Each year approximately 20 new students enter the M.Sc. or Ph.D. programmes in the Department. These students typically represent a very diverse group, coming from all parts of Canada and from many different countries around the world. The total number of physics graduate students is currently about 70. The total time required to go from the B.Sc. to the Ph.D. is usually between four and six years.
The minimum requirement for admission to the M.Sc. programmes is an Honours B.Sc. degree in Physics or Engineering Physics with at least a B+ average in the final year, although the applicants who are accepted typically have an average of A- or higher. Applicants with an Honours B.Sc. in other science disciplines will be considered for admission if they have received a good grounding in physics. Students wishing to study astrophysics need not have undergraduate training in astronomy or astrophysics. Since instruction is in English, foreign students whose first language is not English must take the TOEFL (iBT) and achieve a score of at least 92 (580 on the written version or 237 on the computer version). Admission to the Ph.D. programme generally requires completion of an M.Sc. degree in Physics with at least a B+ standing. However, students who wish to proceed to Ph.D. studies without completing the M.Sc. may apply to transfer after their M.Sc. coursework is complete. They must have an A- average in their M.Sc. graduate course work at McMaster and show clear evidence of research ability. If the transfer application is successful, then all of the graduate work completed up to that time may be applied directly to the Ph.D.
Two full-time M.Sc. programmes in Physics and Astronomy are available which differ in their emphasis on research. In the thesis programme, which is the most common choice, a student must satisfactorily complete at least two full graduate courses (four half-courses) and submit and defend an M.Sc. thesis embodying the results of original research. Students typically spend between 12 and 24 months in this programme. The thesis programme should be chosen by those wishing to proceed to a Ph.D. either by completion of the M.Sc. or by the transfer option described above.
For the coursework programme, three full graduate courses (six half-courses) must be completed as well as a project report, which is shorter and less formal than a thesis. This option usually takes 12 months and is often chosen by those intending to qualify as science teachers at secondary schools.
The main objective of the Ph.D. programme is that the student must learn the skills and techniques required to produce original research of a high quality that is published in peer-reviewed international physics journals. In addition, the student must complete a minimum of two graduate half-courses beyond those required for the M.Sc. All Ph.D. candidates must have successfully completed at least two out of the four half-courses in the "core curriculum", which consists of Quantum Mechanics I and II (Physics *739 and *740), Statistical Mechanics (Physics *750), and Advanced Classical Electrodynamics (Physics *746). Typically, these courses are taken in the first year of the M.Sc. programme. All Ph.D. candidates must also pass an oral Comprehensive Examination in the first or second year of their Ph.D. studies.