Frequently Asked Questions

No. Distance students can apply to be a nondegree graduate student and upon admissions enroll in a distance optics class. Up to six units can be completed in nondegree status and applied toward the Professional Graduate Certificate program once admitted. Up to 15 units can be completed in nondegree status and applied toward an M.S. or Ph.D. degree program once admitted.

Apply to the University of Arizona Graduate College. It is a quick and easy process; no additional documents such as transcripts or letters of recommendation are required. You will receive an email from Graduate College Admissions once your nondegree admissions is completed.

Degree program application requirements and instructions are available on our Admissions pages.

The distance learning program is administered via Arizona Online. Students are required to register for online courses through the UAccess Student Center. Step by step instructions are available at

No. Students admitted to a College of Optical Sciences degree program can take distance courses or on-campus courses, whichever best fit their lifestyle. You will be awarded the same degree as all other graduate students admitted to the Graduate Certificate, M.S. or Ph.D. programs.

You'll find our application deadlines on the Graduate Admissions page. We strive to be flexible about these deadlines and will often consider applications which arrive late. It is to your advantage to submit your application on time; however, we will accept late applications for consideration.

All international students applying to an Optical Sciences graduate program must submit English proficiency test scores (TOEFL or IELTS). This includes students applying to the Professional Graduate Certificate, M.S. or Ph.D. programs, and includes students applying to the online and on campus programs. For additional information regarding English proficiency requirements including exemptions click here.

Tuition for the College of Optical Sciences distance learning courses is now a charge of $1,330 per unit for all students in an optical sciences graduate program, regardless of residency. An additional Arizona Financial Aid Trust Fee (AFAT), is required by the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR). The AFAT fee is $25.25 for 1-6 units or $50.50 for 7 or more units.

Approximately 25 optics classes are offered by distance each fall and spring semester. You can view the full list of distance learning courses.

Yes, the prerequisites — while strongly recommended — are not required and nothing in the system prevents you from enrolling. You may have industry or previous course work to satisfy the prerequisite. You can always communicate with the professor about your experience and background.

As in any course, the amount of time actually invested depends on the student and varies on a course-by-course basis. The same faculty teach both distance and on-campus classes; the courses are designed to teach the same material and require the same amount of student commitments. There may be some additional time for homework submissions and completion of exams.

We often have distance students visit OSC and tour our building, but it is not required. The Graduate Certificate program requirements can be completed entirely by distance with no campus visit. Depending on lab experience, it may be possible to complete the M.S. degree entirely by distance with only one trip to campus to complete your final oral exam.

No. All admitted international students must maintain student health insurance. International students completing distance must submit a waiver form to Campus Health waiving the requirement. This must be done each fall and spring semester in which the student enrolls for a distance class. Students who fail to submit this form will automatically be assessed student health insurance charges on their bursar account. In addition, student must prove they will not be in the U.S. during this time.

No. Students talk to and develop rapport with instructors and even fellow classmates through email, D2L discussion boards, chatrooms and telephone calls. You will also communicate with your teaching assistant. Some courses have live recitation sessions that encourage your participation. You will also be given the choice to share your email address with other distance students that are taking the same course.

The lectures will be available electronically, and are posted to the U of A, D2L web site. You will need a UA Net ID to access the D2L site. The lectures are posted to the Web immediately after they are taught, and will be available to view anytime throughout the entire semester.  

Distance classes run the full length of the semester, same as on-campus classes. Additional time is sometimes granted for coordinating of final exams and submissions of all course material.

It depends on the course. Sometimes distance students give the presentation to peers, who return an evaluation form to the professor. Some use Windows Live and give their presentation as a PowerPoint. In certain circumstances a distance student is assigned to a group of on-campus students and will be responsible for research instead of giving a presentation.

Through email and telephone communication, distance students will communicate with the graduate student academic adviser.

After you have enrolled in a distance learning course and about a week prior to the start of the semester, you will be sent an email welcoming you to the distance learning program. The email will include all the information you need to complete your course.

