Any tips on finishing quickly?

  • As many already know, studying for the physics GRE and getting accepted into a graduate program is not the final hurdle in your physics career.
  • There are many issues current physics graduate students face such as studying for their qualifier, deciding upon a field of research, choosing an advisor, being an effective teaching assistant, trying to have a social life, navigating department politics, dealing with stress, utilizing financial aid, etc.

Johnny Law
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Joined: Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:30 pm

Any tips on finishing quickly?

Postby Johnny Law » Mon Mar 11, 2013 8:35 pm

Different fields and different school have different times to completion, but it seems like the time is generally 5 to 5.5 years. I've heard of people finishing a PhD in Physics in only 4 years though!

Anyone have any general tips to how this could be done? I imagine passing quals early would accelerate things.

Ivan Fyodorovich
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Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2013 10:44 pm

Re: Any tips on finishing quickly?

Postby Ivan Fyodorovich » Mon Mar 11, 2013 10:20 pm

I've heard that graduating early isn't particularly helpful really, especially if you can get more papers published before you have to start applying to postdocs. However, I'm not qualified to submit an opinion on the matter myself.

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Andromeda
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Re: Any tips on finishing quickly?

Postby Andromeda » Tue Mar 12, 2013 7:34 am

The issue with graduating very early is don't forget you also are essentially doing a M.Sc. degree as well (in most places passing your quals is essentially the point where you finish your masters degree, so yes if you pass it in advance that'd be a great help). Even on the most accelerated system in the world I'm aware of in the UK you spend 1-2 years before your PhD doing that, and then 3 years on your PhD... but in actuality it seems like virtually everyone spends 4 years on the PhD (either getting some extra money to extend things, or spending time on their first postdoc wrapping things up, or graduating with "major corrections" required in their PhD). Frankly there is a reason they take so long, and that reason is you essentially are writing a book (that's how long your thesis essentially is) and it takes awhile to get up to speed and do useful things to fill it.

That said, for whatever reason it's my observation that stuff like astrophysics seems to take longer and fields like condensed matter are shorter, so if you really want to finish quickly I'd ask what the average time is for graduating in the various labs in your department (one was notoriously awful in my previous uni in that the average was close to 7 years for example!). They usually need to know the statistics for their grant money or what have you.

bfollinprm
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Re: Any tips on finishing quickly?

Postby bfollinprm » Tue Mar 12, 2013 11:43 am

Most accelerated would be france. They have a hard 3 year cap (they're not allowed to fund you past 3 years, or so I've been told). Of course, you start after a masters.

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Andromeda
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Re: Any tips on finishing quickly?

Postby Andromeda » Wed Mar 13, 2013 6:34 am

bfollinprm wrote:Most accelerated would be france. They have a hard 3 year cap (they're not allowed to fund you past 3 years, or so I've been told). Of course, you start after a masters.


Yes, that and it's VERY hard to get a PhD spot in France from what I hear as they start winnowing their academic populations far earlier. To be fair if you absolutely must finish in 3 years then you really can only have your best and brightest do so!

Here in the Netherlands it's also a hard cap in that I can't be funded past 4 years (but you must have an M.Sc. going into it, so it still comes out to 5-6 years after undergrad), and Dutch law dictates that they hand over your diploma after you defend your dissertation. So everyone's usually out the door in 4 years though sometimes people are around a few months more... the worst case I know of is a guy who spent a year extra where he just lived off generous Dutch employment, but that was a case of unmotivated student/awful adviser and certainly an exception.

Also btw one curious side note of the entire Dutch PhD system is the government awards 100k Euro to any department that graduates a PhD student (with a few year delay) which is then how people pay for administration and colloquia and all that. So there really is incentive to keep us on the graduation schedule for that too. :)




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