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Physics MS vs. MA?

  1. Nov 20, 2013 #1
    Is there any difference between an MS and MA in Physics? I want to apply to Boston University for graduate school, but they only offer an MA in physics. Also note that in either case I am going on to earn my PhD, if that's relevant.
     
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  3. Nov 20, 2013 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    If you get a PhD, nobody cares if you even have a masters.
     
  4. Nov 20, 2013 #3

    Pythagorean

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    The thing I might be worried about is that there's less chance of turning a master's thesis into a publishable paper if it's an MA. If you're eventually getting a PhD, it doesn't hurt to come out of it with a couple publications.

    I have no experience with MA's though, so I could be wrong.
     
  5. Nov 21, 2013 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    Then why did you feel compelled to reply? Seriously - I don't know what it is about this section that makes people give uninformed advice. We have even had high school students try to give PhD students advice.

    Boston University does not have a masters thesis. They don't even have a masters program. They permit someone partway through the PhD program to pick up a masters. So what you wrote doesn't really apply.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2013
  6. Nov 21, 2013 #5

    Pythagorean

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    Because many MA's don't require a thesis so there would be nothing to publish. I wasn't givng advice. I was raising a point for discussion. I explicitly declared my lack of credibility.

    More importantly, the point can be discussed without getting meta about it...
     
  7. Nov 21, 2013 #6

    jtbell

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    We may be stumbling yet again on the difference in common practice in the US versus common practice in many (most?) other countries.

    In the US, a student who intends to pursue a PhD in physics normally enters a PhD program directly after finishing an undergraduate degree. Along the way, he can usually "pick up" a master's degree after completing a certain number of hours of coursework. In my case (at Michigan) this was an MS. At Boston it's apparently an MA. A master's thesis is not (normally) part of this process.

    As V50 noted, if you finish the PhD, it doesn't matter whether you picked up the master's or not.

    Also, one normally does not transfer from one school to another at this stage.

    Many universities also have a "terminal master's" program which is separate from the PhD track. These programs do include a master's thesis, but they are not intended to lead into a PhD program. My impression is that these programs are mainly for "applied physics" areas (i.e. lead into industrial jobs), or for high school teachers who are upgrading their credentials.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2013
  8. Nov 21, 2013 #7

    Pythagorean

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    I was advised during my undergrad that getting all three degrees at different institutions was viewed favorably (diversity of pedagogy). Is there any truth to that?

    My M.S. (in the states) led to publishable work that (I presume) got me into the international PhD program I wanted to get into (whereas some of my peers were switching to M.A.'s so so they could just get out of academics with a project). But I don't know how representative this is of universities nationwide.
     
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