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I am a recent grad & my main goal is to do a Ph.D. in Computer Science, but I have some interest in math and physics.

I recently found this Masters in Science program offered by a very reputable university in the US. It looks nice to me because I get to do a Masters to strengthen up my PhD app and also take classes in other topics that I want to learn but didn't have the time for in undergrad (like quantum, analysis, topology, etc.). But, it seems a little weird to me:

  • It is only one year. Most universities have master's programs that take 2 years.
  • If I understand correctly, you can take a random array of classes. This seems kind of ridiculous to me (even though it's what I want). I never knew that there existed these general-studies-like Masters programs.

Am I correct to find this weird? Is this program comparable to other 2-year degree-specific Masters? Would completing this program help me get into graduate school for computer science?

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  • Interesting question. Our scope excludes "providing assessments of particular programs," so I've edited to generalize the question a bit.
    – cag51
    Sep 29, 2020 at 0:21
  • "general studies" is not an accurate description of the linked program. Sep 29, 2020 at 1:38
  • @cag51 I think the question has been edited so it no longer makes sense. Sep 29, 2020 at 1:40
  • @AnonymousPhysicist Yeah I'm not really sure what to categorize it as. It was just what it kind of seemed like to me so I left the edit as is
    – 123movies
    Sep 29, 2020 at 3:58
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    Many Master's courses in the US and UK are one year (perhaps even the majority), so this aspect is not weird. Sep 29, 2020 at 9:56

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Unless you have some weakness in your undergraduate record, I doubt that this program or another masters will "strengthen up" your PhD application. Most US students apply for doctoral studies immediately after the BS.

And doing it now, rather than later, will give you experience at the doctoral institution with faculty contacts, etc, that can build up your reputation there.

And most doctoral programs will have coursework first, though not "random" courses. Do it now.

I'll guess that most of the students in such a program are not in preparation for a doctorate, but seeking a terminal MS for some purpose.


Note that outside the US, the situation is often very different with an MS required for doctoral study in some situations. Not so the US, however.

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  • This is not the perspective I am seeing. Nowadays it seems to be a norm to do a masters degree as a stepping stone to a ph.d, unless you're going to a lower ranking phd program.
    – 123movies
    Sep 28, 2020 at 23:55
  • When you are saying "Do it now" Do you mean do a phd or the masters now?
    – 123movies
    Sep 28, 2020 at 23:56
  • The point you make is good to know. do you have any comments on this specific program?
    – 123movies
    Sep 28, 2020 at 23:56
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    @StackOverflowOfficial: In what fields are you seeing People start by going for a masters as a clear norm?
    – RLH
    Sep 29, 2020 at 3:14
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    @RLH A lot of professors i've talked to told me that I should do a masters first to make myself seem more competitive for top programs, so i thought it was the norm nowadays
    – 123movies
    Sep 29, 2020 at 4:00

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