MA in Astronomy

The MA in Astronomy prepares students for careers in astronomically related fields, astronomy education, or for entry into a PhD program. Students normally enter this program with an undergraduate degree in astronomy, physics, or another physical science.

Course Requirements

The MA in Astronomy requires completion of a total of eight graduate courses (32 credits) in astronomy and physics with a grade of B– or higher. At least six of these must be astronomy courses numbered 700–799.

Language Requirement

There is no foreign language requirement for this degree.

Thesis/Comprehensive Exam

The candidate must either pass the written Astronomy Comprehensive Examination or write a formal thesis describing a research project carried out by the student and directed by a faculty member.

The Comprehensive Exam is given in May each year and is normally taken in the student’s second year of graduate school. The exam consists of two 3-hour written tests administered on two separate days. The exam is designed to test the student’s ability to solve quantitative problems in astrophysics and space physics using both knowledge of the material covered in the core courses (GRS AS 700–749) and application of basic physical principles.

Instead of passing the written Astronomy Comprehensive Examination, the student may complete a master’s thesis. This thesis must give evidence of the candidate’s ability to understand, critically evaluate, and competently carry forward a scientific investigation. This is achieved by advancing an experimental technique, by extending the application of a physical theory, or by collecting new scientifically relevant data. A thesis is required to demonstrate the candidate’s ability to present the results of his or her work in a logical and coherent manner. The thesis is judged in an oral examination administered by a committee of three faculty members, including the student’s advisor. The committee must approve a prospectus of the thesis at least six months before the oral examination.