You are responsible for purchasing any textbooks and class notes the professor requires for the course. The professor will let you know where to purchase notes should that be a requirement. Textbooks can be purchased through a variety of sources, including the UA BookStore.

Some courses do require special software, but you will be given access and will not have to purchase software.

After your registration is complete and before classes begin, you will receive an email with detailed information about homework submission.

Students need to identify a proctor for exams. The exams will be emailed to the proctor with all instructions included. The exam proctor can be an HR person, a supervisor or a local librarian, but the proctor may not be a co-worker or subordinate.

The M.S. in Optical Sciences degree program is limited to six years. It takes approximately two years to obtain a master's degree if you take classes full-time. If you take one course a semester, it is going to take longer. If you have previous graduate level course approved to count toward your M.S. degree, the actual start date begins with the semester of approved transfer courses. If you near the six-year time limit, you can submit a petition for an extension of time to complete your degree. Speak with the graduate academic advisor for more information and details.

Distance students are encouraged to review the faculty areas of research expertise and propose a topic to a particular faculty member.

According to the late, great Research Professor Emeritus James M. Palmer, optics is "light work" —

  • It's big: The UA Steward Observatory Mirror Lab casts telescope mirrors up to 8.5 meters.
  • It's small: An array of 1,600 microscopic lenses fit easily on a quarter; these lenses are used in an optical test named in part after Professor Emeritus Roland V. Shack.
  • Optics is hot: The National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will deposit 1.8 megajoules in two nanoseconds on a tiny two-millimeter tritium target, heating it to more than 100 million degrees Kelvin.
  • Optics is cool: The laser cooling and trapping performed in optical physics labs at OSC can capture and slow down individual atoms until their effective temperature is one ten-millionth of a degree Kelvin.
  • It's fast: A 9-micron optical fiber can carry data and 10 gigabits per second; using dense wavelength-division multiplexing, that means that two million simultaneous phone conversations can be transmitted through a single fiber.
  • And it's slow: Now it takes only 27 days to grow potassium dihydrogen phosphate crystals big enough for frequency multiplication, where it used to take a whole year.
  • Optics is near: Scanning tunneling microscopy at OSC can get close enough to resolve individual atoms.
  • Optics is far: The UA's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer on the Hubble Space Telescope found a galaxy 12 billion light years away.
  • It's new: LEDs are now available in three primary colors (great for displays!) and in white (for illumination). The violet laswer diode (at 400 nanometers) is a recent introduction that should lead to smaller spot sizes and denser data storage.
  • And it's old: Galileo built a telescope, based on an earlier design, in 1609 and used it to discover four of Jupiter's moons.
  • Optics is night: A Generation III image intensifier can produce a useful image under starlight. With that much power, you can see a six-foot-tall man at 580 yards.
  • Optics is day: A sulfur lamp the size of a golf ball produces nearly 100 times more light than a conventional high-intensity discharge lamp —  and nearly 1,000 times more light than a 40-watt tungsten lamp.
  • It's visible: Did you know that Revo polarized sunglasses were invented by an OSC graduate?
  • It's invisible: Heat associated with neck and back pain is easily viewed with an infrared thermograph.
  • Optics is challenging: You can create new optical devices, design optical instruments, fabricate special components and test complex systems.
  • And it's fun: Every day is a new challenge, your co-workers are great and you can make neat stuff together.
  • Optics is ubiquitous! It's in consumer products, medicine, military and aerospace applications, industry, and telecommunications.
  • Optics is big business: There are about 3,500 optics companies in the U.S., 200 in Arizona and 100 in Tucson — and there are approximately 200 educational institutions in the field.
  • Optics is booming, too: The overall market is estimated at $50 billion, and growing exponentially.
  • It's lucrative: Starting salaries are higher than in most engineering disciplines, and most graduates receive multiple employment offers.
  • And it's the portal to a wide range of employment possibilities. Recent graduates have gone on to Harvard, Yale, the University of Rochester and CREOL: The College of Optics and Photonics at the University of Central Florida; they're at Lawrence Livermore, Sandia and Los Alamos; and they're working at Eastman Kodak, 3M, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Raytheon.
  • Optics is the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences.

