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.

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.

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 Mark Brodwin (, Flarsheim Hall 250L, (816) 235-2508 or Paul Rulis (, Flarsheim Hall 250D, (816) 235-5945.

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 on a 4.0 scale.
  2. Students must satisfy the general requirements set forth by the School of Graduate Studies.
  3. 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. Select a minimum of fifteen (15) credit hours from MS Core Courses;
    2. At least fifteen (15) hours of MS Elective Courses.
  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. Select a minimum fifteen (15) credit hours of core MS courses;
    2. At least eighteen (18) credit hours of MS Elective courses.

Note: Graduate students should consult with either of the Department of Physics and Astronomy graduate advisors prior to enrollment.

Professor Mark Brodwin (, Flarsheim Hall 250L, 816-235-5945
Professor Paul Rulis (, Flarsheim Hall 250D 816-235-5945

Course List

MS Core Courses15
Theoretical Mechanics I
Electromagnetic Theory And Applications I
Quantum Mechanics I
Statistical Physics I
Electromagnetic Theory And Applications II
Quantum Mechanics II
MS Elective Courses 215-18
Methods Of Mathematical Physics I
Methods Of Mathematical Physics II
Theoretical Mechanics II
Optical Properties Of Matter
Statistical Physics II
Atomic And Molecular Structure
Practical Astronomy
Stellar Astrophysics
Nuclear Physics
Quantum Theory Of Solids I
Topics In Physics
Computer Interfacing Laboratory
Research And Thesis 3
Thermal Physics
Advanced Laboratory
Introduction To Solid State Physics
Electricity And Magnetism I
Electricity And Magnetism II
Introduction To Quantum Mechanics

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.