4-year PhD Programs

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
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Joined: Fri Jan 20, 2012 3:46 am

4-year PhD Programs

Postby Ell » Sat Feb 04, 2012 9:26 am

Hello everyone.

Does anyone know of good ranked universities (top 30), with a 4-year PhD program in pure mathematics?
I see Princeton does, are there any others?


Posts: 57
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:34 pm

Re: 4-year PhD Programs

Postby quinquenion » Sat Feb 04, 2012 1:21 pm

PhD programs generally cannot be characterised by a definite time-frame. Within reason, you can get the PhD as soon as you write a sufficiently high quality thesis (most university graduate schools have a minimum residency of ~2 years, and some rare students like Noam Elkies manage to get out in 2 years). Conversely, until you write a sufficiently high quality thesis, you won't graduate with a PhD. The primary limiting factor is how good/lucky you happen to be at research, although required coursework and advisor relations also play significant roles.

Having said that, because of differences in coursework requirements, expectations, and funding structure, PhDs in the U.S. usually take several years longer than they do in some other countries. In the U.K., PhDs take 3-4 years, but you should generally be prepared to begin thesis research as soon as you start.

Just remember that if you want to get a job in academia afterwards, you probably don't want to rush through a PhD, since your credentials for the job search will likely be weaker.

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Re: 4-year PhD Programs

Postby gromov » Sat Feb 04, 2012 2:27 pm

In the UK, I believe people are expected to enter with a Master's degree. I think 3 undergrad plus 1 or 2 master's plus 4 PhD sounds right for people choosing topics that take time.

So it is not much faster, just that you specialize quicker in undergrad. This can be good or bad!

Basically, if you want to graduate early, pick both a school and advisor with the least stringent requirements. Usually though, people stick around of their own volition, in order to best face the job market after getting things together.

MIT appears to have somewhat flexible options, and graduating in 4 years is probably not atypical there.

Posts: 57
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:34 pm

Re: 4-year PhD Programs

Postby quinquenion » Sat Feb 04, 2012 2:34 pm

Depends on the school. It's becoming increasingly prevalent in the UK for students to enter PhD programs with a master's degree, especially since many undergrad programs are now (in American terminology) 4-year BS/MS degrees. However, it's still not uncommon to go straight from a bachelor's to a PhD program.

(As an aside, several UK schools are now trying out the American model, where the MS is integrated into the PhD for a 4-5 year program.)

Addendum: MIT encourages students to graduate in 4 years. Or at least, they only guarantee funding for 4 years, though they say that their "tradition has been to support fifth-year students who have made progress on their thesis problem and who need the fifth year to strengthen the result". It's all about the thesis. :wink:

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