Physics: Earning the M.S. degree

For a comprehensive description of the Master’s in Physics, consult the program requirements.

Course Requirements

For the M.S. degree, students are required to complete 36 units. Students fulfill the 36-unit requirement by taking the six core courses (24 units), two required non-core courses (4 units) and two elective courses (8 units). No more than eight units may be chosen from Physics 596 and/or seminar courses. Physics 597 and 598 may not be applied toward course requirements for the M.S. degree.

Students are required to enroll in a minimum of 12 units each quarter and maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Written Comprehensive Examination

The written comprehensive examination consists of two four-hour sections given on consecutive days, and its scope is defined by the graduate physics material in the six core courses (Physics 210A, 210B, 215A, 220, 221A, and 221B).

The written comprehensive examination is offered once a year, in the week before the beginning of classes in Fall Quarter. Students entering the graduate program in Fall Quarter are expected to take the written comprehensive examination before their fourth quarter of residence.

Students are required to pass the written comprehensive examination at the PhD level. This level is determined by the Comprehensive Examination Committee for each examination session. If students fail to pass the examination at the PhD level, they may take it a second time the next session it is given.

Thesis Plan

Although the department operates under the comprehensive examination plan rather than the thesis plan, arrangements can usually be made for students to write a master's thesis, provided they have a particularly interesting subject and provided a professor is willing to undertake the guidance of their project. In this case, students must petition the committee of graduate advisers for permission to pursue the thesis plan. If the petition is approved, the comprehensive examination is waived.

Petition for Master’s degree

Once a student has completed the required courses and passed the comprehensive exam, they may file a petition to receive an M.S. degree.