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Do you think it is possible to earn a PHD degree in Theoretical Physics on your own? I have a M. Sc. in Applied Computer Science but I really want to go in the direction of Physics. Is there a way one could perform a significant work in this field without a team of other PHD-students and/or lab experiments? Is it even officially possible to acquire the PHD degree in Physics if one has B. Sc. in Applied Mathematics and Ms. Sc. in Applied CS only?

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closed as off topic by David Z Nov 20 '11 at 22:43

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You can do work on your own all you like, but only accredited institutions may give you a Ph. D. – Colin K Nov 20 '11 at 1:13
Universities tend to have a number of other requirements for PhDs: minimum period of residency, sometimes a few required classes. – user1504 Nov 20 '11 at 12:08
Einstein got his PhD working on his owm as a patent clerk but of course he was Einstein ;) I think you'd have to be exceptionally bright to even do this full time on your own, never mind while holding down a full time job as well. There's is also the mental climate provided by your colleagues which makes the job easier as well, but which some take for granted. – Physiks lover Nov 20 '11 at 14:56
@Anonymous: no, in general this site is only meant for questions that are actually about physics. We do allow some peripheral questions that are about education and such things, but they are limited in number and are held to a higher standard of quality. – David Z Nov 20 '11 at 22:44
@dmckee Einstein was hired as a technical assistant, level III on June 23, 1902. On 30 April 1905, he completed his thesis, with Alfred Kleiner, Professor of Experimental Physics, serving as pro-forma advisor – Physiks lover Nov 22 '11 at 21:27
up vote -8 down vote accepted

"Is it possible to earn a PHD degree in Theoretical Physics on your own?"

I am still waiting for my PhD for 'solving', the Double Slit Experiment.

But imagine my delight and satisfaction, when I saw Prof. Leonard Susskind, used a very similar diagram to mine, to explain the DSE in one of his own lectures.

The simplest and honest answer to your question, would have to be no, or very unlikely.

It's not getting a PhD, which is important, it is learning about something which you are interested in.

A lawyer friend of mine said it best.

"The reason competition in science, is so fierce, is because the rewards are so small."

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:) accepted answer with -7 rating...OMG... – Vineet Menon Nov 23 '11 at 6:59
@VineetMenon This can only happen on a CW post! – centralcharge Sep 28 '13 at 16:30

This question does not belong here, but anyway.

The answer is no. You need an accredited institution in which you will be under the supervision of some adviser and a committee that has to approve you thesis eventually. This is the way degrees are granted, you cannot get a degree on your own independent of any institution. It is a process for making sure that real science is produced.

Would you go to seek medical help from a medical doctor who got a degree "on his own" (whatever that means) or would you go to one who got his degree from an accredited institution?

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Of course if one manages to discover something important by working alone, he will probably be given an honorary doctorate in his old age. see – anna v Nov 21 '11 at 5:26
@annav I agree with you but such cases are exceptions. I was talking very generally. If a normal person asks such a question then the answer is absolutely no. If a super genius was asking that question then the answer would not be no. I was talking very generally, general rules are not based on exceptions. – Revo Nov 22 '11 at 17:38

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