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Programs Physics PhD programs WITHOUT formal coursework

  1. Jul 12, 2012 #1
    Hi all,

    I'm wondering if there are any PhD programs in the US (or abroad, for that matter) that do not have formal coursework requirements. That is, suppose someone took a standard graduate load while in undergrad and was prepared for quals right away: are there any programs that allow you to take quals upon entering and begin research? I'd even be interested in hearing about programs that have less course requirements. Maybe the student had a weak spot from undergrad and wants to take one or two courses but not a full load. Thanks in advance!
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  3. Jul 12, 2012 #2

    Dr Transport

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  4. Jul 12, 2012 #3
    Rockefeller University does not really have course requirements, but they mainly focus on biophysics. They want students to begin research right away.
  5. Jul 12, 2012 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    Most places are reasonably flexible, but...

    1. The attitude "I have nothing to learn from you guys, so I don't want to take classes from you" is not likely to win you friends.

    2. Universities often have a minimum classwork requirement independent of the department's. As a rule, they don't like like the idea of someone getting a degree from them without having stepped foot in a classroom. To take Rockefeller as an example, you need seven courses - and while they are non-specific about which seven, you need to take seven.
  6. Jul 13, 2012 #5
    Well, in the UK no PhDs have coursework (there may be an exception, but I've not heard of them). Most PhDs are 3-3.5 years of full-time research. If there is a particular weakness you can attend undergrad lectures, but there are no exams.
  7. Jul 13, 2012 #6


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    Similar to what streeters pointed out, also in continental Europe PhD programs usually come without coursework. In both cases, however, you would either need a Masters degree, or at least need to convince the admission offices that you have the skills a Masters degree holder would have.
  8. Jul 13, 2012 #7
    This isn't the case in the UK. Only 2 unis that I can think of (imperial and cambridge) ask for 4 years study, all the others only need a 3 year undergrad degree before starting PhD. They usually need at least a 2:1 and to have completed an honours thesis.

    So you an go from school to doctorate in a bit over 6 years if you want.
  9. Jul 13, 2012 #8
    In general there is no grad school in most universities in Europe, but this is kind of fluid. I worked in Delft university in the Netherlands, and as of this year some faculties have started grad. school for PhD students. Nothing too demanding though, the credits can be acquired comfortably during the 4 years of research. Generally a Master's degree is required for admission, but there are exceptions for noteworthy BScs (I personally know of one. This guy for instance already had a patent).

    As for the UK I only really know about the Imperial college, where you indeed need a master's degree. In my case, having 2 years of work experience and some papers also helped a lot. There is no coursework that I am aware of.

    However, because of the nature of academic research, I'm pretty sure there are ALWAYS exceptions for gifted people. For instance, if you finished college at 14 or 16 like some guys, no one will really care if you only have a BSc :tongue:
  10. Jul 13, 2012 #9
    At the University of Maryland you are only required to take two courses outside your area of research. Depending on the research you are doing, you may also need to take some advanced specialized courses as well. You are not required to take any of the "core" classes (i.e. E+M, mechanics, quantum, stat mech...). The only purpose of the core classes is to prepare you for the qualifying exam and if you feel you don't need them to pass the exam then you do not need to take them.

    In terms of the qualifying exam, you are allowed to take the exam your first week here before classes start if you feel you are prepared for it.
  11. Jul 13, 2012 #10
    It really does depend on your demeanor, but I found that if you are in a good university some courses are worth checking out, even if you don't have to take them. A 2-hour lecture by a good professor can easily be worth 1 month of studying from a book.
  12. Jul 13, 2012 #11
    Damn, it took me 10 years from graduating high school to getting my PhD. That 4 years is a pretty big opportunity cost.
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