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UBC MSc Physics vs ETH Zurich MSc Quantum Engineering

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I recently received admits from the University of British Columbia for a Master's in Physics, and from ETH Zurich for a Masters in Quantum Engineering. I am really happy with my options, but there are differences between them which have made this choice a tough one:

At UBC, I'll be fully funded, and have also secured an additional scholarship that would entail more funding and an internship at a Canadian company working in quantum computing (QC). From what I have read online, the job prospects in physics in particular(industry or otherwise) are much better in North America than in Europe.

At ETH, I couldn't apply for the ESOP/ETH-D scholarships in time, and will have to bear the gigantic living costs (the tuition fees at ETH is very affordable)in Zurich on my own. However, I will be applying to third party sources for fellowships, and am anticipating some respite via them. The program will also allow me to pursue an internship in QC for a semester, which will help my finances as well.

I am torn between which uni to choose. UBC is ranked between 30-50 in physics from what I have seen, whereas ETH is consistently ranked within the top 10. Both institutes are doing very good research in the areas of my interest, and I have found supervisors I am excited to work with at both.

I see myself pursuing a PhD in atomic/molecular physics in the future, with the end goal of working in the RnD divisions of quantum computing startups and companies, or if I get lucky, getting tenure track in a related field.

I would really appreciate any inputs that help me make an informed decision.

Edit: I will be graduating with a bachelors degree this June, and will start my Masters at either institute in September.

Edited by jazbaatijon
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  • 2 weeks later...

Congrats on your offers!

Both are great schools. I am currently an MS student in a Canadian Physics-related program also working in quantum engineering. 

I would think long and hard about going into debt/paying out of pocket just to attend a higher ranked program, especially if you plan on getting a PhD and going into academia. Paying that off will be difficult. I guess you must have a solid plan of how you will manage financially (scholarships you are sure you will get, internships etc.). Personally, I would never pay out of pocket to attend a research-based grad program in STEM, especially if I have a funded offer (from a great university). I rejected a similarly high-ranked MS offer in favor of my current position because it was unfunded.

Also keep in mind that European master's programs are mostly course based, with a 6-month thesis component. Canadian funded MSc degrees AFAIK are much more research based. Ask yourself, what do you want from your MSc? Research experience/publications, or graduate courses. I am not saying one is better than the other, but it is important to think about what your goal is before deciding. Personally, I think if you want to do a PhD afterwards, publications are key. If this is something you do not have, I would be inclined to go with the research option.

Advisors are also important, which school has more research groups you are interested in? Every school will have a slight concentration on a particular area. If for example your main goal from the outset is to get a PhD from a certain group at ETH, that would change the calculus a bit.

To summarize, unless you have a foolproof plan of how you can support yourself at ETH, I would lean heavily towards UBC. ETH is no doubt higher ranked, and an amazing place for quantum research but at the end of the day UBC is also very strong and ranking should not be the main factor (advisor, program nature, cost are more important in my opinion).

That's my $0.02. Good luck with your decision.

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