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Which graduate physics degree at Cambridge to apply for as an American with a BS?

  1. Sep 19, 2012 #1
    I want to apply to Cambridge as well as for the Gates Cambridge scholarship. However, I am unsure of which programs I am eligible for as an American student with a 4 year bachelor of science in physics from a strong liberal arts college. I believe that in Europe, a bachelor's degree is three years. I also believe that traditionally a 1-2 year masters is completed before the PhD in most cases.

    The PhD program is only 3 years, and I don't know if they accept Americans directly into it from their bachelors, or if a master of some sort is required. They say regarding the PhD: "requires applicants to have followed a four-year MSci or equivalent first degree and to have achieved or be about to achieve at least an upper second class honours degree from a UK university or the equivalent." What does this mean for Americans?

    As far as masters degrees, there's a 12 month MPhil in Physics "by research" with some lectures as well as a thesis. There is also a 9 month MASt in Physics "taught alongside the Part III of the undergraduate MSci Physics Tripos and is designed to act as a top-up course for students who hold a 3-year undergraduate degree".

    Which of these do I apply for?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 19, 2012 #2
    Yes, a bachelor's degree is 3 years but most people who would be considering research would do a 4 year masters. The masters is incorporated as a standard part of an undergraduate course ie you wouldn't generally do a 3 year BSc and a 1 year MSci - you'd just do a 4 year MSci.

    The UK system works quite differently from the US. Here, someone aiming to do PhD in Physics would have done a 4 year undergrad in Physics. This means they would have been studying only physics - there is no option for English/History etc. Hence, when you start a PhD in the UK, you go straight into research as you should have had specialized lectures etc already.

    Whether you would benefit from a 1 year masters depends on what you want to specialize in and how good your current knowledge is. I would suggest looking at the Cambridge Natural Sciences syllabus (focus on the physics modules) and see how your knowledge compares. Also since there is no taught element in the PhD, the route to entry would be to contact Professors directly. Your best bet would be to contact potential supervisors as they will be able to advise you on whether you would benefit from a Master's.
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