The Department of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln offers graduate education leading to the degrees of Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in Physics. The Department has a flexible program of graduate study that can easily accommodate students with a wide variety of goals and backgrounds. Every entering graduate student will be assigned an academic advisor who is a member of the Department's Graduate Committee. Entering students are required to take a Preliminary Exam during their first week on campus in August prior to registering for classes. This test, which is also required for Ph.D. candidacy, will be used to assess the level of their knowledge of undergraduate physics, and will aid the Graduate Committee in giving them advice about which courses to take during their first semester.

The time required for obtaining a degree should be kept to a minimum, giving due consideration to the student's background and particular subfield of specialization. During the first and second years of graduate study an adequately prepared student will take most of the formal courses in the program. For well-prepared students, the times needed to obtain an M.S. degree and a Ph.D. degree should be about two years and five years, respectively.

An outline of the steps that a student must complete to obtain a graduate degree in physics follows:

  1. Obtain admission to the Graduate College.

  2.  Pass the Preliminary Exam on undergraduate-level physics.

  3. Complete all required course work with an adequate GPA (see below).

  4. M.S. degree students must

  • file a Memorandum of Courses before finishing one half of the course work for the M.S. degree (i.e., for most students this should be done during the second semester of their studies);
  • apply for the degree; pass the “M.S. Comprehensive Examination” (comprising only course grades; see below);
  • complete a thesis (if the thesis option described in the Graduate Bulletin is chosen; see below).

5. Ph.D. degree students must

  • complete 91x courses (excluding 918) with a GPA of 3.00 or better, and have a cumulative GPA ≥ 3.00 in all required courses at the time of graduation;
  • form a supervisory committee;
  • file a Program of Studies approved by the supervisory committee before finishing one half of the course work for the Ph.D. degree;
  • pass the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination at least 7 months (but not longer than 3 years) prior to the final oral examination on the dissertation;
  • complete a dissertation, including an oral defense of the dissertation.

Knowledge of foreign languages can be valuable both personally and professionally. Although the Physics and Astronomy Department has no general foreign language requirement, individual supervisory committees may include a language (or research tool requirement) in the student's program if they feel it is appropriate.

Each student is responsible for knowing the requirements of his or her degree program as specified in the Graduate Bulletin. THESE REQUIREMENTS ARE NOT DISCUSSED IN THIS HANDBOOK. Copies of the Bulletin may be downloaded from the Graduate Studies web site at:  In addition to the requirements of the Graduate College, the faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy has approved the following requirements:

Preliminary Exam

A preliminary exam on undergraduate-level physics must be passed. All students will take this exam as a placement exam prior to the first semester of study. Depending on the outcome, the graduate committee may recommend or require the student to take selected 800-level courses before the corresponding 91x courses. The exam will be offered twice a year: after the end of the spring semester, and before the beginning of the fall semester. Students may take the exam up to three times and must pass it before the beginning of their second academic year.