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.  For students in the biophysics and physics education research areas, this is reduced to 21 of 30 credit hours in physics.  In addition, the Applied Physics, IQ Biology, Chemical Physics, and Geophysics programs have different requirements on classes that supersede this.  To have fewer than the required number of 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 your thesis committee yearly and submit the progress report from that meeting.  A minimum of 3 thesis committee members must be present at the meeting, including your advisor.  For students with a titular advisor, you are also required to have annual meetings with your titular advisor before passing Comps III.  In this case, the titular advisor progress report form should be submitted annually.
  • Complete online application to graduate at beginning of semester that you will defend.
  • Submit the dissertation defense form at least two weeks before your defense.
  • Pass a final oral examination (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.

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.