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Studying masters degree in physics in US

  1. Mar 17, 2015 #1
    From your own experience and because of your familiarity with your local institutes, what are the best universities in which one can pursue masters degree for 2016-2018 as a two year program and if also you are knowledgeable about universities that offer a one year MSc program as in UK for example?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 18, 2015 #2
    Well, it depends on what you're planning on for a career. If you want in on Academia, then a Master's program will be just about your worst option, as for Academia you absolutely need a PhD (same for many areas of industry) and even just having a bachelor's with relevant work experience may be better. A Master's in physics is a very unusual choice, I'm curious as to what your thinking was there (unless you're not in the States, in which case I know very little of your system).

    As for good programs, I am not very knowledgeable, but obviously the higher tier ones are going to be MIT, Princeton, Berkeley, etc. and for middle tier Universities, the East Coast has many good opportunities (especially in Maryland, New Jersey, etc.), and I also hear that Texas has several good colleges in STEM.
  4. Mar 18, 2015 #3
    What do you mean by worst option? Isn't a Masters degree followed then by PhD degree?
  5. Mar 18, 2015 #4


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    In the US, students intending to get a PhD in physics normally enter a PhD program directly after finishing a bachelor's degree. A PhD program here is more or less equivalent to a MSc + PhD in many other countries including the UK. It is not the usual procedure here to do the MS and PhD separately. My impression is that most physics MS programs here are terminal degrees that are for people who do not intend to go on to a PhD; e.g. they are specialized programs in specific application areas for employment in industry, or further-education programs for high-school teachers.
  6. Mar 18, 2015 #5
    I meant exactly what jtbell said. The time put into a Master's would be much better spend on work experience if you don't plan to go all in and get a PhD, and in many programs you kind of get the Master's along the way without going to a program for it, as he also mentioned.

    This is how it is in the United States, but as I said it may be different in another country. What country are you from?
  7. Mar 18, 2015 #6
    In the US, students take 1 to 2 years of master courses, skip their master thesis, and do a 2 to 3 year PhD-lite.

    If you want to do a PhD in Europe, you need an MSc. They don't usually offer one in the US, so contact that grad school and ask about what they can set up for you. Make sure it is a top school or else you'll be in trouble when you come back in Europe.
  8. Mar 18, 2015 #7

    Vanadium 50

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    It's usually called an MS in the US.
  9. Mar 18, 2015 #8
    I mean if it so unusual to do stuff separately?
  10. Mar 18, 2015 #9


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    Fellowships like the Fullbright, Gates, and Churchill are very prestigious and incredibly competitve and the people who do them most often have already been accepted to PhD program prior to beginning fellowship. I have a friend and know of other students who got the fellowship, chose a grad school in the states, and then deferred for a year to attend Cambridge (or whatever university they chose). They will come back and start grad school here next fall. For these fellowships, it's not about the degree, it's about the experience and prestige.
  11. Mar 18, 2015 #10
    I am talking fullbright to MS rather than that to PhD
  12. Mar 19, 2015 #11


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    Is it too late for me to say that I covered this topic in Part VII of my essay?

    Secondly, to the OP, there are HUNDREDS of physics graduate schools in the US, all with different level of expertise, area of concentrations, etc. There is no such thing as a "best university", despite all the surveys and rankings. You choose what area you want to go into and then narrow down a list of universities (there's a good chance you may not get into your top choices). It is also unusual for someone to focus this much on a Masters program, since for many students, taking a terminal Masters program usually meant that the student does not intend on being a practicing physicist. If that's the case, then why would it matter that much where one goes to graduate school?

  13. Mar 19, 2015 #12


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    In this case the OP is apparently not from the US, but is accustomed to a system such as the UK's where the MS/MSc is customarily taken as a separate program before the PhD, and often at a different university. He wants to do the MS here and presumably return home or go to some other country for the PhD. I have no idea how that would mesh with our system, especially since he apparently already has funding in the form of a Fulbright fellowship.

    Back when I was in graduate school 35 years ago there were a number of international students, but they were all doing the full PhD program. I've never known anyone who was in the OP's situation.

    My advice would be to study the web sites of various universities that he might be interested in, to see if they address his situation, and then contact the departments directly for more specific information. As for which universities he should investigate, that depends on his interests and abilities. As Zz noted, there are many universities here, and in some fields the "best" ones are not the obvious "big names."
  14. Mar 19, 2015 #13
    If you don't plan to get a job in the US, you need an MSc when you want to be properly educated. You won't just get MSc-level job experience with just a BSc in Europe.
    More likely or not you are stuck as a BSc level technician and nowadays more and more employees want you to get a MBA before you move into higher tier management.

    So yes, stopping at a BSc would be a bad idea if you are ambitious (and from Europe).
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