Applied Physics—Accelerated MS, MS, PhD

Applied physics bridges the gap between physics, engineering, and other sciences. While engineers solve well-defined problems, applied physicists focus on applying physics interdisciplinarily. At Michigan Technological University, the applied physics program targets areas such as nanoscale condensed matter, materials science, atmospheric physics, optics/photonics, optoelectronics, plasmonics, and biomedical science.  

Students choosing the applied physics major create a customized program of study. In addition to taking some core graduate level physics courses, students choose from a wider selection of courses, inside and outside the Department of Physics to gain specialized knowledge in their chosen interdisciplinary research area.

"Having a pure physics background, but wanting to study the atmosphere, I was thrilled to discover that Michigan Tech had an applied physics program that allowed for specialization in atmospheric science. I was able to combine traditional graduate physics courses with special courses in cloud physics, geophysical fluid dynamics, and remote sensing. My research focused on investigating cloud drop size distributions using a lidar-radar system"Amanda Shaw, 2016, Applied Physics MS

State-Of-The-Art Laboratory Facilities

The physics department boasts exceptional research labs and facilities. A recent $2.5 million renovation provided major upgrades in physics classroom technology, and a new $700,000 gift is enabling a major upgrade to physics research facilities. Physics hosts seven labs, ranging from computer labs with state-of-the-art software packages to atomic and molecular laser spectroscopy labs. Researchers also have access to other departments’ research labs, including scanning electron microscopy labs and other advanced characterization and fabrication facilities. 

PhD Versus MS

The PhD program (regarded as the terminal degree within the field) consists of substantial graduate-level coursework combined with original research leading to significant contributions to the field of physics through publications in peer-reviewed journals. An MS in physics may be obtained while in pursuit of the PhD.

Both the MS and PhD programs build on a foundational set of six core courses plus additional electives. Well-prepared students will need a minimum of two years to complete their MS degree requirements while PhD students typically spend five years.

Accelerated MS Versus MS

An accelerated master's degree program is a way for students to begin work toward a master's degree while finishing their bachelor's, allowing completion with only one additional year of study. For an accelerated master's, you can double count 9 credit hours toward both your master's and bachelor's degrees. Undergraduate students may apply to the program after they achieve junior status. Those who graduated in Fall 2022 or later can apply up until six semesters (including summer) after they are awarded their bachelor's degrees.

Degree Requirements

Credit requirements, degree options, time limits, examinations, and other requirements vary by degree:

Qualifying Exam

Students accepted into the Applied Physics PhD program must pass a Qualifying (Comprehensive) Examination, which is composed of a physics component and an application component. The physics component of the Qualifying Examination will be the same as for students in the Physics PhD program, except Applied Physics PhD students will select, in advance, two out of the three areas to take. The student's advisory committee shall formulate the application component of the qualifying examination appropriate to the student's chosen area of applied physics interest—focusing on fundamentals related to but not on the student's current research.

Core Courses

Certain courses are considered foundational for all graduate students (both MS or PhD) in physics, regardless of research specialty. Course work has been selected to provide a general physics education and a foundation for future study and a career in engineering and the sciences.

Applied physics students select a minimum of 10 PH credits at the 4000-level or higher including a minimum of 6 credits from the list below (PH5010 is compulsory).


To take advantage of Michigan Tech’s breadth and depth of engineering and scientific areas of specialty, additional courses may be chosen from the list of application elective course list, as approved by the student’s advisory committee.

Atmospheric Physics



Physics at Nanoscale

For a complete listing of graduate courses available, visit the registrar's office.

Suggested Course Schedules - Accelerated Master's

Students in the accelerated master's program can choose the coursework, report, or thesis option. Suggested schedules for each option are below.

Careers in Applied Physics

Applied physicists are well suited to work in any career that requires strong mathematical, experimental, and/or theoretical skills. The applied physics program provides excellent flexibility enabling majors to work in academia, industry, law, and government.