MSc or PhD?

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Joined: Sat Jun 09, 2007 4:16 am

MSc or PhD?

Postby theoretical_phys » Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:43 pm

Okay. Decisions, decisions. So, I've been asking advice on this forum for about three years now. Might as well post another question involving advice.

I am an American student with a bachelors degree in physics from a small, liberal arts college. I took a year off before applying to graduate school, and I'm currently working as a guest scientist at Fermilab (all astrophysics research). I really wanted to go to graduate school overseas (England specifically) for a variety of reasons, but a big one involves the fact that my boyfriend is English and lives in London (plus the experience of living in a different country and the graduate schools over there actually have a lot of the research I'm doing, etc). I was accepted into several different universities to study a PhD in Astronomy/Astrophysics (UCL, King's, Sussex, and Imperial), but funding was so competitive (including university scholarships, departmental assistantships, and US scholarships to study overseas) that I did not receive any.

The prospect of paying for graduate school for the next four years (at roughly £15,000 per year) is an absolute nightmare to me. But, both UCL and Sussex have the research I want to do and they have close ties to my supervisors here at Fermilab. So, I was thinking about enrolling in and self funding (gotta love loans) a MSc program at UCL and reapplying to graduate schools in the fall, this time both in the US and the UK. I could also reapply for funding, such as the NSF fellowship, Rhodes Scholarship, etc. I guess my concern is....if this falls through a second time and I don't get funding again, at least I will have earned a MSc in Astrophysics. But, what exactly can you do with a MSc degree? I'm assuming most laboratory jobs require a PhD, so would I only be able to teach high school with this degree? Or is it possible to do research?



PS- I actually want to study observational astrophysics, but at the time I created my username on this forum, I wanted to go for theory. So, pay no attention to my username. :wink:

Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Feb 27, 2010 2:31 pm

Re: MSc or PhD?

Postby ads » Thu Apr 08, 2010 8:01 am

Hey theoretical_phys,

The MSc idea is certainly a fun idea, but you should be aware that the funding situation for international students in the UK is tricky regardless of whether you have an MSc or not. (You did not imply that it was, but you might have been thinking this). You will stand out as a better PhD candidate at UK universities, but since it seems you are already qualified enough this doesn't seem to be an issue.

As far research is concerned, I think that after a Masters degree you are in pretty much the same situation as when you started it, so a PhD would still be necessary. However I have little experience of astro, so anybody correct me if I'm wrong.

So I would probably still go for it if you're willing to fork out the cost. But it won't necessarily solve your problems.

Hope this helps a bit,

Regards, ads

Posts: 102
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 3:44 pm

Re: MSc or PhD?

Postby mobytish » Thu Apr 08, 2010 4:19 pm

This is most likely not desirable to you, but a Masters qualifies you to teach as a professor in many community colleges as well as possibly work in a Physics department of an undergraduate institution as basically the same thing as a TA at a place that actually has graduate students. I've also heard of several people who got the community college gig with the masters and worked on their phD part-time.

Personally, I'd say go into the phD program, but also apply to transfer to a US institution next year. With a year of grad school (assuming you explain it well in your SoP) you're probably pretty likely to get in at least a few places. That way, if you can't secure funding for your degree overseas, you can come back to the US for a funded program.

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