The Department of Physics offers a graduate program leading to a Master of Science in Physics. We offer close personal interaction between you and the faculty, giving individual attention to your needs and interests as you move through the program.

Active research interests in the department include chemical physics, energy storage and conversion, nonlinear phenomena, condensed matter physics, transport properties, effects of disorder, statistical mechanics, phase transitions, surface and interface physics, optics, biophysics, self-assembly of nanomaterials, unconventional computing and (bio)sensing.

Clarkson University also offers a Master of Arts in Teaching with a physics focus. Learn more.


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MS in Physics

The master's program in physics consists of 30 total credit hours that can be taken within two years.

MS Degree Requirements

Credit Hours and Courses: 

  • At least 30 credit hours of graduate coursework, with no less than 18 credits of courses (including the core subjects, PH661, PH663 and PH669), 6 credits of thesis (PH699) and 2 credits of seminar (must include at least 1 credit of PH683 or PH684).  Only 500 and upper-level courses are accepted. A maximum of 10 credit hours (B grade or better) may be transferred from a post-baccalaureate certificate program. A minimum of 19 credit hours out of the total 30 must be taken in physics (coursework, seminars and thesis credits).

  • At least one academic year of study beyond the B.S. While a typical program length is 2 years, all work must be completed in 5 calendar years.

Academic Standing and Other Requirements:

  • A cumulative GPA of 3.000 is required for graduation. Students with GPA falling below 3.000 will be placed on academic warning. These students will return to academic good standing if their cumulative GPA is 3.000 or higher at the end of the next term.

  • Students must identify a research topic and a research advisor by the end of the second semester of study. This requirement applies to both thesis and non-thesis (A & B) options.

  • Students must complete one of the research or professional experience components listed below. 

  • Thesis Option: Students complete at least one of the core courses, PH661, PH663 or PH669 with no less than a B grade; AND defend a submitted thesis written on independent research. The thesis examination committee, composed of at least three Clarkson faculty, is appointed by the student’s department. 

  • Non-thesis option A:  Coursework component – Students take all three PH661, PH663 and PH669 courses and obtain a grade of at least B in each. The student’s advisor may authorize, with the approval of the department chair, replacement of at most one of these courses with another appropriate advanced course for the student’s program (the B minimal grade requirement still applies). Project component – The student’s research (PH699) will focus on a professionally oriented special project. The completion of this project (a written report of the work) will be certified by their academic advisor in a notice to the Department Chair, and the student’s final report will be submitted to the Graduate School. 

  • Non-thesis option B: Coursework component – same as that of Non-Thesis Option A. The Project Component of Option A will be replaced in Option B by successful completion of the Physics Comprehensive Examination within two years of graduate study.

    • Non-thesis option B is reserved for graduate students currently enrolled in Physics PhD program who wish to receive a Master of Science degree while they work on their PhD thesis. 

PhD in Physics
PhD Degree Requirements

Credit Hours and Courses: 

  • A minimum of 90 credit hours beyond BS. Minimum 3 academic years’ full-time graduate study (or the part-time equivalent); 2 years in residence at Clarkson. A four-part Physics Survey Test is used to determine initial coursework.  A maximum of 30 credits (with B or higher grade) can be transferred from an MS degree. Coursework - no less than 33 credits, including at least 6 credits taken outside the department and at least 6 credits of seminar. Each semester prior to the completion of 78 credits, full-time students in residence at Clarkson must successfully complete PH683 or PH684. Maximum credit hours per year - 30 (12 in fall, 12 in spring and 6 in summer; or, 15 in fall and 15 in spring). Only 500 and upper-level courses are accepted.

  • Full-time student status: 9 credits per semester until <9 credits remain to complete 90 credits. After completing 90 credits, students will register for 1 credit hour of project/thesis, be in residence, and be actively engaged full-time in completing the project/thesis.

