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Physics MS

  1. Sep 25, 2010 #1
    I'm an Dutch Physics and Astronomy student, and if all goes according to plan I'll be getting my Bachelor degrees in both this year.
    I was planning to get my Master in physics after this, and hopefully in the US, but when I started checking universities (UCLA, Berkely, MIT etc.) they all seem to have a strict policy of only allowing students who are going to get their PhD.
    Now I would like to get a PhD, but that is 6 years of study and research, and since I'll be moving to another country for this, this is a long time. That's why I would first like to get a Master, which is 1 or 2 years, so I'll be able to see what it's like there.
    But am I correct in my findings that this is not possible in the US at such universities?
    Thanks in advance
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 25, 2010 #2
    I believe US universities don't typically have terminal masters programs unlike in Europe, some do but it's not the norm. Although I've been led to believe that sometimes weaker students are allowed to graduate with an MS after 2 years, but employers don't necessarily look upon this qualification favourably, being aware that it is more of a consolation prize.

    You could get your MS in Europe, then perhaps US institutes would allow you to skip some of their graduate courses in the first 2 years and get straight down to research to finish the PhD slightly earlier, on the other hand some will insist you repeat them at their own institute, it's very variable.

    In short, I think it's definitely possible to enrole as a masters student and then transfer to PhD, and vice versa. I would say look to enrol in a PhD where you are allowed the MS get out clause, rather than MS then transfer to PhD. I found the website www.physicsgre.com quite useful in all things to do with US applications and the physics gre test etc when I was applying, so perhaps someone their can help too.

    Maybe you could just go over there for an open day, talk to students and hopefully get at least some feeling if a PhD and life over there would be for you.
  4. Sep 25, 2010 #3
    Checking whether the living is going to be for me isn't the main point, as I lived in the US for about a year with my parents, and I've visited a couple of times on vacation.
    It's more about the university itself, how the atmosphere is there. I've heard that we have much more freedom in research and how we do our research compared to US universities. For example in my 2nd year I got to work with a STM and NMR, and was told that we were lucky, because in the US no undergraduate would ever get to work with this sort of equipment.
    And the MS in Europe isn't necessarily a terminal degree, you simply have to get it before you can apply to most PhD programs in Europe. Unless by terminal you mean that it's the only degree you get from the program.
    I'll check out your site, but I think I'm going to get my MS in Europe first, and then see what I can do after that. Especially if a MS from US universities is considered a consolation, if you didn't get your PhD after that.
  5. Sep 27, 2010 #4


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    As LAHLH said, it's not the norm. In the standard US Physics program from a major research institution like you describe, the Master's degree is almost a throwaway that you just happen to acquire "on the way."
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