied physics/engineering physics?
    (compared to PhD programs) Is it easier to get in? Are Physics GRE score averages generally lower? Is my reasoning sufficient for wanting to apply for a Master's degree?

    Cost isn't a real concern, to be honest.

    Thanks guys
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 21, 2008 #2
    1. Do you actually WANT to go to medical school?

    2. Terminal master's programs are USUALLY a bit easier to get into, although I am not sure that rule is absolute.
  4. Jun 21, 2008 #3
    Yes, I do intend on going to medical school, but I was hoping to do an MD/PhD program. I want to apply for a PhD in biomedical engineering, neuroscience, or applied physics, but I just don't think I"ll have the sufficient background in physics for a PhD. That's the jist of my reason for doing a Master's...
  5. Jun 21, 2008 #4


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    In my opinion the difference between a thesis-based M.Sc. and a Ph.D. is simply that the research/thesis project is is longer and more independently guided for the the Ph.D. The background needed to do either is about the same. Doing an M.Sc. allows you to develop the skills needed to do the independent work required at the Ph.D. level. But as far as the fundamental physics background required for entry - it's about the same.

    In the MD/PhD program where I work, the PhD is in medical science. You can't just pick any field you want (although this may be different elsewhere).

    Have you considered medical physics?
  6. Jun 21, 2008 #5
    Yes, I have considered medical physics, but I don't really find it that interesting. I actually visited a couple of hospitals to see what they do. It was cool, but I don't think I would enjoy it that much. I thought the actually machinery was the most interesting part, not really the processes they go through for helping a patient.

    Choppy, your post worries me because I really don't think I'll have a good physics background for graduate school. I don't think my university has an adequate physics department, which is something I found out this past year. Also, I was hoping to do an MS without a thesis component.

    I guess this is an open question, then. Do you guys think it makes sense to get an MS in Applied Physics/Engineering Physics at all? Or am I better off just attempting to go to medical school?

    I guess I'm just confused...
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2008
  7. Jun 21, 2008 #6


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    I suppose it depends on what you want to do.

    If your plan is to do medicine, an additional master's degree would be nice, but will you really need it? Doctors are generally pretty busy people. Those in the MD/PhD program that I'm familiar concentrate on the efficacy of different modalities of radiation cancer therapy. But it's not like they see patients in the morning and design new linear accelerators in the afternoon - it's more like they see patients in the morning and spend a significant amount of time designing clinical trials. (Again, it may be different at other institutions.)

    If you'd prefer to concentrate on research (and are happy with the considerably lesser pay scale), then you should pursue the graduate school option. It's nice to see that you actually went to a hospital to talk with people about a potential career - that's really the best way of investigating the matter.

    Further, assuming your background qualifies you for entrance to grad school, it's not unheard of for grad students to take senior level undergraduate courses to polish up in areas of weakness.
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