Master of Science in Physics: Concentration in Astronomy

The Master of Science in Physics with a concentration in Astronomy is similar to the M.S. in Physics program, but with a selection of core courses that is better suited to those planning to pursue careers in astronomy teaching and outreach, or in astronomical observatories and laboratories. It is also suitable for those seeking entry into Ph.D. programs in astronomy.

Progress toward Degree

Classified or conditionally classified graduate students who do not successfully complete two courses per year toward their Advancement to Candidacy are subject to disqualification.

Graduate students are expected to attend colloquia and must attend at least five per semester unless excused by the graduate coordinator.

Written English Proficiency Requirement

The University has a requirement for written English proficiency that is to be assessed at two levels.

Level One (preadmission)

is satisfied by obtaining a score of 4.5 or above in the analytical writing portion of the GRE. Applicants who do not receive a minimum score of 4.5 on the GRE may be admitted conditionally and must complete SCI 614, SCI 560GW, or PHYS 340GW with a grade of B or better during the first year.

Level Two

is satisfied by submitting a thesis which your thesis committee agrees meets the level two standard, or by submitting a paper of at least ten pages which the graduate coordinator agrees meets the level two standard.


The oral defense of the thesis is delivered to the student's advisory committee and includes responses to questions from the committee on subjects related to the thesis topic. The master's comprehensive oral examination (PHYS 896EXM) is delivered to the student's advisory committee and covers all areas of theoretical and experimental physics deemed appropriate by the committee. The oral defense of thesis or master's comprehensive oral examination may be repeated once, under conditions specified by the committee, upon petition by the student.

Prior to taking graduate courses numbered 700–799, M.S. students must pass a written examination on undergraduate-level physics. Those intending to concentrate in astronomy may also be separately tested on appropriate undergraduate-level material prior to taking astronomy courses numbered 700–799; testing will occur at the discretion of the graduate coordinator. The requirement may be satisfied by achieving a satisfactory score on the Physics Major Field Test or Physics GRE. While new graduate students may take graduate courses during their first semester with the department (in consultation with the graduate coordinator), they must pass this test before taking graduate courses in subsequent semesters. If a student fails to pass the test, he or she will be advised to take appropriate undergraduate courses to remedy those gaps that prevented him or her from passing the test. Tests taken more than six months prior to enrollment as a graduate student in the department do not fulfill this requirement.

Physics (M.S.): Concentration in Astronomy — 30 units

Group I: Core Courses (12 units)

ASTR 722Radiative Processes and Gas Dynamics in Astrophysics3
ASTR 742Galaxies and Cosmology3
ASTR 770Observational Techniques in Astronomy Research3
PHYS 701Classical Mechanics3

Group II: Graduate Physics and Astronomy Electives (9 units)

Elective graduate physics or astronomy courses with numbers in the range of PHYS 700–790 and ASTR 700–798 (Note: PHYS 800–899 do not count in this category).

The following are recommended:
ASTR 700Stellar Astrophysics3
ASTR 798Astronomy Research Literature2
PHYS 712Physics of Plasmas3
PHYS 725Special and General Relativity3
PHYS 740Computational Physics4
PHYS 775Statistical Physics3
PHYS 785Theoretical Physics3

Group III: General Electives (6–9 units)

Elective advanced upper division (numbered 400 or above) or graduate courses in physics, astronomy, or appropriately related subjects, selected on advisement and with approval of graduate coordinator (note that PHYS 800–PHYS 899 count in this category). *Note: Students who choose PHYS 896EXM (0 units) will take nine units of General Electives; students who choose PSY 898 (3 units) will take six units of General Electives.

Group IV: Thesis and/or Oral Examination  (0–3 units)

PHYS 896EXMCulminating Experience Examination0
PHYS 898Master's Thesis3
and Oral Defense of Thesis

Note: Degree total must include at least 15 units from courses numbered 700–899, but no more than 6 units of PHYS 800–PHYS 899 together, nor more than four units of PHYS 730.