MA in Astronomy

Students admitted to the PhD program may opt to earn a master’s degree en route to the PhD, or to take a terminal MA, if they satisfy the appropriate requirements. Students may not apply for admission to only earn a master’s degree.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate graduate-level knowledge of astronomy and physics, including the following topics: fundamental physics and astrophysics; gravitation, electromagnetism, and quantum mechanics appropriate to astronomy; and the dynamical behavior of space and astrophysical plasmas.
  • Demonstrate graduate-level knowledge of observational techniques used to study astronomical and space phenomena.
  • Perform directed research within the discipline.
  • Present directed research to a committee of faculty members and to a scientific audience.

Course Requirements

The MA in Astronomy requires completion of eight 4-credit graduate courses (32 credits) in astronomy with a grade of B– or higher. At least five 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 pass an oral comprehensive examination by one of three means:

  • For a student who writes a master’s thesis, describing a research project carried out by the student and directed by a faculty member, the oral exam takes place as part of the thesis defense.
  • For students taking the PhD Oral Qualifying Examination, achieving either a “master’s pass” or a “PhD pass” will meet the master’s comprehensive examination requirement.
  • Alternatively, a student wishing to earn a terminal MA may have a Master’s Oral Comprehensive Examination committee, consisting of three Astronomy faculty members, to query the student regarding their understanding of graduate-level physics, astrophysics, and space physics to ascertain mastery of these topics.

A master’s 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 or analyzing previously existing data. The thesis must demonstrate the candidate’s ability to present the results of their 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 three months before the oral examination.