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Programs Second Bachelors in Physics, Masters or PhD?

  1. May 23, 2016 #1
    Hello,
    I'm a mechanical engineering student, graduating next year. But I'm interested in getting a PhD in physics.
    I know this has been asked a lot, I read through ZapperZ's excellent essay on the subject, his post, and many other related threads. But I'm still somewhat confused.
    Now I know for a fact that I'm under prepared to go directly for graduate school in physics, and that i need extra courses, but now my question is, what should I do next? I'm confused between these three options;
    1- Do a second Bachelors in physics (considering that it shouldn't take more than two years given my background)
    2- Do a Masters first, then a PhD (terminal masters?)
    3- Go straight for a PhD, if the university is welling to let me study a year or more before actually beginning.
    I'm referring here to the U.S. educational system, but advice on other countries' systems is welcome.
    Here are a few points to consider:
    - I have no research experience.
    - I wouldn't like to limit myself to any areas of physics as of now (something related to my Mech.E. for example).
    - I don't want to rush it, my physics education is very important to me.
    Also, do options 2 and 3 require me doing a GRE physics test, and take qualifying exams? or do I do that after finishing prerequisite courses?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 23, 2016 #2

    DrSteve

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    That you don't have research experience greatly constrains option 3). That you don't want to limit yourself to any areas of physics rules out 2) and 3). That you aren't in a hurry makes 1) viable. Given these observations I consider option 1 to be far and away the best option for you.
     
  4. May 24, 2016 #3
    How about financially? is there any difference? keeping in mind that, I think, all three options will require roughly the same amount of time (i.e. from beginning until earning a PhD)
     
  5. May 24, 2016 #4

    DrSteve

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    In an ideal world you wouldn't have to pay for 2) or 3), but you're not yet in a position to occupy that world, so it seems rather moot. The question becomes how cheaply can you do 1) If you can get a second major while still enrolled at your present institution I would jump all over that. Could you satisfy the requirements in 3 semesters?
     
  6. May 24, 2016 #5
    4 semesters (2 years), which I don't really mind, but I'd rather not stay in my current university. Would it be any different if I go somewhere else?

    I guess it's almost impossible to get financial aid or a scholarship for a second degree as well, right? but say I pay for these two years myself, (and maybe do well), would my chances increase of getting my PhD financed?*
    *I have to say that I'll be studying as an international student.
     
  7. May 24, 2016 #6
    Will a bachelors in physics really give you the extra background you need for a PhD? Bachelors programs are usually filled with more general courses and the majority of courses are the same for ME, physics, AE, electrical, etc like linear algebra, calculus, differential equations, etc.
    If you do a BSc in physics, do you need to redo the courses that you already did during your ME studies?
     
  8. May 24, 2016 #7
    What better background could I have than a bachelors in physics? And if you think doing a bachelors isn't my best option. what do you think is?
    I'm assuming that I won't have to take courses I previously did in my engineering degree. I'm pretty sure most (or at least some) universities will accept relevant credits.
     
  9. May 24, 2016 #8

    DrSteve

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    Well, for one, if you change schools you'll be there for 4 years, since that's what it takes to get attain a BS/BA (even if you already have one). However, a second major at your current school could be acquired fairly easily.

    Since I don't know where you are from and where you would be thinking of applying to, I can't say too much about governmental financial aid, but it's extremely unlikely that you would get a scholarship or merit aid the second time around, especially as a international student.

    With a degree in physics you would be in the same position as any other grad school applicant. It would depend on your the quality and quantity of your research, grades, GRE scores, letters and caliber of the program you would apply to.
     
  10. May 24, 2016 #9
    Don't you think that there are some colleges that would credit some courses from my first degree? (e.g. Introductory physics, calculus, ODEs, PDEs.. etc)
    Anyway, thanks a lot for your helpful input.
     
  11. May 24, 2016 #10

    DrSteve

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    Perhaps, but what is your rationale for not doing a double major where you are now located?
     
  12. May 25, 2016 #11
    Many good reasons, and some personal ones, beside the fact that my college doesn't offer a double major. I think I'll have to look more into the matter, and directly contact my, and other, colleges. But to sum up, you think I'm better off (by far) doing a bachelors, correct?
     
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