Ph.D. Program Requirements

Graduation requirements are governed by policies of both the Department of Physics and the University of Colorado Graduate School. To obtain a Ph.D. in Physics a graduate student must:

  • Complete all requirements within a time limit of six years (you can petition to extend this).
  • Complete 30 hours of course work at the graduate level (5000 level or above), with at least a B– in each class.  Up to 21 credit hours may be transferred from another university by submitting this form.  Normally, at least 27 of the 30 credit hours should be in physics.  To have fewer than 27 of the 30 credit hours in physics, please petition the Associate Chair of Graduate Studies.
  • Complete both Comprehensive Examination Parts I and II.
  • Accumulate 30 hours of dissertation credit.
  • Retain a minimum GPA of 3.0.
  • File a Ph.D. candidacy application at least two weeks before the Comprehensive Examination (known in our department as Comps III).
  • Pass the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination (Comps III).
  • Meet with and obtain a progress report from thesis committee once each year.
  • Complete online application to graduate at beginning of semester that you will defend.
  • Pass a final oral examination by a committee (thesis defense).
  • Complete and submit thesis and paperwork according to Graduate School deadlines.

Students in the Chemical Physics or Geophysics program have different requirements for courses, Comps I, and Comps II.  Students in the Applied Physics or IQ Biology certificate program have different requirements for courses and Comps I.

Dissertation credit hours and full-time status

Dissertation Hours

A doctoral student must earn 30 hours of dissertation credit to graduate.

  • 1 dissertation hour = full time for pre-comps students (that is, before taking Comps III).
  • 5 hours of dissertation or course work = full time for post-comps students (that is, after passing Comps III).
  • 10 dissertation hour/semester limit.
  • Of the 30 required dissertation credits, 20 of them must be taken post Comps III. The semester’s credits in which you take Comps III will count as post Comps III credits. If more than 10 credits are taken pre-Comps III, you will need to petition the Grad School to move them to post-Comps III credits. This petition will only be accepted during the semester in which you defend your dissertation.

Full time status requirements

  • Pre-comps—5 credit hours or at least 1 hour of doctoral dissertation.
  • Post-comps—5 credit hours.

More information is available in the General Guidelines for Dissertation Credits.

Paperwork and Deadlines

The Department of Physics works with the University of Colorado Graduate School to ensure our candidates meet all requirements before graduation. As such, the Graduate School has provided a complete list of required documentation and corresponding deadlines for students who are seeking a Ph.D. Application for graduation is now processed online. Students must apply via the MyCUInfo portal.  All paperwork should be submitted to the Graduate Program Assistant first.

Please contact Jeanne Nijhowne with any questions or problems regarding these and other graduation requirements.