1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Programs Nuclear Engineering - PhD or leave with MS

  1. Jun 14, 2012 #1
    I have just finished my first year in a Nuclear Engineering PhD program at a top ranked university. My undergrad was also in NE. I am studying nuclear materials, as in fuel cladding and core structural materials, and I plan on starting a career in the subject. I am now questioning my PhD and considering a masters (or possibly 2).

    Wants: I would like to do reactor materials research, or lead a research team. I would like to spend time out of the lab on a day to day basis though, possibly consulting and sharing technologies with other groups. I love research and the idea of technology development but don't necessarily want to run the actual experiments myself...

    Problems: I am having personal differences with my PhD adviser, I do not want to pursue academia or government work, and I am feeling like this degree is going to take forever (4 more years).

    Options: I could deal with my adviser and get the PhD, I could leave after this coming fall semester with a masters in NE, or I could get a masters in NE and stay for 1 more semester and get an additional masters in Materials Science (I'd stay both semesters next academic year).

    My questions to you all: Are the kinds of positions I am describing available? Do my career interests really even warrant a PhD? I am thinking twice now. Would I have the same opportunities with the two masters, for what I want to do? Maybe better opportunities? If I really wanted to become part of a leading edge reactor materials group would I need a PhD in general or would there be opportunities with master(s) degrees? Do people with masters degrees have real research opportunities as well as those with PhDs? Is overqualifying one's self a threat in this field?

    I'd like to have the highest probability of finding a good job. I'd also like to set myself up for possibly working internationally. So basically, should I get a PhD, masters in NE, or masters in NE and MSE?

    Thanks for any input!!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 16, 2012 #2
    270 views and no thoughts?
  4. Jun 16, 2012 #3
    (Know that I am not experienced in this field, and am just stating what I have generally seen from those more qualified to respond to this than I).

    If you want to do research, then you'll need a PhD. My guess is that the odds of not only being able to do research, but to lead a research team would be far higher if you got a PhD.

    Besides, it's common knowledge that graduate programs blow. I can't imagine that it would be fun, but don't give up on something because you don't like your advisor, or because you want to get out of there in one or two years as opposed to four.


    Anyways, wait for somebody with some actual experience to respond. All of that is what I have picked up from reading around here, but I think the general consensus will be that following through and getting the PhD would be the smarter option of the two.
  5. Jun 16, 2012 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    If one has started a PhD program, then perhaps see it through. Four years seems a bit long though, unless one is doing some long term experiments.

    Having a MS is sufficient to get a good research job, especially if it is in an area in demand.

    Leading edge in reactor materials would be a position within Toshiba/Westinghouse or AREVA in the US, or European affiliate, or GEH. Working for a foreign corporation would be difficult since they tend to hire from within the nation.

    MS or PhD graduates do have real research opportunities.

    I recommend that engineers try to be diverse in materials, thermal hydraulics, mechanics of materials, and possibly neutronics.
  6. Jun 16, 2012 #5
    Thanks for the responses. Perhaps I should contact these companies and ask them what they look for for these positions.

    Is it true for this field, that those with a PhD might be considered "overqualified" for one of these positions? Will opportunities in the nuclear materials sects of companies be markedly different for PhDs compared to MS degrees?
  7. Jun 16, 2012 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    PhDs can be overspecialized but not overqualified. It's best to be diversified in areas outside of one's specialty.

    A PhD involves original research as compared to guided research for others. It usually implies a deeper understanding of the subject(s). If one has an opportunity to obtain a PhD then do so. If one can do a MS in parallel, in a different area, that would be good too.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook