Degree Requirements

COVID-19 Policy Changes to Degree Requirements

A minimum of 135 units (including up to 45 units of transfer credit) of courses and research done at Stanford is required for the Ph.D. degree. The usual schedule for Physics graduate students consists of one to two years of courses, plus research training leading to the thesis and Ph.D. degree. At least three quarters of teaching are required to obtain a Ph.D. degree in Physics.

Some of the required courses, as well as the advanced laboratory, can be taken as an undergraduate. The first year is normally devoted to formal courses, with the first summer following course work spent either in directed reading (for an intended theorist) or with an experimental research group.

For specific requirements, see the appropriate sections of the Stanford Bulletin

Each student must pass the Physics Oral Qualifying Exam no later than spring quarter of their 2nd year. After passing the exam, the student files an Application for Candidacy for the doctoral degree. Candidacy, when approved, is valid for 5 years. In year 3, each student, in consultation with the advisor, chooses a Reading Committee and prepares a tentative Proposal for Thesis ResearchDuring the 4th year, every student is asked to give a 45 minute oral presentation to the Ph.D. reading committee. After completing research to the satisfaction of the research supervisor, the student completes his/her dissertation and schedules the University Oral Examination. The examination will be in the form of a one hour public seminar in defense of the dissertation followed by private questioning.  

The department does not offer a separate program for the M.S. degree, but this degree may be awarded for a portion of the Ph.D. degree work. Please refer to The Stanford Bulletin, which contains relevant information regarding general requirements and all other university related issues.  It is important to note that up to 45 units completed at Stanford toward a M.A. or M.S. degree or accepted as transfer credit, but not both, may be used toward the 135 unit residency requirement for the Ph.D. At least 90 units of work at Stanford are necessary to complete the 135 residency units for the Ph.D. or D.M.A. degree.  See the Minimum Residency Requirements for Graduate Degrees page here for further information.