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I got my PhD in quantum gravity 2 years ago, not from a top university, publishing only 1 paper, no conferences. Couldn't get a post doc, and it has been 2 years struggling in the job market, teaching part time here and there.

I am thinking seriously about getting an MS degree in something that can open job chances for me because all jobs outside academia I looked at required certain skills I do not have, or knowledge never needed during my PhD, all my work was very formal.

My questions are:

  1. Would graduate schools/ master committees accept me being with a PhD? (I expect to pay my own tuition for that MS of course.) Do I have any chance?

  2. Of course I am not planning to do MS in physics. How about geophysics MS programs? engineering MS programs? Scientific writing MS programs? MBA programs?

I am still evaluating my options for what career path I should pursue, but I just want to know if it is acceptable to do an MS after PhD or I will be rejected right away. (I would hate and regret my PhD if I will be rejected because of it.)

  • You might ask the specific school you might be interested in; the vetting process is a two way street. They want information about you and should be open to you asking information of them. Most will post the department chairs information on the department web site, so give them a quick email and ask. – scrappedcola Oct 11 '13 at 22:10
  • Why are so worried about applying for a MSc program. Why don't you check the market, seek the majors that you are interested in and are fruitful, then apply for. You may be accepted or not. Nothing seems you miss at all. – Enthusiastic Engineer Jul 2 '14 at 20:27
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    As someone who got a BA in physics and a MS in geophysics, it would be incredibly redundant for you to get a full MS. Taking 2-3 Geophysics classes (seismology, solid earth geophysics, applied geophysics) would suffice, and perhaps even oil/data companies wouldn't even care. You can apply for geophysics jobs with your PhD in physics; I had job offers without ever taking a geology class ! – Neo Jul 2 '14 at 23:55
  • @Neo why do not you sum it up and post your comment as an answer? – Enthusiastic Engineer Jul 8 '14 at 17:15
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+50

I'd recommend looking at the job market and seeing what jobs sound appealing to you. Next go to Coursera, Youtube, etc. and see if you like the subject by watching a few online classes. If you think you can adequately self learn the subject then that is the best option. Employers might look at the PhD -> MS like you are a professional student that lacks direction (plus it's a boatload of money). You want your resume to say, I have a PhD in physics which means I'm smart and I self taught myself all this stuff you require for this job because I am self motivated. It shows independence; if you need to learn something new on the job, they know you can do it, because you have done it before. Don't waste time getting an MS.

There are two exceptions to this, and it may apply here. (1) If in your new field of study you can't adequately learn the vast majority of the material without the infrastructure provided by University lab facilities containing tons of expensive equipment, then it would be reasonable to pursue the masters. (2) An MBA program that is all about networking, pretty much requires face to face interactions, although an MBA is usually thought to be best pursued after having some industry work experience.

The answer to your question, however, is yes, you can definitely get into the Masters programs. For most private schools masters programs are cash cows that fund the university. They let in all students they think are good enough to succeed in their program. The bigger question is whether it's a good idea for you to make this career move.

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Yes, you can.

I have personally seen people start and complete an MBA after receiving a PhD in astrophysics. It is certainly possible to study a master degree after a PhD.

If you want to be more rounded, for example, relating physics to the business world, this could certainly help your job prospects, especially in industry.

  • @StrugglerinLife My answer is the same as this one. I have met at least two managers who have PhD in my industry career life. One has PhD in physics and an MBA. One has PhD in math, then MS in computer science and an MBA after he became a business executive. Good luck with your MS application! – scaaahu Oct 12 '13 at 6:25
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In general, it's easier to get into a Master's program from a PhD than into a PhD program from a Master's.

Most admissions committees are looking at how your highest level of achievement compares with the level of their program. Unless you are applying to MIT or someplace like that, your PhD "trumps" most Master's programs.

The minimum GPA for most PhD programs is 3.3. For Master's, usually 3.0 (or lower). You're strongly "qualified."

Certainly, you should be very competitive with someone coming into a Master's program from a Bachelor's degree, again, with the possible exception of someone with a 3.8-4.0 from Harvard, Yale, or MIT.

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