I graduated with an MMath degree in 2018 and am interested in applying for a PhD in Statistics. However, I don't have a Statistics MSc and have been outside of formal undergraduate maths education for four years.

My MMath degree specialised in Quantum Mechanics and, at the time, I wasnt able to pursue a PhD in Quantum Mechanics. After graduating, I taught GCSE and A-Level Maths for three years and am now teaching on a Level 3 Statistics programme at a relatively new university here in the UK.

As a result of the soft skills I've developed as a teacher, I now feel ready and able to pursue a PhD in Mathematics. I've forgotten a lot of the quantum stuff and I am much more familiar with Statistics and enjoy teaching it. I've spent the last six months learning MSc Statistics content and R by using online resources that are available to me.

I would greatly appreciate any advice on the below:

  1. I've been out of formal uni-level maths training. Would it be a good move to fund myself through an MSc to evidence and (more importantly) develop my understanding of some MSc Statistics content?

  2. Following on from Point 1, I would of course need an academic reference to apply for an MSc or a PhD. However, I've changed a lot since 2018 and am unsure as to whether a reference from my previous academic supervisor would not be as effective as a reference from a more recent referee. Would it be a good idea to do another masters so that I have a more recent and more relevant reference?

Thank you for your time!

  • Can you explain what MMath stands for? Also, tell us what math and stats you know and what math you teach, without reference to exams in the UK. I barely know what is on the GRE math subject exam and that is common where I live. The main thing I know about maths A-levels is that Rachel Riley passed that exam. Aug 4 at 19:17

1 Answer 1


I think it would be better to apply for PhD courses that include half a year or a full year of taught courses at the start. These might be designed as 3.5 or 4 year courses from the start, or there might be a master's degree for one year that then carries on to a PhD if both sides agree.

Four years is not such a long time to be out of formal study, especially if you have been teaching and working in a university and studying on your own.

  1. No, it is not a good idea to fund yourself, not least for financial reasons. It is better to apply for MSc or PhD courses with funding. As for developing understanding of some MSc content, you have been doing that on your own already and that sounds good.

  2. You certainly don't need to do a master's just to get a reference. You can use a reference from your current job and one from your degree four years ago.

  • Not to be advertising, or anything, but the US is a good place to execute such a plan, though it might be longer than 4 years here.
    – Buffy
    Aug 4 at 12:45
  • @user161329 Thank you for accepting my answer, but actually I recommend that you un-accept it, which might increase the chance of getting more answers. At least talk to a few other people and don't just rely on my opinion!
    – Oliver882
    Aug 4 at 15:11
  • I think it is a good answer. But also there is an advantage for the OP to wait for a few days or a few answers before accepting any. Sometimes accepting an answer discourages others from answering.
    – Buffy
    Aug 4 at 15:13
  • Thank you both for your input! First time here 😅
    – user161329
    Aug 4 at 15:32

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