Degree Requirements

Graduate Degree Requirements

Required Courses

The total course units required for graduation is 20.



Course Units

Core Requirements


PHYS 5500 (PHYS 500)

Mathematical Methods of Physics


PHYS 5516 (PHYS 516)

Electromagnetic Phenomena


PHYS 5531 (PHYS 531)

Quantum Mechanics I


PHYS 5532 (PHYS 532)

Quantum Mechanics II


PHYS 6611 (PHYS 611)

Statistical Mechanics




Select an additional 15 course units   *


Total Course Units


Course List

*One course must be outside the student's field of specialization. Up to 11 course units can come from independent research or reading courses.

Requirements for the Doctorate

  1. A grade of B+ or higher in each of Math Methods (Physics 5500) (Physics 500), Electrodynamics (Physics 5516) (Physics 516) and Quantum I and II (Physics 5531/5532) (Physics 531/532).
  2. Successful completion of 20 graduate-level courses (including no more than 11 course credits for research and reading courses). These courses must include the four courses in requirement 1, Statistical Mechanics (6611) (611), and one course outside the student's field of specialization.
    • Students may receive credit for graduate courses taken at other institutions, though no more than 8 credits may be transferred. For more information, contact the Graduate Chair with your transcript and a description of the topics covered in the class.
  3. An Oral Candidacy Exam must be taken within 18 months of the successful completion of the four required courses in requirement 1.
    • Before this exam can be scheduled, the student's advisor and the graduate chair must approve a short written statement describing the student's research topic.
    • The exam, which need not be public, is administered by a three-person committee. Typically, the thesis advisor is one of the committee members, with the others drawn from among the members of the Physics Graduate Group.
    • The oral part of the exam will include a presentation by the student followed by a question and answer session on the student's general field of study by the three-person committee.
    • Students who have not arranged for this exam by the 18-month deadline will not be allowed to register for the following term.
  4. Annual progress reports. From the time of successful completion of the Candidacy exam, until successful defense of the Ph.D. dissertation, the student and the three-member committee must provide annual progress reports to the Associate Chair for Graduate Affairs.
  5. A dissertation based on original and significant research in physics, astronomy or a related field.
    • The dissertation must be written in English and presented and defended in public. While the thesis itself may be written in absentia, there is a one-year residency requirement. There is no additional language requirement for the Ph.D. degree.
    • Prior to public presentation, the written dissertation will be examined by a committee consisting of five members of the Physics and Astronomy Graduate Group. Three of the five members are usually the same faculty members who served on the candidate's three-member committee during the oral candidacy exam. One of the two additional members should be chosen from among those active in the candidate's subfield while the remaining member is expected to be from a different subfield. If the candidate's advisor is not a member of the Physics Graduate Group, he/she will serve as the sixth member of the committee. The committee must also attend the public presentation, which serves as an oral examination.
    • The committee members should be given adequate time to read the dissertation (at least 14 days) and the defense should be announced to the department about one week in advance. For that purpose, the candidate should advise the Graduate Assistant of the proposed composition and chair of the five-member dissertation committee, the date, time and place of the defense, and the title of the dissertation, for approval by the Associate Chair for Graduate Affairs. Upon approval, the Graduate Assistant will prepare a notice announcing the defense to the department.
  • Other Programs: Five to ten percent of our students work towards a Ph.D. in physics or astronomy by doing research outside the department, under the joint supervision of a member of the Graduate Group in Physics and Astronomy and a faculty member in another department.

Requirements for the Master's Degree

  1. Grades of B or higher in each of Math Methods (Physics 5500) (Physics 500), Electrodynamics (Physics 5516) (Physics 516), and Quantum I and II (Physics 5531/5532) (Physics 531/532).
  2. Satisfactory completion of four additional graduate-level courses with scores of B or better, at least one of which must be offered by the Physics and Astronomy Department. Up to three courses may be from other departments, provided they are in subjects related to Physics and Astronomy.
  3. There is no language requirement, but there is a one-year residency requirement.


In the Department of Physics and Astronomy, graduate courses are typically graded on a compressed scale.  Passing grades are assigned between B and A+: a B- or lower is given for poor performance.

School of Arts and Sciences Graduate Division