Master of Science

We offer a Master of Science Degree in Physics.

Physics is a broad subject that ranges from pondering the origins of the universe to designing better electronic memory devices. Men and women with an undergraduate degree in physics or related fields are encouraged to apply to the Department of Physics and Astronomy Masters Program to obtain a solid basis in the fundamentals of physics and to pursue their particular interests and career goals.

The Northwestern University Masters Program in Physics is designed to meet the needs of individuals who have the interest and skills needed for an advanced degree in physics, but who do not want to spend several years in graduate school earning a doctorate. Students will normally complete the requirements within four quarters, starting with basic "core" courses in classical mechanics, electrodynamics, quantum mechanics and statistical physics, followed by a number of elective courses drawn from many departments at Northwestern University. The keyword for the program is flexibility, as students are empowered to study what is most relevant to their goals.

For inquiries, please contact the Director of the Master's Program in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

2015-2016 Masters students

Our 2015-2016 Masters students

Program Details

The base program, intended for students with a strong undergraduate physics background, consists of a year of graduate-level courses, including core courses in the fundamentals and a broad range of elective courses that can be tailored to the student’s specific goals.
Promising students with degrees in related fields can be accommodated with a 2-year program starting with undergraduate courses in the first year and graduate level courses in the second.

Northwestern undergraduates who have taken graduate-level courses may be able to obtain advanced placement in the program.

Students who successfully complete our program will have acquired strong analytical skills that are valued in many fields. Should they decide they would like to continue their education, they will be in a strong position enter a Physics Ph.D. program. 

This program does not offer financial aid, although participants may be eligible for support through external programs.

General masters program information can be found on the website of The Graduate School.

Standard and Broad Paths

Within the Masters Program, there are two paths to completion, called “Standard” and “Broad.” They share the same core requirement.

Standard Path

  • Five core courses (see below)
  • Four elective courses (see below)
  • Master’s Thesis
    • Either an in-depth reading project, or a research project, supervised by an appropriate faculty member, similar to 499-0-nn “Independent Study”
    • Thesis to be presented for evaluation.
    • Should be completed by end of summer quarter.

Broad Path

  • Five core courses (see below)
  • Seven elective courses (see below)

The Standard Path to the Masters Degree should be completed within one calendar year; the nine courses would be taken during the winter, fall and spring quarters and the Masters Thesis would be written during the summer. The Broad Path would be completed typically in 15 months; nine courses would be taken during the winter, fall and spring quarters, and the additional three courses would be taken in the fall quarter of the second year.

Core Courses

Five out of the following six, to be completed in fall and winter quarters

  1. Physics 411-1: Methods of Theoretical Physics (fall)
  2. Physics 411-0: Classical Mechanics (fall)
  3. Physics 412-1: Quantum Mechanics I (fall)
  4. Physics 412-2: Quantum Mechanics II (winter)
  5. Physics 414-1: Electrodynamics I (winter)
  6. Physics 416-0: Introduction to Statistical Mechanics (winter)

Elective Courses

At least four from this list, during spring and fall quarters.

  1. Physics 412-2: Quantum Mechanics II
  2. Physics 412-3: Quantum Mechanics III
  3. Physics 414-2: Electrodynamics II
  4. Physics 420-0: Statistical Physics
  5. Physics 422-1,2,3: Condensed Matter Physics
  6. Physics 423-0: Nuclear Physics
  7. Physics 424-1,2: Particle Physics
  8. Physics 426-0: Nonlinear Physics (EECS 406-0)
  9. Physics 430-0: Physics of Continuous Media
  10. Physics 432-1,2: Many-body Theory
  11. Physics 434-0: Quantum Fluids, Solids and Gases
  12. Physics 435-0: Soft Matter Physics
  13. Physics 436-0: Mesoscopic and Nanometer Scale Physics
  14. Physics 471-0: Molecular Biophysics
  15. Physics 478-0: Fundamentals of Macromolecular Crystallography
  16. Physics 479-0: Biophysical Methods for Macromolecular Analysis
  17. Astronomy 421-0: Observational Astrophysics
  18. Astronomy 425-0: Stellar Astrophysics
  19. Astronomy 429-0: Extragalatic Astrophysics and Cosmology
  20. Astronomy 443-0: Stellar Structure and Evolution
  21. Astronomy 445-1,2: General Relativity and Applications
  22. Astronomy 448-0: Interstellar Gas and Radiation Pressure
  23. Astronomy 449-0: Stellar Dynamics

MS Degree Requirements for PhD Students

Students enrolled in the Ph.D. program have the opportunity to obtain a formal masters degree as they work toward completion of the Ph.D. These requirements are as follows:

  1. Completion of seven core courses in the first year
  2. Completion of five or more elective courses in the second year
  3. GPA of 3.0 or higher