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I am on an integrated Masters in Physics course, otherwise knows as MPhys. This means that after my third year I will not be awarded with a BSc, but will graduate after 4 years with an MPhys. At my university (and I assume others as well), doing a 4th year after graduating with a BSc then gives you an MSc instead of an MPhys.

I am coming to wonder if there is any advantage to this. It complicates things massively if I want to change university to complete my Masters. Surely it would be advantageous to do a BSc, and then if you want to change university to complete an MSc there will be no complications.

There are only 2 possible advantages I can think of:

  1. An MPhys is harder than a BSc+MSc and is therefore more highly regarded by employers and

  2. There is no longer the need to apply for a 4th year at university.

The second is an obvious one, but is the first true? Are there any other advantages? I am thinking of transferring to the BSc in case I decide I want to go to a better university to complete my Masters.

  • In which country? In the US, a Bachelors is typically 4 years with another year beyond that for the MS, and there is no guarantee that the same school will readmit you for the MS. – keshlam Jul 20 '15 at 20:31
  • Sorry, I should have specified - I am in the UK. – ODP Jul 20 '15 at 21:00
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An integrated masters such as an MPhys is an enhanced undergraduate degree where the final year will include level 7 courses and a substantial project. It will typically be accredited and meet the academic requirements for registration for chartered status (CPhys in this case).

An MSc is a postgraduate degree also with a substantial project and level 7 courses. It will often be more specialised in nature than an undergraduate degree and may or may not be accredited such that it will add the necessary academic requirements for chartered status if the student also has completed an accredited BSc.

In the UK there will typically be a difference in fees between the two cases and there is currently (although this may change or may even have changed already - you should check) a difference in funding available. Government backed student loans have only been available for undergraduate degrees.

For engineers in industry I do think that generally the integrated Masters is looked at more highly but of course it depends on the institution. If you goal is to get chartered status then I would advise the integrated Masters rather than a separate MSc provided you are staying in the UK. If you go abroad the separate postgraduate MSc is understood better and so probably easier to have accepted.

  • It would seem that, in general in the UK, the MPhys would be more highly regarded in the physics community, but I want to go into finance so maybe not so much. Also, looking at the 3rd year of the MPhys it looks harder/more demanding than the final year of BSc. – ODP Jul 21 '15 at 17:02
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The main reason for doing a four year course is that (at least when I was a student) was that you would only get a government loan for your first degree. Therefore you did not have to worry about finding extra funding to do a masters. However, apparently from 2016-17 this will be changing so you can get a loan for a master's in a similar way to undergrad degrees. I don't no what effect this will have on the popularity of four year courses.

Another advantage, as you said is that you do not need to apply separately for an MSc course. In my opinion this is a minor issue and it should be noted that most places in my experience will make you move to the BSc course if you are not on target to do well (2:1) in the 4 year course by the end of the 2nd year.

I would say that your first point is not correct. If any thing the opposite is true and a separate BSc + MSc is viewed more highly. This is not an issue if you are looking to work in the UK but in the rest of Europe combined courses such as an MPhys are not well understood and may put you at a disadvantage.

However, other than that there are very few disadvantages to doing an integrated course. Most places run a parallel BSc course with the first two years having similar/identical content. If this is the case it should be easy to switch down to the BSc up till the end of your second year if you want to do a MSc elsewhere/not at all.

  • This is what I was going to say. The other advantage of an MPhys is that the final year is only 120 credits, rather than 180, and so you finish in June rather than September (this is why MPhys could be less respected than an MSc). This can actually be very important when trying to go on to something else (eg doing an MSc could prevent you starting teacher training the following academic year, as you often need to start at the beginning of Sep, and cannot be a student on another course at the time). – Jessica B Dec 30 '17 at 18:26
  • Sorry, just spotted that this is an old question that got bumped. – Jessica B Dec 30 '17 at 18:27
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I took a similar course but in computer science. As far as I could tell, the course was not any more difficult, but the aside from the fees issue noted by other answerers, the advantage is that you may graduate at the beginning of summer, rather than the end. Typically, in an MSc, September until May or June is spent on taught coursework, and the summer is spent on a dissertation, leading to an autumn or winter graduation. In my integrated course, the dissertation was completed by May or June for a summer graduation, and to allow for this, the work was split over the two final years of the degree, and the number of credits of taught courses I was required to take in the final year was less than it would have been for the MSc. I don't know if this is the case for all integrated courses, but it was an advantage for me, as I got some time off between completing my masters and starting my PhD.

As you noted, you won't be able to change university for your masters. But many integrated courses allow you to transfer back to a BSc if you change your mind. You should obviously check how early you need to do this (ie, it might be that you need to decide before final year, not during).

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