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There are no academic positions in theoretical physics offered to master graduates worldwide based on my personal experience.

First, when I was still a master student in physics, a professor in theoretical high-energy physics in my department told me the faculty is never given funds to employ master graduates to do research in theoretical physics, so all he can do to help his master students needing time to prepare for applying for foreign PhD programs is postponing their graduation so that they can hold the part-time assistant positions associated with his research project while making the preparation.

Despite hearing about that, I still didn’t quite believe the fact that there are absolutely not academic positions in theoretical physics offered to master graduates, so after graduation I made an exhaustive search for them in my country, but have never seen even a single such position. The positions of the kind closest to the theoretical physics I’ve seen are those having virtual contact with others’ experiments, which usually require computer programming to simulate or analyze experimental data though there is no need to actually operate experimental apparatuses; these for me are counted as experimental physics as well.

Then I finally accepted the fact that a master graduate in theoretical physics seems to be only able to submit to either landing on a position not closely related to his master studies or staying without position if they can’t pursue a PhD immediately. Either way is not ideal for those who are dedicated to studies of theoretical physics seriously in the hope of taking it as their professional career. To my frustration, I often wonder the purpose of conferring the intermediate degree master in theoretical physics between bachelor and PhD since there is no associated position offered at all.

However, recently I have new discoveries. First, when I checked the CV of an assistant professor in theoretical physics having PhD position opening, I surprisingly found he had a stay of one year in a research institute for theoretical physics in Turkey between his MSc and PhD studies. Second, I found there were open research-associate positions in theoretical physics regarding gravity and cosmology in a university in England, with the requirement of the applicants being those who have a PhD degree in theoretical physics or those who have an equivalent level of professional qualifications and experience (will be given a lower salary than the PhD holder). Third, I heard on web that university lectureship and non-tenured assistant professorship in theoretical physics and math in India only require master degree. Then I recall one of my collaborators (a master student senior than me) during my MSc studies coming from Malaysia was given a university lecturer position, which was, nonetheless, in math rather than theoretical physics, when she came back to her country before pursuing PhD. However, I know she majored in math in her bachelor studies—this probably contributes a factor to her being able to get a position in math though she majored in physics in MSc.

Thus I wonder how common academic positions in theoretical physics are offered to master graduates worldwide. Are such offers commoner than I consider? Or are such positions I heard in Turkey and India as above just few exceptions? If theoretical physics positions for master graduates are not so common worldwide, how can the aforementioned research associate positions in England expect to find applicants with an equivalent level of professional qualifications and experience as that of PhD? If there are not associated research positions offered to them, where do they get an equivalent level of professional qualifications and experience? Can they study and make publications at their own home and write these on CV as experience? I doubt. Only given positions can be counted as professional qualifications and experience, right?

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    Could you please narrow down this wall of text into its essentials? Also, make the actual thing you're asking about clearer, as it's not easy to say what's the point being asked about. – corey979 Apr 10 '18 at 6:41
  • @corey979 I'm sorry that I wrote the text like a wall, but I just want to elaborate on my question. The title states my question briefly while the final paragraph states the points I intend to ask about and the preceding paragraphs provide the backgrounds (my research effort) for my question. – Captain Bohemian Apr 10 '18 at 15:20
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Masters graduates in physics are often offered paid positions as PhD students. Otherwise it is very rare to obtain a full-time teaching or research job without holding a PhD. Part time jobs, like adjunct instructor, may be possible.

Formerly it was possible to get a job at a less competitive institution like a community college or a university in a developing country. However, while such jobs may still only require a Master's, in practice it is now easy enough to find a PhD holder to fill them.

You may be able to get funding which is intended for PhD students without completing a PhD. But it is not clear why you would want to.

  • "You may be able to get funding which is intended for PhD students without completing a PhD..." I only know there is such possibility in Germany, where I've seen 1 or 2 year-research-associate positions (with extention possibility) in theoretical physics for master graduates with the attachment "the employee has the opportuity to get PhD through the results obtained therein". I think if the employee leaves the position without getting PhD, (s)he may just treat the position as a temporary job between MSc and PhD--he may not be interested in the project enough to work out enough results for PhD. – Captain Bohemian Apr 10 '18 at 14:50

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