Master's degree in the USA after Bachelor in Germany

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Berliner
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 4:22 pm

Master's degree in the USA after Bachelor in Germany

Postby Berliner » Sun Oct 07, 2012 5:06 pm

Hello fellow physics students and physicists,

I am currently studying physics in my third semester at the Freie Universität in Berlin and I am going to acquire my Bachelor's degree (BSc) in 2014 after a total of six semesters.
For my Master's degree I would like to study in the USA, primarily to live in a different country and to experience a (slightly?) different culture, since I have never lived anywhere else than in Berlin.
Also, since most publications in physics are in English and even many graduate (Master) studies in Germany are in English, it would make sense to study in an English-speaking country.
However, it turns out that finding a suitable university and possibly a fellowship program is more difficult than expected, which is why I registered in this forum to ask some questions. ;)

1. How do I choose the right university?
Of course I would like to study in a well-known and prestigious university. In addition, I don't want to study in a small village, but rather in (or close to) a larger city.
Even though I am still in my third semester of undergraduate study, I would say that I am quite successful at it. ;)
The universities I have considered so far are: MIT, Caltech, Berkeley, Harvard and Columbia University. Any more suggestions or comments?
Also, at the moment I strongly prefer theoretical physics over experimental physics, if that makes a difference.

2. How do I finance my studies?
While in Germany most of our universities are free, reputable universities in the USA have very high tuition fees. (more than 70,000 USD for two years, is that even right?)
What possibilities as a foreign student do I have to pay as little as possible?
Is it even possible to study for free? (Fellowship programs?)

3. How do I even get admitted at such a university in the first place?
After all, all I have to show are my Abitur grade (high school diploma?) and my grades for the Bachelor's degree. How much are they worth though?
Also, I am part of the German federal scholarship program. However, I read that American universities mostly rely on different tests about physics and the English language.
What are they, where can I do them in Germany and what kind of result do I need? (Toefl, GRE, ...?)

I look forward to your answers!

Thanks in advance,

Berliner

PS: I want to study for two years in the US in order to acquire a Master's degree. This is possible, isn't it?
I am confused, since many universities suggest that their graduate programs aim for a PhD and therefore require about 5 years of study.

Minovsky
Posts: 99
Joined: Fri Jul 29, 2011 10:05 pm

Re: Master's degree in the USA after Bachelor in Germany

Postby Minovsky » Sun Oct 07, 2012 6:17 pm

In the US, people holding a Bachelor's degree typically go straight into a PhD program (in the US, the first 1-2 years of a PhD program are equivalent to a MSc in Europe). As such, you will have a hard time finding a school which will only take you on for a Master's. Typically only low-ranked schools offer Master's only programs. MIT, Berkeley, &c. do not offer Master's only programs. Like in Europe, US PhD programs pay a stipend for the entire duration and typically waive tuition. Master's programs (when you can find them) typically do not, even to domestic students. Yes, tuition in the US is very expensive.

Also, keep in mind that generally US Master's programs (and the first 1-2 years of a PhD program) consist almost entirely of coursework and almost no research (this of course varies from school to school). From what I know, in Germany Master's students usually spend an entire year exclusively on a research project. Even when they are available, Master's research projects in the US are usually only a few months.

If you want to stay near big cities, you should also consider NYU, BU, Northeastern, Chicago, UCLA, UCSD, Washington.

For application documents, you will need to take the TOEFL, the General GRE and the Physics GRE subject test. Unlike German universities, you will not need to show your High School diploma.

If you really want to come to the US to study, I would suggest getting a Master's in Germany and then getting a PhD in the US.

I'm actually in the opposite situation as you: I'm a US student looking into German universities for Master's programs. Any advice you can give me? Currently the schools I'm looking at are LMU Munich, Leipzig, and Bonn.

Berliner
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 4:22 pm

Re: Master's degree in the USA after Bachelor in Germany

Postby Berliner » Sun Oct 07, 2012 7:37 pm

Thank you for your quick reply!

You are absolutely correct, the first year of the German Master's program consists of coursework and the second year is research.
Would you then recommend spending maybe only one or two semesters (the first two) in the USA as study abroad?
I know there are some German scholarships for study abroad programs. However, I don't believe they will cover a very big part of the tuition fees.
Are there also American programs for students abroad, which might help me?
Is it easier to join an American PhD program after acquiring a Master's Degree?

as to your question:

As far as I know, while you don't have a lot of freedom of choice for the courses during your Bachelor studies, most of the lectures during your Master studies are chosen by you.
This means that the choice of your university should depend on the field of study you find interesting. However, the universities cannot offer every course every semester.
Therefore I would recommend studying in a region with many universities, for expample Munich (LMU, TU München) or Berlin (Freie Universität, Humboldt-Universität, Technische Universität).
This allows you to attend some lectures in a different university, if you so desire.
I don't know if it makes a great difference for German universities, but LMU Munich, Heidelberg and Göttingen seem to have a particularly high reputation in the field of physics.
Since your second year will primarily consist of research, you should probably take a look at the universities' fields of research and pick one you might find interesting.
Also, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD: Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) offers some programs for US Americans coming to Germany, which might help you:
http://www.daad.de/laenderinformationen ... utschland/
I am no expert though, so you might want to get a second opinion on that. ;)

Minovsky
Posts: 99
Joined: Fri Jul 29, 2011 10:05 pm

Re: Master's degree in the USA after Bachelor in Germany

Postby Minovsky » Mon Oct 08, 2012 8:58 pm

As far as I know, there aren't any PhD programs in the US which a specifically geared towards international students.
I'm not really sure how study abroad works at the graduate level. I'm only familiar with it at the undergraduate level, so I can't really help you on that.
With regards to getting a Master's first: some schools will view it favorably, some won't care whether or not you have got it. Either way, it won't hurt you. The only potential downside is that you might still have to take some courses when you enter the PhD program.

Another thing you might try is looking into Canadian schools. I don't know exactly, but I think that it might be easier to find a funded Master's program there. My impression of the Canadian physics system is that it's half way between the US style and the European style.

Quick question: when German applications ask for my high school diploma (Zeugnis der Hochschulreife), do they literally mean my diploma (the fancy piece of paper which says "NAME has earned a High School Diploma from SCHOOL"), or are they asking for my high school transcript (which lists all my courses and grades)?

Berliner
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2012 4:22 pm

Re: Master's degree in the USA after Bachelor in Germany

Postby Berliner » Mon Oct 08, 2012 9:19 pm

Since German diplomas (Abiturzeugnis) also show your grades I assume that they are asking for your high school transcript.
Just send both, if it is not further specified. ;)

Failnaught
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Feb 06, 2012 12:09 am

Re: Master's degree in the USA after Bachelor in Germany

Postby Failnaught » Sat Dec 01, 2012 6:11 pm

Minovsky wrote:Another thing you might try is looking into Canadian schools. I don't know exactly, but I think that it might be easier to find a funded Master's program there. My impression of the Canadian physics system is that it's half way between the US style and the European style.


That's usually the case - Canadian universities typically have Masters programs, which are funded. Also, I think usually you get an option between having a larger component of research vs. coursework during your Masters. Usually there is also a mechanism for you to apply into the PhD program at the same institution, should you choose to do that.

An exception to this is the (as I recall) Masters of Engineering degree. This one you have to pay for, and there is no research component. However, there is a research-based Master of Applied Sciences degree, which is longer and involves research, and you'll be funded for it.




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