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PhD right after B.E./B.Tech/BSc vs MSc/MS

Surendra Padamata

Surendra Padamata

I am a graduate student at Penn State University. Previously, I pursued research in gravity and astrophysics. But now-a-days, my interests and curiosities surround soft matter systems, rheology, memories in colloidals and suspensions, Janus particles & computational physics. I also look at Intersections of critical theory of soft matter with neuroscience and astrophysics.



Many people out there have this question in their mind as to whether one can do a PhD in physics right after their engineering degree, is it possible, how to go about it, is it a viable option compared to MSc and lot more. I hope to clear some of those concerns here in this article. I hope you enjoy reading it and find it useful and informative, 1,2.3..initiate!

Disclaimer: This article also applies to people who recently did their or are doing BSc in physics. Please kindly note, this is my point of view that I formed, after my recent experiences and journey going from B.E Mechanical and minor in physics to PhD in physics.

PhD after B.E./B.Tech:

Yes! One can do a PhD in physics right after your engineering degree. You see most universities in US, Canada and very few in Europe, UK, Australia and Japan have 1-2 years of coursework during their 5-6 year PhD typically. In India, the topics that are usually taught in our class 11 and 12 and introductory physics in the first year of undergraduate degree are mostly equivalent to BSc Physics degrees in the above countries I mentioned. So it won’t be huge leap into a completely new world which you can’t get comfortable with.

But to get admitted and aim for good universities with a great professor working in your field of interest and obtain good funding (which is approximately, 1500$ USD per month after taxes and can save at least 600-700$ USD per month after expenses), one need to either start collaborating and working with on campus physics professors or if it’s a purely engineering college, do take a gap year and obtain a research position, get experience(it’s strongly advicable for the former scenario too), reference letters and then apply to the universities. More on the applications, please refer to my other article, which has a link to a nice video too on a talk that I gave to my alumnus institute, BITS Goa, juniors.

Next, on various eligibility requirements and some potential draw back taking this route, in US universities, you can directly apply as I said in the above paragraph but in most European and few Canadian universities, where professors admit you rather than the physics department as a whole, they strictly require an MSc in physics(on a personal note, I couldn’t get into Perimeter, Max Planck because not having an MSc degree), so if you are fine with joining US universities and fine with letting go few very great potential opportunities, then yeah PhD is the right way to go about.

Compared to MSc/MS:

The other route one can take is, MSc/MS and then PhD, the advantages would be, it would increase your chances in getting admitted to great universities with great programs, you can choose to not to do the some of the basic courses in your first 1-2 years of PhD and use that extra time to do more research and potentially graduating in 4 yrs in US and Canada and may be also publish more research papers and journal articles, which could help in your future hunt on post-doctoral positions (but please take the second point with a pinch a salt as some universities don’t let you skip the basic courses during the first 1-2 yrs of your PhD and it depends on the personal capabilities of doing quick and effective research to be able to do produce quality and quantity of papers). PhD would also be an obvious economically viable option, as you are guaranteed of being paid unlike MSc/MS where very few places pay and in limited amount and numbers.

But an MSc/MS will also help opening a lot of great and decent opportunities in EU, UK, Australia and Japan! Also it’s best you do an MSc/MS when you don’t know your area of interest, as PhD can sometimes be very specific and ask for your specific interests and while admitting, they see if you have any previous research experience in that field.

Disadvantages would be potentially wasting money (especially MS, I agree some EU universities have no fee but they don’t fund your living costs which amounts to be expensive) and time (because mostly you might have to re-do courses during your first 1-2 yrs of PhD) while doing it, where it can be spent doing a 1 year research assistant-ship and then applying for PhD directly.


Who should go for PhD directly:

If you believe your fundamentals in physics are strong or at least decent, have figured out your area of interest and have enough research experience(if you are doubtful about it, then talk to your seniors who have gone to do PhD in physics or post it on the Facebook groups like MS in US/blogs etc like physics after engineering, by sharing your profile) and also have financial concerns, but remember you might have to take a 1 year gap, where in you would get paid very little to none, but if you work hard, it will pay up later due to great amount of funding in US, EU, UK, Australia, Canada and Japan.

Who should go for MSc/MS:

Very new to physics, not clear about your research interests, don’t want to miss out on potential places like Perimeter, Max Planck and many other great EU places, have the financial back up, want to increase your chances of being admitted to top schools in physics, then go for it!

Thank you making it to the end, hope this article helps you make your decision and was fun to read, as always if still something is not clear please do refer to other articles and FAQ on the physics after engineering blog and if still not clear you can always email me.

I am always happy to talk to physics enthusiasts and wanna be’s, help clear questions/concerns you may have and also open to talk and discuss about physics in general, philosophy, anime and my research area gravity and specifically computational and theoretical astrophysics.

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