M.S. and Ph.D. Degrees
The M.S. and the Ph.D. in physics are separate degree programs, and students should consider which is the most appropriate for their career goals. Students who are admitted to the Ph.D. may earn the M.S. as part of their plan of study. Students will need to indicate in the application portal which degree program they are applying to.
In addition to WVU’s general admission requirements, applicants to either degree program are expected to have a bachelor’s degree in physics, astronomy, or a related field, with upper-division courses in electricity and magnetism, mechanics, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and mathematical methods. Accepted applicants who lack some of these courses may be asked to remedy the deficiencies by enrolling in additional courses here at WVU. Students who hold an undergraduate degree in a field other than physics or astronomy, or who believe that their undergraduate GPA does not reflect their physics knowledge, are encouraged to submit subject GRE scores.
An M.S. degree is often an intermediate step in the graduate program for a student on the way to obtaining their Ph.D. degree. The program is designed to give a fundamental theoretical background beyond that of undergraduate level and some research experience, if desired.
The M.S. degree can be obtained with or without a thesis. The thesis will be assessed by three faculty, including the research advisor. Given that the path to a M.S. degree with a thesis involves original research with a faculty advisor, it is important students wishing to complete a M.S. degree in two years understand the accelerated pace at which they will have to work. To complete an M. S. thesis in two years, the student should identify a thesis by the end of the Fall Semester of their first year and begin research in the following Spring Semester of their first year.
To be a graduate student in good standing, a student must:
- Maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0
- Complete their degree within three years
A student who is not in good standing because of a GPA <3.0 will
have their academic record reviewed by a faculty committee and continuation
in the physics graduate program will require the committee’s approval.
Most entering graduate students intend to earn a Ph.D. in physics. The program is
designed to give students a fundamental theoretical background beyond that of undergraduate
level and a research experience that produces high-quality and novel work that
is normally recognized by publication in peer-reviewed journals (or sometimes in
To obtain a Ph.D. degree the student must complete the coursework, oral examination, and research requirements.
Ph.D. Candidacy Requirements
To be accepted as a candidate for the Ph.D., a student must complete the core coursework and pass an oral examination.
The coursework requirements are to get an A or B in the following core classes: PHYS 611, PHYS 631, PHYS 633, PHYS 651, and PHYS 761. To be a graduate student in good standing, a student must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0
The oral examination is a presentation to the four faculty on the student’s doctoral committee in which the student reviews some published research that has been chosen by his or her faculty advisor. The oral exam must be completed by the end of the student's sixth academic-year semester.
A student who is not in good standing because of a GPA < 3.00, or failure to pass the core courses, or failure to pass the oral exam according to the above schedule will have his/her academic record reviewed by a faculty committee and continuation in the physics graduate program will require the committee’s approval.
Ph.D. Research Requirements
Research is the central focus of the degree and is directed by the faculty advisor. The candidate must submit a written dissertation that presents the results of the candidate’s individual investigation. The candidate must meet with their doctoral committee annually submit a progress report to the graduate studies and advising committee.
After the faculty advisor has tentatively approved the dissertation, the student makes an oral presentation and defense of the dissertation before the faculty on the doctoral committee. This must be completed no more than five years after admission to candidacy.