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MS Physics Engineering or straight to PhD?

  1. Feb 22, 2013 #1

    I didn't see a place to post introductions, so I suppose I'll jump right in.

    I'm currently going back to school after a six year stint in the finance industry (protip: not a fun or fulfilling field). The way that Colorado's Department of Higher Education has the university system structured, it makes the most sense to go to a CC to get an associate's degree before transferring to a four-year, as CU is required to admit anyone with an AS from a Colorado two-year as a junior.

    My question, then: understanding that my goal is to get a PhD in particle physics/cosmology in the long term, would it make sense to try and head straight into a PhD program after my BS, or to spend an extra year to get an MS in Engineering Physics? I would be inclined to try and get into the doctoral program were it not for the fact that my wife's work will have us relocating to Geneva in a few years, and CERN appears to always be looking for engineers. My logic is, if I get a job there as an engineer and later leave to get my PhD at ETH or somesuch, I will already have both contacts and standing if I choose to go back as a researcher.

    I would greatly appreciate the input of the community.

    Kind regards,

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 25, 2013 #2
    If you are certain that you want a Ph.D., you should enter a Ph.D. program after you have completed your B.S. That is the usual path in the U.S.

    Also, I can't speak for CERN, but at the national lab where I work, there are *many* Ph.D.'s in physics working as engineers. So 1) you probably don't need an M.S. in Engineering Physics if being an engineer at CERN is your goal, and 2) you probably don't want to present yourself as an engineer if your goal is to do research.
  4. Feb 25, 2013 #3
    Hello TMFKAN64,

    Thank you for your perspective. It's interesting that you mention that you work at a national lab--I've been looking at possibly interning for one at some point, but everything that I've seen appears to be devoted to coming up with new and fancy weapons systems, which is something that I have a few qualms about. In your opinion, is this the case? Or would there be opportunity to do work that has a more pacifistic focus?


  5. Feb 26, 2013 #4
  6. Feb 26, 2013 #5
    There are many national labs and they each have a slightly different focus. As you say, many of them, unsurprisingly, are focused on weapons research. However, even at these labs, there are usually projects that are not weapons-related. And on the other extreme, there are some national labs where no classified research is done at all.
  7. Feb 28, 2013 #6
    Hello TMFKAN64,

    Thank you for the information. I really appreciate it.


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