Master of Science in Physics

Physics is a broad subject that ranges from pondering the origins of the universe to designing better electronic memory devices. The Master's Program is designed for students who want to obtain an advanced degree in physics. Students who successfully complete our program will have acquired strong analytical skills that are valued in many fields. If they decide they want to continue their education, they will be in a strong position enter a Physics or Astronomy Ph.D. program.

How long is the program?

The average time to completion has been 12.5 months for the Standard Path and 15 months for the Broad Path. (Updated 2017)

What courses are taken while in the program?

The core courses are classical mechanics, eletrodynamics, quantum mechanics and statistical physics. 

May students take Electives outside the Department?

Yes, students may take Electives outside the Department. There is flexibility to help students reach their goals. Students have taken courses from the following departments:

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Engineering Science and Applied Mathematics

Interdiscplinary Biological Sciences

Materials Science

Can students still apply if physics wasn't their undergraduate major?

Promising students with degrees in related fields may be accepted to a 2-year program starting with undergraduate courses in the first year and graduate level courses in the second.

Does acceptance to the Master's program ensure acceptance to the PhD program later?

No, it does not. Current students must apply as external applicants would. 

Is funding available?

Department funding is unavailable. For tuition information, please go to Student Financial Service's tuition website. Tuition information is subject to change.

For information on external fellowships or funding, please visit the Office of Fellowships' website.

What are students who have graduated from this program doing now?

Please see our Master's Alumni page for more information. 

Paths to Completion

Within the Master's Program, there are two paths to completion: the Standard (Thesis) Path and the Broad Path.

Standard (Thesis) Path

  • Nine (9) graded courses are required
    • Five (5) core courses
    • Four (4) elective courses
  • Master’s Thesis
    • Either an in-depth reading project, or a research project, supervised by an appropriate faculty member
    • Thesis to be presented for evaluation
    • Usually completed by end of summer quarter of the first year

The Standard Path to the Master's Degree is normally completed within one calendar year. The nine (9) graded courses are taken during the Fall, Winter and Spring quarters, and the Master's Thesis is written during the late Spring and Summer.

Broad Path

  • Twelve (12) graded courses are required
    • Five (5) core courses 
    • Seven (7) elective courses 

The Broad Path is typically completed in 15 months; nine (9) courses are taken during the Fall, Winter and Spring quarters of the first year, and the remaining three (3) courses are taken the following Fall.


Core Courses

Five out of the following six, to be completed in Fall and Winter quarters

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

Elective Courses

At least four from this list, during Winter and Spring  quarters.

  • Physics 412-2: Quantum Mechanics II
  • Physics 412-3: Quantum Mechanics III
  • Physics 414-2: Electrodynamics II
  • Physics 420-0: Statistical Physics
  • Physics 422-1,2,3: Condensed Matter Physics
  • Physics 423-0: Nuclear Physics
  • Physics 424-1,2: Particle Physics
  • Physics 426-0: Nonlinear Physics (EECS 406-0)
  • Physics 430-0: Physics of Continuous Media
  • Physics 432-1,2: Many-body Theory
  • Physics 434-0: Quantum Fluids, Solids and Gases
  • Physics 435-0: Soft Matter Physics
  • Physics 436-0: Mesoscopic and Nanometer Scale Physics
  • Physics 471-0: Molecular Biophysics
  • Physics 478-0: Fundamentals of Macromolecular Crystallography
  • Physics 479-0: Biophysical Methods for Macromolecular Analysis
  • Astronomy 421-0: Observational Astrophysics
  • Astronomy 425-0: Stellar Astrophysics
  • Astronomy 429-0: Extragalatic Astrophysics and Cosmology
  • Astronomy 443-0: Stellar Structure and Evolution
  • Astronomy 445-1,2: General Relativity and Applications
  • Astronomy 448-0: Interstellar Gas and Radiation Pressure
  • 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 Master's degree as they work toward completion of the Ph.D. These requirements are as follows:

  • Completion of seven core courses in the first year
  • Completion of five or more elective courses in the second year
  • GPA of 3.0 or higher


For questions or comments, please contact the Graduate Program Assistant for the Department of Physics and Astronomy.