Description of the Master of Science in Physics Program

Degree Options

The Master of Science (MS) degree in Physics may be earned by fulfilling the requirements for the MS with thesis or the MS without thesis. A full-time graduate student seeking the MS degree in physics is expected to take the thesis option and is required for Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs). The without-thesis option is designed specifically for part-time students who already have career employment.

Career Implications

The career implications for students with an MS degree in Physics and seeking employment are similar to those with a BS degree in Physics, except that they will have a more advanced standing and will be recognized as having more experience in science/technical activities. Similarly, for students that intend to pursue further academic or professional training, the MS degree in Physics will give greater weight to your applications.

Student Categories Targeted

The MS programs in Physics are intended to serve the following groups:

  • Those who wish to obtain a MS degree in Physics but do not expect to go further in graduate work.
  • Those who intend to work toward a PhD in Physics after obtaining the MS degree in Physics.
  • Those who wish to take graduate physics courses as part of a program in some other discipline or for educational or professional reasons.
  • Those who wish to obtain an Interdisciplinary PhD degree from UMKC in two or more academic disciplines, one of which is Physics.

Research Advisor

A student who is entering the graduate program with the objective of earning a MS degree in Physics with a thesis will select or be assigned an advisor. The student-advisor pairing should be made during the first semester, if possible. Together, the student and the advisor will work out the complete program of study for the MS degree in Physics.

Departmental Examination

All graduate students in physics who have completed more than 6 graduate credit hours must take the written departmental examination that is offered each January.

Graduate Advising

Graduate student advising questions should be directed to Professor Paul Rulis (, Flarsheim Hall 250D, (816) 235-5945.

Admission to the Master of Science in Physics Program

Admissions Requirements

To be admitted to the graduate program, an undergraduate major in physics is not required, and deficiencies in completed coursework may be overcome by taking additional undergraduate-level courses for graduate credit. Applicants are encouraged to take both the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) aptitude test and physics test. International students must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Admission will be based on academic record and other information such as letters of reference, GRE score, and a personal interview.

Scholarships, Fellowships, and Assistantships

Financial support is available through fellowships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships or hourly student wages.Students wishing to be considered for an assistantship must so specify in their letters and application forms.

Student Learning Outcomes

Students graduating from this program will:

  • Have an advanced knowledge of the basic areas of physics.
  • Be able to integrate their knowledge with critical thinking skills in order to become quantitative problem solvers.
  • Be able to clearly articulate scientific information, both orally and in writing.
  • Be able to effectively use the scientific literature.

Program Requirements

General Regulations for all MS Degree Seeking Students

  1. All graduate students must maintain a grade-point average of 3.0 (A = 4.0).
  2. There are no secondary language requirements as part of the MS degree in Physics.
  3. Students must satisfy the general requirements set forth by the School of Graduate Studies.
  4. Completion of the written departmental examination passed at the “MS Comprehensive” level.

Additional Requirements Specifically for the MS Degree in Physics With Thesis

  1. 30 graduate credit hours with the following constraints:
    1. At least fifteen (15) hours from MS Core Courses;
    2. No more than twelve (12) credit hours of 400-level courses;
    3. At least fifteen (15) hours of MS Elective Courses with no more than six (6) hours from PHYSICS 5599;
  2. Maintenance of satisfactory progress toward completion of research project and the associated written thesis.
  3. A satisfactory1 thesis defense with the following constraints:
    1. The thesis defense is administered by the student's supervisory committee and can be taken only after the student has passed the written departmental examination at the “MS Comprehensive” level.
    2. The defense may be oral, written, or both and it may include the student's thesis proposal and associated background material.

Additional Requirements Specifically for the MS Degree in Physics Without Thesis

  1. 33 graduate credit hours with the following constraints:
    1. At least fifteen (15) credit hours of core MS courses;
    2. No more than twelve (12) credit hours of 400-level courses;
    3. At least six (6) credit hours of 500-level MS Elective courses.

Note: Graduate students should consult with the Department of Physics and Astronomy graduate advisor, Professor Paul Rulis (, Flarsheim Hall 250D, 816-235-5945, prior to enrollment.

Written Departmental Examination
(a.k.a. MS Comprehensive Exam, PhD Qualifying Exam)

During January of each year, the Department of Physics and Astronomy will administer a written, MS Comprehensive/PhD Qualifying examination of all MS-level physics students and Interdisciplinary PhD students with physics as their primary discipline. The two-part examination will be given during two sessions (morning and afternoon) of four hours each on the first Saturday after the start of the Spring Semester. Each part of the examination will contain approximately eight questions at varying levels of difficulty (introductory to advanced undergraduate). The following subject areas will be addressed in the given order by the two examination sessions:

  1. Mechanics and Electromagnetism.
  2. Quantum Mechanics and Thermodynamics.

Students may pass the written examination at the following ascending levels of achievement:

  1. “MS Comprehensive” - necessary for the MS degree in physics.
  2. “PhD Qualifying” - necessary for invitation to take the comprehensive examination in fulfillment of the Interdisciplinary PhD program requirements.

Students need only pass the written examination once at any given achievement level. But, all graduate students must attempt the exam every year until they pass it at the appropriate level, unless they are granted an exception via a petition to the physics and astronomy faculty.

A maximum of two attempts at each level (MS Comprehensive, PhD Qualifying) will be permitted, and any student who does not attempt the examination when required to do so will be deemed to have failed the examination on that attempt, unless they have been given prior permission to delay taking the exam. Students who are required to take this examination are encouraged to consult with the Department of Physics and Astronomy graduate advisor, Professor Paul Rulis (, Flarsheim Hall 250D, 816-235-5945, for detailed information concerning procedures and regulations for the examination.

Course List

MS Core Courses
PHYSICS 5510Theoretical Mechanics I3
PHYSICS 5520Electromagnetic Theory And Applications I3
PHYSICS 5530Quantum Mechanics I3
PHYSICS 5540Statistical Physics I3
PHYSICS 5521Electromagnetic Theory And Applications II3
PHYSICS 5531Quantum Mechanics II3
MS Elective Courses
PHYSICS 5500Methods Of Mathematical Physics I3
PHYSICS 5501Methods Of Mathematical Physics II3
PHYSICS 5511Theoretical Mechanics II3
PHYSICS 5535Optical Properties Of Matter3
PHYSICS 5541Statistical Physics II3
PHYSICS 5550Atomic And Molecular Structure3
PHYSICS 5553Practical Astronomy3
PHYSICS 5555Stellar Astrophysics3
PHYSICS 5556Galaxies3
PHYSICS 5565Cosmology3
PHYSICS 5560Nuclear Physics3
PHYSICS 5570Quantum Theory Of Solids I3
PHYSICS 5590Topics In Physics1-3
PHYSICS 5595LComputer Interfacing Laboratory3
PHYSICS 5599Research And Thesis1-9
PHYSICS 410Thermal Physics3
PHYSICS 420Optics3
PHYSICS 476LWAdvanced Laboratory3
PHYSICS 450Introduction To Solid State Physics3
PHYSICS 460Electricity And Magnetism I3
PHYSICS 461Electricity And Magnetism II3
PHYSICS 472Introduction To Quantum Mechanics3

'Satisfactory' is determined by the student's committee.