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What are the steps to get into a PhD program?

LanaHereLanaHere 607 replies31 threads Member
What are the steps to get into a PhD program? Do you have to have a Masters degree in that discipline or can you just take a few graduate level courses to prove that you can do upper level course work, and then apply to a PhD program?
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Replies to: What are the steps to get into a PhD program?

  • LanaHereLanaHere 607 replies31 threads Member
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  • ColoradomamaColoradomama 2779 replies32 threads Senior Member
    I can try to answer that. It depends on the field. In physics, materials science and chemistry, few people take a masters degree. In engineering, some do, and it depends on the school. So for instance, MIT, they do not offer masters degrees in CS or EE anymore, and thus everyone who wants to study electrical engineering/applied physics or computer science at MIT goes straight to the PhD. If they do not pass the qualifiers then they may leave with a masters degree but its not a normal terminal degree . At schools like Georgia Tech, which specialize in one year medical device design masters degrees, yes, then one goes directly or from industry into that one year program.
    If you are speaking about biomedical engineering, then yes, you can go directly to a PhD program, but read each program carefully. Some are more genetics oriented, some are design engineering oriented, so it all depends on the student's interest an what sort of job they are after at the end of all of this studying.

    In my own case, I took a masters in electronic materials, in a co op program with Bell Labs, took a year off to work in industry then returned for a PhD in electronic materials. However, almost everyone in my PhD program came straight from a bachelors degree in either physics or materials science. I was unusual to have a masters degree and also want a PhD, but thats how it worked out for me.

    As far as choosing programs, its really based on research interests. If the student does not yet know they can start to study websites and reach out to professors with emails and their resumes. Its very important to reach out to professors at the schools of interest, take the GRE, and visit schools. It may take two round to get a good fit, some kids say no to the first offers and go to work for a year and try again.

    It all depends on the student's goals. If you have more questions I can try to answer them for you.
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  • ColoradomamaColoradomama 2779 replies32 threads Senior Member
    @lanahere see post above. As far as your question "does a student need advanced coursework to apply for a PhD"". Again it depends on the university and the field of study. So some students say from liberal arts colleges, that are very selective, they go directly into a PhD program and they have no graduate work as their college does not offer it. At Case Western, it makes sense to take some graduate work your senior year both to explore your interests and to determine if graduate work is something you want to take on. A PhD can be three to nine years. A few of my friends have taken 15 years to get their PhDs. Understand that often graduate students get jobs and that is really a very happy arrangement for these long term PhD students. It may pay less than industry but its a sweet deal. I loved every second of graduate school myself, much more relaxed than working in the semiconductor industry which I did for 15 years.
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