I am an American undergraduate studying Engineering Physics. I am planning to stay at my current school for a sequential Master's program (in Electrical and Computer Engineering). I wonder if Physics PhD Admission boards would hold me to a higher standard or would hold me to the same standard as other undergraduate applications?

More specific to me, I have excessive amount of Transfer Credit (from classes taken during HS) so that my undergraduate degree only last 2 years, but I don't really want to stay another year or two as an undergraduate. Additionally, I am quite interested in Quantum Computing so I want to get some EE experience.

I am specifically asking about Physics PhD admission in the United States.

  • Why would you do this? Once you have a PhD, what will you need the masters for? PhD students are paid more. Sep 22, 2020 at 8:54
  • Will the masters program in EE be good preparation for a Physics PhD? If you are doing VLSI design, probably not, but semiconductor physics maybe so.
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 22, 2020 at 12:59
  • @JonCuster I am doing a EE Master instead of double majoring in Computer Engineering, so this is what it was about
    – user129771
    Sep 22, 2020 at 15:42
  • The other thing is I am interested in Quantum Computing, and I feel like some sort of EE degree would be helpful
    – user129771
    Sep 22, 2020 at 15:47
  • Related perspective for CS (so may not necessarily be relevant): academia.stackexchange.com/a/467/68109
    – GoodDeeds
    Sep 22, 2020 at 17:35

3 Answers 3


You'll be held to the same standard as everyone else - they are looking for people who are going to be successful graduate students.

You mention in a comment:

I want to stay in school longer to get more research experience

I think that's a great way to improve an application in that more research experience gives you more space to demonstrate you'll be a successful graduate student. The number or type of degree earned along the way will mean little compared to the total research and academic experience and proficiency you can demonstrate.

  • As I stated, my main worry is that I would be held to a higher standard compared to an ordinary undergraduate applicant. Are you saying that this is not the case?
    – user129771
    Sep 22, 2020 at 18:48
  • Why would you be held to a higher standard? In any case, I think I've already answered this as my answer starts with "You'll be held to the same standard as everyone else".
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 22, 2020 at 18:53
  • I see thanks, I guess someone told me the wrong information
    – user129771
    Sep 22, 2020 at 18:58
  • 1
    But academia.stackexchange.com/a/467/68109
    – user129771
    Sep 22, 2020 at 19:09
  • 2
    @PXWangEddie You'd like to get a masters degree to give you closer to a typical "time spent at university". OP in the linked question wants to get a masters degree because their academic record didn't start out well. Also only one of the answers there suggested they would be held to a higher standard, and I don't interpret this advice quite as you have. I would interpret it instead to say that you need to show decent productivity with the opportunities you've had.
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 22, 2020 at 19:30

(I think the question asks:) Will my PhD admission be hindered by an undergraduate and postgraduate degree from the same institute?

Probably not. Although two institutes would demonstrate broader experience, that's a minor detail. Other factors are more important, e.g., grades, your institute's ranking, your rationale for staying.

I wouldn't try to pre-empt any negative perception (in an application), unless it forms part of the backstory. For instance, during my undergraduate studies I became fascinated by X, from [prestigious] Prof. X's classes. We discussed the possibility of exploring the topic further, which led to their supervising my postgraduate dissertation on Y.

(Discrimination laws probably forbid discriminating on such grounds, but the law isn't always followed.)

  • Certainly a number of engineering undergraduate programs offer a 4+1 bachelors/masters program. Now this is usually aimed at students who don't want to pursue a PhD, while the masters degree is a good terminal degree for many engineering jobs (non-academia).
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 22, 2020 at 12:58
  • 3
    @JonCuster I have excessive amount of transfer credit from HS so that I am getting my undergraduate degree in 2 years, so I want to stay in school longer to get more research experience (I am aiming for the top schools)
    – user129771
    Sep 22, 2020 at 15:44

The standards are usually different, you will probably have less time to take quals, 1.5 years vs 3.

  • 1
    I know for a fact that that's not the case in many programs. In fact, in all PhD programs I know of, the only difference between those coming in with a masters with those without, is the course requirements. And in those I know of, with a very relevant masters with overlapping coursework with the required courses of the PhD program, the student might be exempt from taking some of the PhD mandatory courses, and usually only for a few credits. Usually they still need to take as many credits as those without a masters, just replacing those mandatory courses with some electives.
    – nara
    Sep 22, 2020 at 20:45

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