The Department of Physics at Case Western Reserve University has a rolling admission policy for its Master of Science in Physics program.  Candidates are invited to submit applications for the following fall semester at any time, and can expect to receive notification of the admission committee’s decision soon afterward. However, we recommend early application because there is a limited number of available positions.

Applications will be accepted until the available number of positions is filled. International applicants are encouraged to submit applications by June 1 or earlier in order to ensure sufficient time to secure visas if needed. Candidates will only be accepted for matriculation in the fall semester.

Criteria for admission to the M.S. program include a bachelor’s degree in physics, mathematics, or a related field, or a strong record of undergraduate work in physics and mathematics. Students should have taken standard upper level undergraduate subjects such as quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism, statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, and classical mechanics.

The application procedure for the M.S. program is nearly identical to that for the Ph.D. program except that application fees are required for the MS Physics program. Unofficial transcripts and reports of standardized test results are accepted for the application process, but applicants should note that official test reports and transcripts are required for registration in the program.

Financial Assistance

The Department of Physics does NOT offer tuition nor stipend support for the M.S. program. However, the department may – upon request – be able to offer to cap the tuition at 9 hours per semester for students in good standing, so students who register for more than 9 hours in one semester do not have to pay additional tuition. The School of Graduate Studies also provides for graduate students to apply to take up to 8 courses that do not count toward their degrees, free of charge. (These are referred to as “fellowship courses,” and may include, for example, offerings in foreign language, history, philosophy, business and management, music, engineering, etc. The opportunity allows students to broaden their educational experience in directions tailored to their own interests, or to fill in gaps in their undergraduate preparation, at no cost to the student.) You can read about the School of Graduate Studies’ fellowship course policy at

Requirements for the M.S. Degree

Requirements for the Master’s degree include course work, a comprehensive examination, and an optional thesis.

For program A, the M.S. with thesis, students take the graduate courses Quantum Mechanics I, Classical Electromagnetism, and 15 to 18 hours of additional graduate course work, of which at least 6 hours must be in physics. Between 6 and 9 hours of thesis research, for a total of 30 graduate credit hours, and a written thesis and oral defense are also required.

For program B, the M.S. without thesis, the graduate courses Quantum Mechanics I, Classical Electromagnetism, and 24 hours of other courses, of which at least 9 must be in physics, are required, for a total of 30 graduate credit hours. In addition the candidate must pass a comprehensive examination.

The 30 hours of required courses can generally be completed in three or four semesters. Candidates must be in residence (paying tuition) in the semester in which they complete requirements and receive the degree.

Master’s Comprehensive Examination

The Master’s Comprehensive Examination is based on advanced undergraduate material and material covered in the introductory courses: Quantum Mechanics I & II; Classical Electromagnetism; and Classical and Statistical Mechanics I & II. Additionally, material from the undergraduate courses (such as relativity) may be incorporated into the exam. A normally prepared student will be expected to take the qualifying examination in May at the end of the first year of graduate study. Students who do not pass the first time will speak with the chair of the qualifying committee and Director of Graduate Studies to ascertain if there is a disconnect between knowledge and performance on the exam. They will discuss with the student how best to maximize the chance of passing on the student’s second attempt, generally in mid- to late August.

Colloquia and Seminars

In addition to course work and individualized direction in research, the Physics Department provides a third medium of teaching, one which is shared by students and faculty alike.

Colloquia are talks of a general nature, given at a level that all graduate students in all areas of physics should be able to follow. They are usually held on Thursdays. Notices (and whenever possible brief introductions to the subject) will be distributed well in advance of each colloquium. Graduate students are urged and expected to attend all of these colloquia. All graduate students are required to register each semester for the zero credit-hour course Frontiers in Physics, PHYS 666, which consists of attendance at colloquia.

Seminars tend to deal more narrowly with specific topics, and often require some expertise in the field. Students in the Master’s program are encouraged to attend seminars in areas of their interests as well as to take advantage of seminars in other areas and colloquia in other departments.