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Students applying for an MS in Physics at UMass are applying to a course-based program (no thesis required). While there are general requirements on the number and types of courses and credits, there are no specific courses required to earn a degree. This allows students the maximum flexibility to design a curriculum that suits their needs. Typically, students use the MS for one of two purposes:

  • Pathway to the PhD program—Students still trying to decide if a career in physics research is for them may want to pursue an MS as a stepping stone to a PhD program. The MS provides an opportunity to complete graduate-level coursework and engage in some research without the long-term commitment (5–7 years) of a PhD program. For students who are clear in their desire to pursue a PhD and possibly a career in academia, it provides an opportunity to build understanding and professional connections, and create a stronger application to a PhD program. Example coursework for the Pathway to the PhD Program
  • Pathway to industry—An MS in physics with an emphasis on specific subfields, modeling, or instrumentation provides critical training for jobs in industry. Students might choose, for example, an interdisciplinary curriculum to prepare for a career in geophysics, engineering, polymer science, or data science. In this case, the student and their faculty advisor together design a course sequence that builds the appropriate skills and experience. Example coursework for the Pathway to Industry Program.  

Please note that students enrolled in the MS program are ineligible for teaching or research stipends at any of the Five Colleges.

A complete overview of our department—including graduate courses, seminars, research programs, faculty listings, general information about the campus, enrollment requirements, financial aid, and details about how to apply for graduate school—can all be found on these web pages. On the department research web pages you will also find links to individual research groups' websites. More details about the process of applying to our graduate school can be found at Our information is also included in our American Institute of Physics and Astronomy listing.

Amherst is a typical New England college town, with bookstores, coffee shops, and a wide range of cultural activities. The surrounding Pioneer Valley is quite rural, with wooded hills, rivers, and lakes, and an abundance of hiking, biking, and ski trails. As rural as we are, we are within a few hours of the major metropolitan areas of Boston and New York and all that they have to offer. A free bus system connects the university with the town and with the four first-rate undergraduate liberal arts colleges in the local area. The programs of these colleges enrich the many cultural offerings available.

We welcome any inquiries about our program or about life at UMass. Should you require additional information, please feel free to contact the Graduate Program Director, Lori Goldner (@email).