Master's Program

The master of science degree in physics prepares students for a variety of scientific careers. Since physics is the most fundamental of the physical sciences, graduate-level studies in the field provide essential knowledge for application in many areas. Students with strong backgrounds in physics, as well as in areas ranging from biology to engineering, are encouraged to consider a personalized MS program in physics. Graduates have many job opportunities in a variety of areas.

Degree Requirements
Detailed policies for the MS degree are listed at the MU Graduate School. Here we give details specific to the Physics program.

Course Work
The MS Degree requires completion of a minimum of 30 course hours beyond the Bachelor’s Degree (at least 15 hours of those in 8000 level courses) with a grade of 3.0 (B) or better, and completion of the Departmental Qualifying Examination at least at the MS pass level. The basic residency requirement stipulates that 24 hours of this work be courses taken at MU (i.e., no more than 6 hours may be transfer credits). In a normal program, this requirement is met by the end of the second year at MU. The required courses for a Master’s Degree are:

  • Physics 8610: Advanced Mechanics (3)
  • Physics 8620: Electrodynamics I (3)
  • Physics 8660: Methods in Mathematical Physics (3)
  • Physics 8680: Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics (3)
  • Physics 8710: Quantum Mechanics I (3)

Other additional courses may be taken from 7000 and 8000 level courses in astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, biology, engineering, and physics to make a total of 30 hours of course work In some cases, a student who is a transfer graduate student or who has a particularly strong undergraduate background may have had course work which satisfies the requirement of one or more of these core courses. Exemption from taking these courses at MU may be granted upon written application to the Departmental Graduate Studies Committee.

It is essential for the MS degree that the students carries out some research. Three hours of research, Physics 8090, should be taken, but not more than nine hours of reading and research courses may be included in the 30 hour requirement. (Note: This 9 hour limitation is a departmental requirement and is more restrictive than the Graduate School requirement.) A formal MS thesis is not required in Physics. The student, in consultation with his/her adviser, can choose to write an MS thesis as an option (MU Graduate School thesis guidelines).

Qualifying Examination
The student must pass the Departmental Qualifying Examination at least at the MS pass level. Upon completion of the qualifying examination, the student fills out the form M3, “Report of the Master’s Examining Committee” and gathers the signatures of the Qualifying Examination Committee members. This form is then signed by the Director of Graduate Studies and forwarded to the Graduate School Dean.

Graduation Requirements
After performing satisfactory work for the first year, the student with the adviser’s assistance completes the form M1, “Plan of Study for the Master’s Degree,” an outline of the course of study for the student’s graduate program, and forwards the application through the Departmental Graduate Studies Committee to the Dean of the Graduate School. The plan of study form must be filed no later than the session preceding the session in which the student expects to receive the degree. Upon approval of the M1 form by the Dean of the Graduate School, the student is a candidate for the degree.

The program for the Master’s Degree must be completed within a period of eight years beginning with the first semester of enrollment, not including time spent in the armed services. For any extension of this time limitation, the student must petition the Graduate School Dean. Such petitions must be received in the Graduate School Office prior to the expiration of the normal period and must be approved by the adviser, the Departmental Director of Graduate Studies, and the Graduate School Dean. The Graduate School will notify the adviser in writing of the final decision.

The candidate must be enrolled at the MU campus during the semester in which the program of study, outlined in the “Plan of Study for the Master’s Degree”, is expected to be completed. During the first six weeks of this semester, the candidate must personally confirm with the Graduate School Office for all graduation arrangements.

Contact Info

Prof. Suchi Guha
Director of Graduate Studies
223 Physics Building
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211
phone: 573-884-3687