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Programs PhD with a 2.1 (UK)

  1. Apr 23, 2012 #1
    For a variety of reasons I did not do very much work in my degree and will probably get a 2.1 Physics MSci. I feel sure that I could have got a 1st if any of these things - combination of illness, personal problems and initial lack of motivation - had not happened.

    I was not initially sure I wanted to continue in physics. However, each year my courses have become more interesting, and I have very much enjoyed my thesis project and would like to continue in physics to do a PhD.

    Apparently a 2.1 is not really good enough to get into PhDs, at least not unless you're willing to accept whatever you are given with little choice of area or supervisor.

    So my question is, what can I do to fix this? Is doing an MSc sufficient? And if so, what mark would be required to == a 1st at undegrad? Presumably distinction?

    I am hoping my dreams are not over before they've begun...

    [Nb for American etc. readers: a 2.1 is an honours classification, not a GPA. I believe it correlates to 3.3-3.7 GPA, depending who you ask.]
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 23, 2012 #2
    Getting onto a PhD with a 2:1 is certainly achievable, and not at all uncommon. It will slightly limit your choices, you are less likely to get into one of the very top Universities (Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, Durham, Warwick etc.), but there will be plenty of other opportunities available. Pretty much anyone with 2:1 can get a funded PhD in the UK providing they are flexible about location, institution and exact subject area. Where you degree is from is also going to make a difference.

    Remember that people with first class degrees do not necessarily make better researchers than those with 2:1s.

    It will also help a lot if you did well in you final year project and can get a good reference from your supervisor.

    Doing a masters may help if it's relevant to the PhD you want to do. It would probably help a lot if you do a Masters at the University you want to study for you PhD in as you will have a foot in the door. However, it could be expensive investment, given that PhD stipends and Postdoc salaries will hardly make you rich.
  4. Apr 23, 2012 #3
    The problem is I have quite specific interests, rather than just wanting to do 'a Physics PhD'. Don't want to be too specific in a public forum, but while it's not in string theory or something crazy, it's not entirely uncompetitive either.

    My degree is from a top university and final year project/reference is looking good. I thought the former didn't matter.

    I'm not worried about not being a good researcher, just ticking the boxes for admission ;). For instance at my university there is a synoptic exam that I have a very high mark in, but the individual courses at the time I got only mediocre marks... I know the stuff and can do well in it, I just didn't work very hard a lot of the time, and then when I started I encountered some personal problems (more recently). All sounds like lame excuses, but sadly true. Of course it is possible I won't be a good researcher but I don't think my mediocre exam marks would be anything to do with that.

    I may look seriously at a specialised masters. They seem to exist for what I want. I'm glad to hear that this can help.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2012
  5. Apr 24, 2012 #4
    It's not supposed to matter too much, but I think there probably is an effect, particularly for people with 2:1s rather than 1sts.

    I think it's variable, so best to try to gauge opinion within your own field. Where I work as a postdoc they like to recruit a lot from the local masters degree because the research is quite inter-disciplinary and so not very heavily related to any one specific undergraduate degree.

    Good luck anyway!
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