Master's Degree Requirements

As a graduate student entering with a bachelor’s degree, you will take one to two years to complete a total of 45 graduate credits, of which 32 credits must be in physics. These credits must be taken for a grade and passed with a B- or better. The remaining credits may be earned in related fields such as mathematics, chemistry, biology, geology, or other courses approved by the director of graduate studies. At least three term-length courses in mathematics are also required. A master’s thesis is optional.

Students obtaining a master’s degree in physics must satisfy both general university requirements and departmental requirements.

The Department of Physics awards either an “Academic Master’s Degree” or an “Applied Master’s Degree,” depending on your course of study. (See the director of graduate studies for the department requirements for the Applied Master’s Degree).

Graduate Student Handbook

Academic Master’s Degree

In addition to satisfying the general university requirements (see link) and the general department requirements (detailed below), candidates complete the physics department requirements for an Academic Master’s Degree by one of the following methods, each of which is described further below:

  • Submitting a written thesis in accordance with graduate school requirements.
  • Taking specific physics graduate courses. Waivers of departmental requirements may be obtained by applying to the director of graduate studies.

Those candidates who can demonstrate competence in a foreign language equivalent to that attained at the end of two years of college study of a foreign language may receive a MA degree, if they wish. All others receive a MS degree.

General Department Requirements:

  • Prior training equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in physics.
  • A total of 45 graduate credits of which at least 30 credits are earned in University of Oregon courses. The grade point average for all graduate work at the university must be 3.0 or better.
  • At least 32 credits must be in physics, including at least one full-year sequence at the 600 ‘core’ course level (listed under Specific Course Requirements Option below). The 32 credits in physics must be graded.
  • The remaining credits may be earned in related fields, such as mathematics, chemistry, biology, geology or other courses. Remaining credits completed outside of physics must be approved by the director of graduate studies.

Options for Completion of the Academic Master’s Degree

The general department requirements described above are required of all academic master’s candidates. In addition, a student must either submit and defend a written thesis, or successfully complete specific courses. These two options are described below.

Master’s Thesis Option

Students who choose to submit a master’s thesis must complete the following:

  • Secure a thesis advisor.
  • Inform the director of graduate studies, who will appoint an advisory committee consisting of three physics faculty members including the advisor as chairman.
  • The candidate will meet with the committee, which will judge the proposed scope and content of the thesis. Both of these should be reasonably well-defined at the outset. The thesis should be worthy of at least 9 graduate credits and should require some original contribution by the student. Submission of the thesis to the committee members may occur no earlier than three months after this committee meeting.
  • Complete 9 credits of Thesis (PHYS 503) or 6 credits of Thesis and 3 credits of Research (PHYS 601). These credits may be counted towards the 45 credit general department requirements.
  • Submit the master’s thesis to the committee members. If the committee agrees that the thesis does not require major revisions in its scope or content, it will schedule an oral defense.
  • Present a short oral defense of the thesis to the committee, who will then deliberate and determine whether it merits approval, needs minor revisions, or requires major revisions and reconsideration by the committee.
  • Once the thesis is approved, submit the thesis in a form acceptable to the Graduate School.
  • Students must complete the Master’s thesis within three years of the date of admission to the graduate program.

Specific Physics Courses Option

Students may instead choose the completion of specific physics courses option. The courses that are used to satisfy the general department requirements may also be used to satisfy this requirement.

Students must take at least 40 credits in graduate physics courses at the University of Oregon. The 40 credits in physics must be graded and a GPA of at least 3.0 must be achieved

Six courses must be chosen from the three groups below. Each of these courses must be completed for a B- grade or better (this may entail retaking courses).

  • Group 1: PHYS 631, 632, 633 Quantum Mechanics
  • Group 2: PHYS 611, 612/613, 614 Theoretical Mechanics/Statistical Physics [612 (2 Credits & 613 (2 Credits) count for one 4-credit course]
  • Group 3: PHYS 610 Mathematical Methods, PHYS 622, 623 Electromagnetic Theory

Students may take up to twelve credit hours of laboratory or related courses to satisfy the 45 credit (general) requirement. Courses taken from the following list are applicable:

  • PHYS 510 (Scientific Computation)
  • PHYS 510 (Modern Optics Lab)
  • PHYS 581 (Design of Experiments)
  • PHYS 591, 592, 593 (Advanced Projects Lab)
  • Any physics special topics class that is primarily lab or data/computation oriented, to be approved prior to registration by the director of graduate studies.

These laboratory courses also must be taken as graded courses.

If the student chooses the Specific Physics Courses Option, then all courses for the master’s degree must be completed within a three-year period starting from the time the student enters the physics graduate program.

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Applied Master’s Degree

An applied physics master’s degree, available through the Knight Campus Graduate Internship Program, helps prepare physicists for careers in industry and government labs. We believe an advanced degree should help you land a job and prepare you for a successful career.

This program includes coursework, professional development, and a nine-month paid internship. The internship salary helps offset the cost of tuition. The program offers focus areas in Optical Materials & Devices or Semiconductor and Photovoltaic device processing.

Knight Campus Graduate Internship Program

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Apply to Our Graduate Program

Ready to apply? Start your application on Slate, the centralized application portal for graduate admissions at the University of Oregon.

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