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Ph.D. Degree

Most entering graduate students intend to earn a Ph.D. in physics. The program is designed to give a broad-base fundamental theoretical background beyond 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 patents). 

Admission Requirements

Applicants are expected to have a bachelor’s degree in physics or astronomy, with upper-division courses in electricity and magnetism, mechanics, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and mathematical methods. Students lacking some of these courses may be admitted provisionally and will be allowed to remedy the deficiencies by taking the appropriate courses at WVU. A TOEFL or IELTS score is required of students for whom English is not their native language (see here: ).

Degree Requirements

To obtain a Ph.D. degree the student must complete the course, qualifier and research requirements.


To be accepted as a candidate for the Ph.D., a student must pass both a written and an oral examination.

The written examination consists of three parts: a quantum mechanics exam, an electromagnetism exam, and a classical mechanics exam. Each exam is offered at the start of the Fall and Spring semester. The limitations on how long a student has to complete the exams are also detailed below.

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.


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. After the faculty advisor has tentatively approved the dissertation, the student makes an oral presentation and defense of the dissertation before the five faculty on the doctoral committee.

Requirements for Remaining in the Graduate Program

To be a graduate student in good standing, a student must:

  • Pass all three qualifying exams by the end of their fourth academic-year semester

By the end of their sixth academic-year semester, students must choose a Ph.D. committee and complete the oral candidacy exam. When warranted, a student may petition the Department to waive a specific requirement. A student who is not in good standing because of a GPA < 3.00, or failure to pass the graduate qualifying exams, or failure to pass the oral candidacy 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. Students admitted as M.S. degree candidates are not expected to take the graduate qualifying exams but must complete their studies within three years.