I recently completed my MBA and have worked in the IT field for the last 7 years. I have an undergraduate degree in mathematics, and have completed 3 physics graduate courses (mechanics, E&M, QM) as an open university student. Is it realistic for me to self study for the physics GRE, get a great score, and then have a chance to be admitted to a physics PhD program?

The physics graduate courses I took were from a master’s school, but I had to pay for these out of my pocket. I though about continuing in that masters program but it is just too expensive given my situation (I have a family and a mortgage).

I want to know if I have a shot at a PhD program without going for the masters and only with a great physics GRE score and a mathematics undergraduate degree.

  • It's certainly possible in many countries to enrol in a PhD with four years of previous study (e.g. with a four-year BSc (Hons) program or a BSc + PgDip). Your country will play a role here. You may have to rely on an individual university to grant you an exemption for academic excellence, as I haven't heard of anywhere where admission to a PhD program with only a 3-year bachelor's degree is standard policy.
    – Moriarty
    May 14, 2014 at 16:25
  • 1
    This seems related to, and may even be a duplicate of, this question and this one
    – David Z
    May 14, 2014 at 20:55
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    Yes. Few American physics PhD students have master's degrees, and some have math undergrad degrees and have work experience. However, you need a really good GRE score to convince people you know your stuff. Jun 8, 2014 at 4:23
  • Sure you can. There are many universities in Europe and Australia, where you can try. Jun 26, 2014 at 17:00
  • Despite all the probable prerequisites to a PhD program, have you done any research projects or published any papers? Have you ever been to a research methods class?
    – enthu
    Jul 14, 2014 at 9:40

2 Answers 2


Typically the only reason that PhD granting institutions in the US give out a master's degree en route to the doctorate is the existence of capitation money in some states that reward them for each advanced degree they grant. You don't need a master's degree. I never got one, and I could have for $50 and two weeks spent converting a couple of journal articles to thesis format. Nobody worth talking to expects you to have an MS when you apply.


To get admitted into a PhD program directly without MS, requires some research experience in the field(if you want admission to a good, competitive program). A really good GRE score might help substitute this factor but not always. An alternative to that may be, take admission in the MS program and then switch it to PhD after a semester or two. But you should join some research lab right in the beginning of your MS, in order to be successful in changing the program. Hope this helps.


--MS candidate planning to switch to PhD

--Even after a good GRE profile and 3.96 gpa in pharmacy school, got rejected for PhD at UCSD(not enough research experience)

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