Jul 14, 2024  
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog 
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog

Physics (M.S.)

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Admissions Information   

Student Learning Outcomes  

Available Options for Degrees: thesis and non-thesis. There are two M.S. degree options. The thesis-based option requires a thesis based on research. The non-thesis option substitutes additional coursework and a research paper/project for the thesis requirement. The non-thesis option is deemed appropriate for students who do not require Ph.D. preparation in physics in order to be successful in their careers.

Students should expect that completion of an M.S. degree take two academic years of full-time study. 

At least 50% of the total credits for the graduate program must be at the 700-level or above.

Program Overview

An advanced degree in physics will prepare you for positions in academia, industry and at national labs. You may pursue specialized research foci; the most significant goal of the program is to focus on research areas germane to the needs of the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF). Current research areas at SURF include nuclear/particle physics and particle astrophysics involving next-generation neutrino detection; double beta-decay, dark matter searches and gravitational wave detection experiments, as well as condensed matter physics concentrating on novel low background radiation materials and devices. Students who wish to specialize in analytics for large data sets will pursue coursework from the statistics/analytics and computing areas to include data mining, machine learning, database management, applied statistics and analytics programming. Learn more at usd.edu/physics.

DELIVERY: On campus

Master of Science, Physics-no specialization (thesis)

Major Area Coursework - 32 Credit Hours

Master of Science, Physics-Analytics for Large Data Sets specialization (thesis)

32 Credit Hours Required

Major Area Coursework (17 credit hours)

Analytics for Large Data Sets Specialization Requirements (15 credit hours)

(15 credit hours is required from the following list of courses with at least 6 from Category A - Computing (either CSC 547 or CSC 761 can be used to satisfy the Category A requirement but not both) and at least 6 credits from Category B - Statistics and Analytics. At least 9 credits must be at the 700 level or higher.)

Master of Science, Physics-no specialization (non-thesis)

Major Area Coursework - 32 Credit Hours

General Application Requirements

  1. Completed application
  2. $35 application fee
  3. Official transcripts*
  4. Letters of recommendation*
  5. Statement of purpose
  6. Resume/CV*

*Requirements for admission vary by program and may require different documentation and have different deadlines. This list is not all-inclusive, to view specific program requirements and submission deadlines, follow the “Admissions Information” hyperlink at the top of this page OR visit the specific program/dept. page found here: link.usd.edu/grad-catalog

Accelerated Master’s Program: BA or BS/MS (Analytics for Large Data Sets Specialization only)

Up to 12 graduate credits applied toward the B.S. program may be used to satisfy graduate requirements.

The following restrictions apply:

  1. Dual-listed courses taken at the 500-level can be applied to both the B.S. and M.S. degrees. Dual-listed courses must be taken at the 500-level.
  2. The student must apply to, and be admitted to, the accelerated program prior to taking courses to be credited toward the accelerated program.
  3. No courses taken prior to admission to the accelerated program may be counted toward an accelerated graduate degree. No exceptions to this policy will be approved.
  4. Courses that are “double counted” must be approved by the program coordinator for inclusion in the program of study prior to registration for the course or the credits will not be applied toward the accelerated graduate degree. No exceptions to this policy will be approved.
  5. Only courses taken at the student’s home institution are eligible for dual credit. No transferred courses from other institutions will be allowed to count toward the accelerated master’s degree.
  6. Students admitted to the accelerated M.S. Program may be allowed to register for all courses included on his/her program of study and these credit hours may apply to both undergraduate and graduate degree requirements.

Location Matters for Non-Licensure Track Programs

This program is not designed or advertised to lead to a professional license or certification required for employment.

USD is permitted to operate under the terms of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (NC-SARA) policies and standards in offering online courses/degree programs to residents in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.  Online courses/programs may also be offered to residents of California (a non-SARA state) because it does not regulate out-of-state public institutions.

Additionally, this program is authorized to offer supervised field study experiences (internship, externship, clinical, rotation, practicum, independent study, study away, etc.) in South Dakota. Please be aware that there may be some restrictions on your ability to engage in supervised field study outside of South Dakota. Please contact a program representative if you have questions regarding supervised field study.

Distance education courses or programs will not be offered outside of the United States without prior written approval from the University, which may be withheld for any reason. If you are taking distance courses while physically located outside of the United States, it is your responsibility to confirm the following: (a) if the country will recognize an online degree; (b) the availability of supervised field study opportunities in the country; and (c) if the country charges any additional taxes, withholdings or fees associated with online distance education programs.

For more information, please visit USD’s State Authorization page or contact your admissions counselor.


Department of Physics
605-658-6826| physics@usd.edu | usd.edu/physics

Graduate Admissions
605-658-6140 | gradadmissions@usd.edu  | usd.edu/grad


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