Master of Science in Physics

This is an archived copy of the 2016-2017 bulletin. To access the most recent version of the bulletin, please visit Any changes will appear on our errata page.

Students wishing to be admitted to the Master of Science in physics program should have completed an undergraduate major in physics, with a minimum 3.0 grade point average in physics and mathematics courses, and minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 semester units. Students whose undergraduate degree is in another field may be admitted to conditionally classified status, but additional undergraduate-level course work will be required to make up the deficiency. Contact the graduate coordinator for further details.

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 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 on the 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 in order 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.) — Minimum 30 units

Group I: Core Courses (15 units)

PHYS 701Classical Mechanics3
PHYS 704Electricity and Magnetism I3
PHYS 706Quantum Mechanics3
PHYS 775Statistical Physics3
PHYS 785Theoretical Physics3

Group II: Graduate Physics Electives (6 units)

Elective graduate physics or astronomy courses with numbers in the range from PHYS 700 - PHYS 790 and ASTR 700 - ASTR 798 only, (note that PHYS 800 - PHYS 899 do not count in this category).

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 the Culminating Experience Exam (PHYS 896EXM - 0 units) will choose 9 units of General Electives. Students who choose the Master's Thesis (3 units) will choose 6 units of General Electives.

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

PHYS 896EXMCulminating Experience Examination0
PHYS 898Master's Thesis (and Oral Defense of Thesis)3

Note: Degree total to include no more than 6 units of PHYS 800 - PHYS 899, nor more than 4 units of PHYS 730.