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Information for Prospective Students


The Clemson University Physics & Astronomy Department offers programs of study leading to M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. Each degree program has specific requirements in terms of coursework, student seminars, qualifying exams (Ph.D. only), and a thesis (M.S.) or dissertation (Ph.D.) that presents the results of an original research project. It is possible to earn a Ph.D. without stopping to earn a M.S. degree on the way. It is also possible to earn only a M.S. degree. The most common path is for students pursuing a Ph.D. degree to earn the M.S. degree along the way (enroute, in graduate school parlance).

Dual Ph.D.: The Department of Physics and Astronomy also offers a dual Ph.D. program in Physics and Life Sciences. This is a joint venture between Clemson University and University of Paris (France). Participating students are expected to fulfill all requirements of the Physics Ph.D. degree here at Clemson University and to conduct a joint research project with the University of Paris. The minimum requirement is to spend one year in Paris and to write a joint thesis. Interested individuals should contact Dr. Emil Alexov ( or the graduate student coordinator, Amanda Ellenburg (

For general information about the Clemson University Graduate School, as well as the most current degree requirements and course listings, please see the Graduate Announcement.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree

Study for the Ph.D. degree begins with the core courses leading to the written qualifying exam. An oral examination on the general research area and specific topic of study for the dissertation is given by the advisory committee within six months after passing the written qualifying exams. The goal in the oral exam is to allow students to explain the Ph.D. dissertation work they intend to do and to convince the committee that they can indeed do this work.

Normally, students are accepted directly into the Ph.D. program. The ultimate goal is to carry out and publish independent scientific work in a chosen research field. Coursework required for the PhD includes 18 credit hours of the core curriculum consisting of PHYS 815, 821, 841, 842, 951, 952 (or their equivalents), and 12 credit hours of elective 800-900 level physics, astronomy or other graduate level courses (excluding PHYS 891/991), which must be approved by the student's advisory committee. PHYS/ASTR 875 courses may be used to satisfy this requirement with approval by the faculty. The purpose of these electives is to provide a well-rounded physics education and additional coursework necessary for the student's research area.

Unless they receive a deferral from the Department faculty, students must take the written Ph.D. qualifying examination on topics from the core curriculum no later than their third semester. Students are offered two opportunities to pass the exam, which is typically offered twice annually. After passing the written Ph.D. qualifying examination, students shall have selected a research area and faculty advisor and prepare for the oral Ph.D. qualifying examination in which they present and defend their planned dissertation topic and research program. This oral examination must be completed within 12 months after passing the written examination. At least three weeks prior to the graduation at which the candidate expects to receive the Ph.D. degree, a final oral examination on the dissertation must be successfully completed.

Master of Science Degree

There are two options for getting a Master of Science Degree in Physics at Clemson. The first is the thesis option. This program requires 24 credit hours of course work with at least 12 hours at the 800 level or above, plus at least 6 hours of PHYS 891, Research in Physics and Astronomy, which culminates in the writing of a thesis submitted to the Graduate School. The non-thesis option requires 30 credit hours of graduate course work, an additional 6 hours of directed studies (PHYS 890), a written report on the directed studies, and a final oral examination. In both cases, at least one-half the credit hours must be from graduate courses numbered 800 or above. A master's student has six years to complete a degree; however, it is expected that full-time physics students should complete their master's degree within two years of their arrival at Clemson.

Students who pass their Master's defense and intend to pursue a Ph.D. must reapply to the Ph.D. program. This involves completing another application for admission. Students who are staying within the same department should not incur another application fee. Those who had less than the three references required for the PhD program when accepted will be required to obtain additional references. Otherwise, the original references can be used.

Physics and Astronomy Graduate Courses

See our currently offered courses in the current Graduate Announcement. Additional special topics courses are also offered.

Research Opportunities

Our graduate students (and majors) participate extensively in our major thrusts in research:

There are currently opportunities available in all of these areas. See individual faculty members' research and web pages. Feel free to contact individual faculty about their research. If you have special interests and skill sets, imagine how you can contribute.

Financial Support

There are several types of financial support available for students in the graduate programs, including teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships. Each type of support is awarded to qualified students on a competitive basis. Continuation of all support is based upon satisfactory progress towards a degree.


Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA) are the most common type of financial support for incoming graduate students. The duties usually entail teaching two or three undergraduate labs per semester, and/or grading assignments for undergraduate courses. No specific teaching duties are assigned in summer, but students are expected after their first year to have found a research group they intend to work in. For 2017-2018, assistantships will be in the range of $22,000 - $27,000 for the academic year and include a waiver of tuition. Students may also earn more in summers if working on a research project or teaching.

Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA) are available to graduate students through research grants and contracts held by faculty members in the department. They are awarded based on availability and the qualifications of the recipients and may supplement or replace GTA funds.


Several Fellowships are awarded by the Graduate School. The department nominates candidates who compete with other nominees throughout the university. Fellowships require no explicit duties, and allow for more time to concentrate on courses and research.