Graduate Degrees in Physics

Contact person:  Dr. Vassili Papavassiliou at

The Department of Physics at New Mexico State University offers both Ph.D. and master’s degrees (M.S.). There are about 40 graduate students in our Department, mostly working on their Ph.D. degrees and receiving financial aid in the form of Graduate Assistantships (Teaching Assistantships and Research Assistantships). Each year, the Department accepts five to ten new students depending on the number of positions available. Our graduate students find jobs in university research groups and in government and industrial research laboratories after obtaining their Ph.D. or master’s degrees.

Students may choose areas of specialization from a variety of experimental and theoretical/computational research programs in the Department. The current major research areas of the Department include particle and nuclear physics, condensed matter physics/materials science, and geophysics. These research efforts are supported by extensive funding from various federal agencies and two national laboratories within the state of New Mexico: Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories. In addition to in-house research, the Department conducts collaborative research programs with the Brookhaven National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, Thomas Jefferson National Laboratory, and Fermilab.

Degree Requirements for M.S. in Physics

Degree Requirements for Ph.D in Physics

How to Apply

Students must submit an application through the university’s Graduate Admission Website. Please read application instructions carefully.

Departmental requirements:

  • GRE Scores:  Due to the unavailability of testing opportunities in many parts of the world, General and Subject GRE scores are optional.  Students who choose to submit scores should have those reported directly by ETS to NMSU, coded 4531, and also self-report unofficial results with their application.
  • Three or more Letters of Recommendation, submitted directly to the school by the persons writing the letters, using the online application system.
  • For applicants to the Ph.D. program, a concise statement of purpose, not more than one-and-a-half-to-two pages, describing the student’s research interests and any relevant prior experience.
  • For international students, the university requires evidence of English proficiency from all students whose degrees are from educational systems with a language of instruction other than English. The TOEFL or IELTS tests can be used to to satisfy this requirement. Graduate student candidates must in general score at least 79 (iBT) or 550 (PBT) on the TOEFL or 6.5 on the IELTS test for regular admission; details on the university language requirements can be found  here. In addition, the department may give preference to applicants demonstrating superior English language abilities when awarding Teaching Assistantships. Students with deficient language skills may be required to take courses in English in addition to their physics courses and this could impact their progress toward a degree in physics.

To ensure full consideration, complete applications must be received by the following target dates:

  • For Fall Semester admission, February 15
  • For Spring Semester admission, November 1 (domestic applicants) or September 1 (international applicants)

Late applications may be considered if there are still unfilled positions. Please keep in mind that most new graduate students are admitted for the Fall Semester. Spring admissions are sometimes offered if assistantships become available during the year, but a spring starting date is not optimal, due to several two-semester sequences of courses and the scheduling of the Qualifying and Comprehensive Exams.

Education Requirements

The Department of Physics offers both thesis and non-thesis M.S. programs. Requirements for the non-thesis program is completing the required course work and passing the written qualifying exam & oral final exam. Requirements for the thesis program is completing the required course work and defending your thesis. The general time-frame for the M.S. program is about two years to complete. A master’s thesis is optional and may require additional time to complete.

The Ph.D. program requires additional course-work to the M.S. degree; passing qualifying, comprehensive & final exams, and writing a dissertation based on original research in an area of physics. A Master’s is not required for admission to the Ph.D. program. Doctoral students may elect to receive the Master’s degree as soon as all requirements for that degree are satisfied while continuing work on their Ph.D. degree. The time required for completion of the Ph.D. program varies with an average of about 6 years.

Graduate Student Handbook

Manual for Teaching Assistants

Qualifying Exam Questions

Comprehensive Exam Questions

For current NMSU undergraduate students: the Department of Physics also offers an Accelerated Master’s program. This will allow the student to graduate with their M.S. in Physics in only one year! To learn more visit,