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It might be possible here in India too, I haven't researched on it, but in one movie I have seen the guy is studying mathematics in MIT but his future plan was to study medicine at Harvard. I kept wondering how could he do that.

Here at India at 11th class we have to usually choose either Mathematics or Biology and then our eligibility changes accordingly.

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Some universities require students to have similar bachelors degree, some other do not require similar degree and do not have specific policy on this; while others need a related or so near bachelors field. For instance, for a masters in engineering degrees; one with bachelors in applied mathematics or physics will also be able to study masters of an engineering field.

Answers to your question varies in fields and countries, and different education systems. My general advice to you would be to see the minimum requirements of the university you want to apply for to see whether their admissions office have any regulations on having related bachelors degree to the masters or not. If they are not providing you information on this, I recommend you to contact them by email and ask your questions.

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At least in the USA, yes. The US education system allows the individual student a great deal of freedom in the choice of field(s) of study. You can do your undergraduate degree in one subject and your graduate degree in another.

Of ocurse, to get into graduate school in a particular subject, you have to have sufficient background. Thus it is relatively uncommon for someone to get, say, a degree in history but decide to go to graduate school in physics instead. It is possible, however. In some cases people pursue jobs in one area and gradually develop an interest in another topic, perhaps gaining research experience in the private sector or taking classes informally in order to get the background they need for grad school.

Also, getting an undergraduate degree in a particular subject in the US does not mean you only study that subject. You can take a wide variety of classes outside your nominal area of focus, and in some cases thereby get enough experience to apply to grad school in an another subject. Also, you can "double major", completing more than one official course of study. Thus someone may study multiple subjects in undergrad, and decide on one to continue in grad school.

Switching fields between undergrad and grad is not that uncommon, especially if the fields are closely related (e.g., math BS followed by physics PhD). I've personally known quite a few people who have switched fields from undergrad to grad, sometimes with a long detour outside of school. For instance, one fellow I know got undergrad degrees in political science and Asian studies, spent more than a decade as a corporate executive, and eventually went back to get a PhD in linguistics.

  • Hello Sir, Would I be allowed to do a MS in neuroscience if I do a BSc in Mathematics here in India? The thing is that I would probably get nothing as background knowledge officially. – Neeraj Nov 8 '14 at 8:15
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    @Neeraj: It's not really possible to answer that in general. I would say that there is nothing stopping you per se -- no one will say "We refuse to accept you specifically because you have a BSc in math from India". However, as I mentioned in my answer, you need sufficient background in the subject to be accepted into a program. If you have little background in neuroscience you are unlikely to be accepted into a neuroscience grad program, regardless of what or where you studied. – BrenBarn Nov 8 '14 at 8:17
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In the US, medical school does not require any specific major. The specific requirements are one year each of biology, physics, and English, two years of chemistry (including organic chemistry), and a standardized exam (the MCAT). While it's most common for medical students to major in a field like biology, it's entirely possible for someone majoring in a completely different thing to complete the premed requirements and learn enough to do well on the MCAT, and a fair number of medical students in the US come from outside the sciences entirely.

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Can people in western countries do graduation and post graduation in two completely different fields?

In principle yes, however: speaking from my alma mater (central european large public university, unrestricted access to most programmes, i.e., no need to convince an admission committee), the main hurdles to do a graduate programme based on a different undergrad degree boil down to two factors:

  • Formal requirements, as discussed by the other answers. In my university, this was really a design decision that each degree programme individually could decide. Many (especially humanities programmes) are by design very open to all comers. Others, especially technical fields, require either some technical degree or even one of a very few, closely related degrees. Exceptions could be made on a case-by-case basis, usually with the obligation of additional fundamental course work.
  • Practical issues. Even if you are allowed to, say, do an electrical engineering MSc based on a business informatics BSc, you are still expected to have the electrical engineering knowledge of a good EE BSc graduate right from the start. If your entire EE education was 2 credits in "Engineering for Computer Scientists", you will likely be in really bad shape and absolutely nobody will help you or feel bad for you. The consensus opinion will be that you had to know what you get into, and that you would now need to see how to handle this yourself.

To emphasise the second point again: I have seen a few cases where people tried to argue that, as their degree was sufficient formally for the graduate programme they enrolled in, we needed to accommodate for their very basic subject skills. This line of argumentation never works, and it should not. If you do a graduate in any subject, you are expected to have a least above-average knowledge of the things that you learn in the undergrad major of this subject. How you do it is mostly up to you.

in one movie I have seen the guy is studying mathematics in MIT but his future plan was to study medicine at Harvard.

This would specifically not be possible here. Meds is, due to its sensitive nature, highly regulated by law, and there is as far as I know no sidestepping the formal study progression here. The other direction (Meds -> Maths) may work, but I am not sure.

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