Physics - MS, PhD

College of Science

About This Degree

Physics degrees are among the oldest degrees offered by the university.

Through the years, the Physics Department has remained dedicated to instructing its students and providing them with ample opportunities for research in several branches of physics.

The students and faculty of the department are frequently recognized by the university, the state of Utah, and the nation with prestigious awards; physics students at USU have been named National Science Foundation Graduate Fellows, Goldwater Scholars, and Rhodes Scholars, and students frequently win awards at research conferences.

What You Will Learn

Physics classes are small, providing students with faculty attention where research is encouraged, mentored, and facilitated. Students can choose from several areas of study, which are: complexity; fields, astrophysics, and spacetime theory; plasma physics; space science; and surface physics.


Upper Atmospheric Physics (MS):

This specialization is concerned with the physics of space. Students study topics such as electromagnetism, plasma physics, solar-terrestrial physics, and space environment and engineering. This specialization is designated as a Western Regional Graduate Program, which means students from participating western states qualify for in-state tuition. For more information, visit


At a Glance

College: College of Science

Department: Physics Department

USU Locations:

  • Logan campus

Faculty: View profiles of faculty members on the department directory.

Program Requirements

Career And Outcomes

Career Opportunities

Graduates in physics can pursue various career paths, including:

  • Teaching
  • Research in academia or in industrial and national laboratories
  • Analysts in financial firms or high-technology consulting companies
  • Laboratory and engineering assistants
  • Technicians in hospitals
  • Software designers
  • Computer chip manufacturing
  • Aircraft and automobile industries

Job Outlook



Karalee Ransom

Physics Advisor
Office: SER 250D
Phone: 435-797-4021

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Admission Requirements

The program prefers students with undergraduate degrees in science or mathematics, and it is best if they have completed undergraduate coursework in physics.

Application Requirements:

  • Complete the online application
  • Pay the $55 application fee
  • Score at or above the 40th percentile on the GRE, MAT, or GMAT
  • Have a 3.0 or higher GPA on your last 60 semester or 90 quarter credits
  • Provide transcripts of all college/university credits
  • Provide three contacts for letters of recommendation
  • Send a letter of interest to the Physics Department. This letter should include: who you are, where you live, which degree you are pursuing, what areas of physics you are interested in, when you wish to start.

International students have additional admissions requirements.


Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. To guarantee full consideration, however, students should have their applications in by the following deadlines:

  • Fall semester – January 15
  • Spring semester – June 1

Program Requirements

PhD Qualifying Exams:

PhD students are required to take a candidacy exam in order to prove their ability to participate in the world of physics research. It normally take place during the fifth semester. The exam process requires the student to study the research literature on a particular physics topic and then educate the physics faculty about that topic in a 45-minute oral presentation followed by a 30-minute oral examination period that is attended by the Physics Department faculty and the outside member of the student's supervisory committee.

Plan Options

Students can receive the MS by pursuing one of three options:

  • In the Plan A option, students complete graduate-level coursework and must write a thesis.
  • The Plan B option requires the production of a paper or creative work of art and is expected to reflect equivalent scholarship standards as a thesis.

Students pursuing the upper atmospheric physics specialization must participate in the following option:

  • In the Plan A option, students complete graduate-level coursework and must write a thesis.

Financial Aid

A limited number of scholarships are available through the Physics Department. These change from year to year depending on available funding, so contact the department to see what is currently available.

The College of Science offers the Willard L. Eccles Foundation Science Fellowship. It is an award of $22,000 per year for three years. The graduate programs committee nominates two to three candidates, and one candidate is chosen from the college each year. Selection criteria include: GPA, GRE score, letters of recommendation, and evidence of strong academic and research potential in the discipline.

The USU Diversity Fellowship in Science and Engineering is an award of $22,000 per year for two years plus $500 for travel/equipment. This fellowship is jointly administered by the School of Graduate Studies, the College of Engineering, and the College of Science. Biology candidates are nominated by the graduate programs committee. The award includes an annual stipend, full tuition remission, and a travel/equipment grant. Criteria include: academic research potential, GPA, GRE score, and letters of recommendation.

All PhD students are supported at a minimum with tuition awards, subsidized health insurance, and a monthly stipend for work performed as teaching assistants in instructional activities or research assistants in research groups.

A variety of funding opportunities are available on the graduate school website.

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