Academic Standing and Other Requirements:

  • A minimum average grade of B, and at least a B grade in each of the core courses (PH661, PH663, PH664, PH670 and PH669); The requirement for PH664 and PH670 can be fulfilled any time during the study, and the student’s advisor can approve replacements of these two courses by other advanced graduate courses in the student’s chosen research field.

  • Satisfactory progress toward the degree. Academic progress is evaluated at the end of each term by the Physics Graduate Committee Chair in collaboration with the student’s advisor.

  • Students with GPA falling below 3.000 will be placed on academic warning. These students will return to academic good standing if their GPA is 3.000 or higher at the end of their next term.

  • Students must select a thesis topic and be assigned to a research advisor no later than the second semester of graduate study. The Physics Chair approves the appointment of a research advisor. Research projects primarily guided by faculty outside the physics department requires a physics co-advisor assigned by Physics Chair.

  • Satisfactory completion of the Comprehensive Exam is required within two years of full-time study after admission to the PhD program or, for part-time students, before completing 66 credits. If the comprehensive exam is failed twice, the student will be dropped.

  • The Physics Comprehensive Examination has two parts, each part four hours long, usually given during the first two weeks of each spring semester. The topical coverages are based on those of upper-level undergraduate physics courses offered at Clarkson, and include: Part I: Classical Mechanics, Electricity & Magnetism, Optics; Part II: Thermal Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Modern Physics (relativity, nuclear, solid state).

  • By the end of the third year of study, the student writes a PhD research proposal and defends a doctoral topic before a thesis committee composed of at least 5 members. The proposal must be submitted to the thesis committee at least 10 working days before the oral defense. This exam should demonstrate that the thesis topic is of doctoral quality and that the student’s background is adequate to carry out the proposed research. A unanimous decision of the committee is required for passing. The thesis committee (selected by the student’s advisor and approved by the Physics Chair and the Dean of A&S) should include no less than 4 Clarkson faculty (at least 3 from physics) of assistant professor rank or higher and possessing an earned doctoral degree. At least one member must be from a department other than physics. With the provost’s approval, the thesis committee may include an external examiner with appropriate credentials from another university or industry.

  • The final PhD examination involves an oral defense of the written doctoral dissertation before the thesis committee. The exam committee must receive thesis copies at least 10 working days before the oral defense.

  • Typical program length is 5 years. All work for the PhD degree must be completed within 7 years after passing the Physics Comprehensive Examination.

Top-Tier National University,U.S. News & World Report, America’s Best Colleges 2017


Class of 2022 Graduate Placement Rate of 100 Percent

A complete application consists of the following:

  • Online Application Form
  • Resume.
  • Statement of Purpose.
  • 3 Letters of Recommendation.
  • Official Transcripts.
  • GRE Test Scores.
    • General GRE is required. 
  • For International Applicants, an English Proficiency Test is required.
    • Minimum Test Score Requirements: TOEFL (80) and TOEFL Essentials (8.5), IELTS (6.5), PTE (56) and Duolingo English Test (115).

Prerequisites: Applicants must have a BS or equivalent degree in physics or a closely related subject. Applicants are expected to have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher at the time of application. Furthermore, applicants should have achieved a grade of ‘B+’ or better in all physics and math subjects taken.

For those seeking Teaching or Research Assistantships:

  • A GRE score of at least 319 is recommended (minimum verbal score of 156 and minimum quantitative score of 163). 
  • GRE Physics Subject Test scores are not required, but are recommended. 
  • International applicants should have a minimum score of 26 in each section of the TOEFL, 7.0 on each band of the IELTS (with minimum Speaking band of 7.5), or comparable PTE or Duolingo English Test scores.

MS students interested in pursuing the PhD, will be required to sit for the placement test offered by the Department of Physics. This is offered annually in August. This score, in addition to prior academic record, publications, and teaching performance, will be considered prior to formal admittance into the PhD program. 

Contact Us

To learn more, ask questions or apply, contact:

Graduate Admissions Team