Degree Requirements

Ph.D. Degree

The formal academic requirements for the Ph.D. degree have the following major parts:

  • Mastery of material covered in four core courses (with a grade of B or better)
  • Passing of the written departmental comprehensive exam
  • Mastery in four electives classes (grade of B or better)
  • Passing of the preliminary oral and final oral examination

All students must take nine or more credit hours per semester until academic requirements are fulfilled. All students are expected to show normal progress towards their degree objectives. There is also a continuous registration policy, which is described in the Graduate Catalog. This policy requires students to obtain written permission if continuous registration is to be interrupted.

For Ph.D. candidates, the departmental written examination should be completed after the second semester, and must be completed after the fourth semester. Minor requirements should be completed within three semesters after passing the departmental examination. The preliminary oral examination must be successfully passed by the end of the fourth year. Renewals of assistantships are contingent on satisfactory progress.

For students encountering academic difficulties, a decision on future academic options should be reached as early as possible. In addition to the interest of the Department of Physics in the rapid completion of a well-planned graduate program, the Graduate School imposes stringent time limitations.

Ph.D. program milestones

Graduate handbook

M.S. Degree

General requirements for the M.S. degree are described in the Graduate Catalog. The following information is only a guide. The physics department has two M.S. programs: one with thesis and one without. There is no language requirement for either M.S. degree.

Option A

For the thesis M.S. degree, there are rigid requirements for both the minimum number of courses and the distribution of these courses.

  • Students must have 30 semester credits.
  • No more than six credits of research may be included to satisfy the minimum requirements.
  • A program with a minor must include 15 credits of regular physics courses (500 level or above, but not including PY 501, 502, 512 or 515) and nine credits outside the physics department (400 level or above).
  • A program with no minor requires 24 hours of regular courses with at least 18 hours in the physics department (500 level or above, but not including PY 501, 511, or 514).
  • If the M.S. degree is a terminal degree, the major emphasis should be on breadth. In this case, courses such as Nuclear Physics, Particle Physics, Optics, Atomic Physics, Computational Physics, Astrophysics and Solid State Physics (PY 506, 507, 516, 517, 525, 543 and 552, respectively) seem suitable, in addition to the Quantum Mechanics course strongly suggested for all students. A minor in some branch of engineering would seem appropriate for most students who do not plan further academic studies. Note: Courses for minor requirements are sometimes available in summer school.

Other requirements:

  • After a research director is chosen, an advisory committee is formed consisting of the adviser, one other physicist and a representative from the minor field (or another physicist, for the programs with no minor). Then a plan of work is submitted and must be approved and signed by the advisory committee, the director of graduate programs, and the Graduate School. The Graduate School requires that this plan of work be submitted before completion of one-half of the total program.
  • An oral examination is required, which normally emphasizes the thesis.

Normally the M.S. (option A) degree is completed in 2 to 2.5 years. A period of more than 3-4 years in an M.S. program demonstrates unsatisfactory progress.

Option B

Students may obtain an M.S. degree without writing a thesis through the Option B degree. This option is normally exercised by Ph.D. students who consider it to be a degree obtained en route to the Ph.D. degree.

Requirements for the Option B degree include successful passing of the departmental examination and completion of 30 total graduate credit hours.

  • None of these hours may be research hours (i.e., PY 695 or PY 895).
  • At least 18 credit hours must be letter-graded courses.
  • No more than six credit hours are 400-level courses (not PY courses).