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Department of Physics: Graduate ProgramAdvising

Degree Requirements

Physics Clean Room

Advising Overview

Advising of physics graduate students is generally a departmental responsibility.

  • For students who have not passed the qualifying examination, advising responsibilities fall to the Guidance Committee.
  • For those who have passed the qualifying examinations, the Dissertation Committee has the responsibility of advising individual graduate students and of monitoring their progress towards the desired graduate degree.

Note: Within the Physics Department, formal paperwork and general advice concerning course work, along with processing and approval of financial aid documents and forms has traditionally been the responsibility of the graduate program director. However, as a practical matter, the responsibility for approval of course registrations each semester has been passed by the graduate program director to the Graduate Program Committee.

Student's Responsibility

It is ultimately the responsibility of each student to ensure that the necessary requirements for a degree are satisfied. All deviations or waivers from these requirements must be requested in writing from the Graduate Program Committee through Dr. Ian Balitsky.

It is suggested that all Graduate Students in the Department of Physics keep a record of their progress toward the degree. This can be easily accomplished by printing the progress record form and keeping it up to date.

Master's Degree in Physics

The student may select either the thesis or non-thesis option. The thesis program consists of a minimum of 30 graduate credits that includes the thesis courses, PHYS 698 and 699. The non-thesis option requires at least 33 credits. Non-thesis students must pass that part of the written Ph.D. Candidacy Examination offered on the first day of the testing sequence; i.e., he or she must pass the written comprehensive examination at the master's level.

All master's-level students are required to complete PHYS 556, 603, 604 and 697, and they may include no more than 12 credits from courses numbered at the 500 level toward their M.S. course requirements. There is no foreign language requirement. Up to 12 graduate credits may be included from subjects offered by related departments (mathematics, computer science, chemistry, etc.). Each student's program of study must have the advance approval of the graduate program director and departmental chair.

Master of Science Written Examination. Students who take the Written Examination and pass at the apprpriate level are deemed to have passed the M.S. written comprehensive examination. See this page on the written exam for details.

Doctoral Degree in Physics


A minimum of 85 semester hours beyond the undergraduate degree or 48 hours past the master's degree is required by this program. The broad requirements for granting the Ph.D. are as follows; satisfactory performance in core and elective courses, successful completion of both written and oral portions of the Candidacy Examination, and completion of a satisfactory dissertation. The department has the responsibility for academic and dissertation advising. Bona fide candidates for the Ph.D. are those who have passed the Candidacy Examination. Further details are in the departmental graduate brochure, which is available on request.

Candidacy Examination. A student admitted to the Ph.D. program in physics becomes a candidate for the Ph.D. degree by passing the Ph.D. Candidacy Examination. This examination is given twice each year, early in the fall and spring semesters.

See the description of the written and oral candidacy exams here.