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A&S—Physics and Astronomy

The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers the MS and PhD degrees in physics. The graduate program provides a broad experimental, observational, and theoretical foundation upon which students build careers as scientists prepared for both teaching and research.

Contact Information

Main Office: 100 Allen Hall
412-624-9066 or 412-624-9000
Fax: 412-624-9163



To be considered for admission, a student must have earned a baccalaureate degree in physics, astronomy, or a related field; must have an impressive undergraduate record; and must submit a complete application. The application also serves as an application for financial aid, if the candidate so desires. A complete application consists of the following. Application details are provided on our website.

  • An online application
  • Transcripts from all college-level institutions attended (unofficial until admitted)
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores General (required) and Advanced Physics test (recommended)
  • Brief statement of purpose
  • Evidence of any research experience (recommended but not required)
  • Curriculum Vitae (optional)
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • International applicants only: TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS scores and completed Certification of Financial Responsibility and International Graduate Student Supplemental Form for the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences


Financial Aid

Financial aid is normally provided to graduate students through teaching or research assistantships. In addition, numerous competitive fellowships are available for students. All qualified applicants are entered into a pool for these fellowships. The department endeavors to support all students throughout their entire graduate career, provided good academic standing is maintained and progress is being made toward the degree.

Requirements for the Master of Science

A candidate for the Master of Science in physics must satisfactorily complete the MS comprehensive examination, based on the scores achieved on the final examinations in the core graduate and/or advanced undergraduate courses; must maintain grade point averages of at least 3.00 in all courses, including the core courses; and complete a minimum of 24 credits. MS students may elect either a thesis or a non-thesis program as detailed on the departmental Web site above.

Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy

The PhD program in physics, described in more detail in the referenced documents, aims to assure that graduates are well versed in the fundamentals of their fields, have a broad knowledge of contemporary developments, and are experts in the techniques and current state of the subject area of their research. Students are required to complete the six core courses (PHYS 2373, 2513, 2541, 2555, 2565, 2566) within the first two years of their program. Students entering with a Masters degree from another institution are encouraged to review Section A.5 of the departmental requirements document. At least four classes numbered above 3000 are also required for the degree. Teaching practice, presentation and attendance of seminars, and writing and an oral presentation of a dissertation give candidates broad experience in the effective communication of their work.

A minimum of 72 graduate credits are required for the PhD degree.

The PhD preliminary evaluation, which also serves as the comprehensive examination for the MS, is based on final examination scores in the core graduate and/or advanced undergraduate subjects. All students are required to pass the preliminary examination by the end of the first year.

PhD students are also required to complete the PhD comprehensive examination, which is based on final examination scores in the core graduate courses. This examination should be passed within the first two years of residency. Students who were exempted from a particular core course are required to take the final examination in that course.

The PhD dissertation research, a major part of the PhD program, must contribute significantly to the advancement of knowledge in physics or astronomy. Students will be required to meet annually with their thesis committee and successfully defend their dissertation before this committee and the University community.


Course Listing


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