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Not sure if I should go for a MS or PHD After BS.

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  • Thread starter MidgetDwarf
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Main Question or Discussion Point

I have been thinking whether or not I should I go for an MS or PHD in mathematics (pure) right after my BS. I will receive 2 BS 2 years from now. One is in mathematics (pure) and the other in physics. I am considering doing mathematical physics, mathematical modeling, or teaching once I enter the workforce (ideally).
Due to economic factors, I was forced to transfer to a 4yr University near my home. The university is a state school in California, and is considered mediocre.

Some of my classes here are not "rigorous" enough, and this idea has led me to believe I will not be ready for PHD program. My preparation at a community college was above average, but at this university, it seems that teachers place in emphasis on teaching towards to lowest common denominator, and towards actually presenting the material suited for studies in a graduate program.

But as an adult, I am 27, I make sure to go beyond what is being offered in the lectures, and I try to teach myself the material at a higher level. Ie, I plan to go over Shilov's Analysis book on my own. My school uses Lax. In other words, I cover my tracks the best I can.

Now, there are a few teachers that are excellent, namely 3 in the math department. The problem is that the "easier" teachers teach most of the classes. However, the physics department is great here!

My eventual goal is to gain a phd in mathematics. I can play it safe, and go for a MS at another CalState. Most likely San Luis Obispo or Cal State Long Beach. My grades so far are good, I have a few internships under my belt, reputable people that are willing to write recommendation letters, and I will have research experience before I graduate. I was told that their is a program offers that gives students 20,000 dollars to cover the cost of their masters program at a Calstate, and other forms of aid. Then go to the "best" phd program i am able to get into.

My other idea, is that I may be wasting my time getting a masters. I heard that funding is good for students that are minorities pursing STEM disciplines.

Or should I just enter a phd program right away? What are the pro or cons of both options?

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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My quick advice is to immediately seek a PhD program if possible. I would only recommend a Masters degree if you feel you will not continue on to a PhD. That's from my own experience that may not transfer to your case but I felt, though my time pursuing a masters was worthwhile, it was not time efficient.
  • #3
In the US, a master followed by a PhD is quite uncommon.
In Europe, a master is (typically) required for a PhD program, but the PhD directly starts with research and no coursework. The US PhD is similar to master+PhD in Europe together.

If you are sure you want to get a PhD in the US, start it directly. If you are unsure, you can start a master program and then (a) do teaching without PhD or (b) get a PhD in Europe or (c) get a PhD in the US and try to get some of the master coursework counted towards the PhD.

Academic research will need a PhD, research elsewhere does not (but it can influence the options and salary), teaching outside universities will typically not depend on a PhD.

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