It depends.

If you are smart and hard-working, and you like gadgets, high-tech toys, science and math, then a degree from the College of Optical Sciences and a career in optics might very well be for you!

Optics isn't just telescopes and microscopes any more — we are surrounded by optics and optical technology all day. Grocery store scanners, photocopy machines, cameras, the headlights in your car, the display on your computer monitor and the readout on your calculator are all examples of optical technology. And of course, television and the movies wouldn't exist without optical technology. Optics is so critical to those industries that one of our faculty members, Arthur Francis Turner, won an Oscar for his work in developing the technology that led to the creation of special effects we see in films and television today.

Life as an Optics Student

In addition to the world-class optics education programs here, this is a great place to be a student. We have about 500 students from many countries and backgrounds working on B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees here — we are proud of our diversity and of our students. Quite a number of our students are multitalented. Some of their interests include acting, painting, sculpting, music, carpentry, travel, astronomy and photography (of course!), poetry, scuba diving, cooking, hiking and biking, running and mechanics. We have party folks and introspective folks, volunteers for community activities, parents of small children, members of foreign culture groups and — go Wildcats! — many, many sports enthusiasts. By the way, our Frisbee bunch isn't world class yet, but they're working on it!

We're located on the spacious University of Arizona campus in a small, modern city in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. Come visit us and see for yourself.

The Optics Industry

The optics industry is experiencing a shortage of skilled optical engineers and scientists, and they have asked us to "grow the program" to produce more graduates. The University of Arizona has targeted our B.S. in OSE degree program for expansion, and we are actively working on increasing the scope and breadth of the program to attract more students.

In the 40 years we've been educating optical scientists and engineers, our alumni have gone on to quite a variety of careers. Many love the academic life and are employed as teachers and researchers in universities in the United States and many other countries. Medical optics is a booming field;  optical technology is saving and improving lives by means of laser surgery, CAT scans, MRI technology, digital monitoring of life support systems, noninvasive equipment for fetal monitoring and glucose testing and the optical detection of cancers and tumors. Our space program is built around the importance of optics. With new designs for telescopes and other imaging systems, we are learning about the origins of our universe and are applying that knowledge to improve life for all of us. One of our graduate students recently won an award from NASA to study the design of thin optical flats that have the potential to be launched into space and used to detect small Earth-like planets outside our solar system. Computer technology, too, is another growing and in-demand optical specialty. In the near future, conventional computer technology will have exhausted its ability to build smaller and smaller chips to perform this work, so we are looking to optical technology — specifically quantum physics — for solutions. In theory, a quantum computer could simultaneously perform a thousand billion billion billion different computations.

The Job Market

Salaries in the optics industry are extraordinarily high and, even now, jobs are plentiful. Every week we receive an average of five or six messages, and sometimes many more, from colleagues in academia and industry telling us about job openings and asking us to circulate those messages to our soon-to-graduate students and to our alumni. If you'd like to take a look at recent openings, please check the employment section of our website. OSA and SPIE, the two major professional organizations in the optics field have excellent sites that include employment sections, so please take a moment to visit their sites also.

If this sounds exciting to you, then think about preparing for a career in optics with us.

The college's undergraduate degree, the Bachelor of Science in Optical Sciences and Engineering, is ABET-accredited, which serves to notify:

  • Parents and prospective students that a program has met minimum standards.
  • Faculty, deans and administrators of a program’s strengths and weaknesses and of ways to improve the program.
  • Employers that graduates are prepared to begin professional practice.
  • Taxpayers that their funds are spent well.
  • The public that graduates are aware of public health and safety considerations.

There is no accreditation process for graduate programs, but ours are regarded among the best in the field. Just ask our alumni, who are successful entrepreneurs, industry leaders and distinguished researchers — thanks in part to their OSC education.

The field of optics includes information technology and telecommunications, health care and life sciences, remote sensing, lighting and energy, national defense, industrial manufacturing, manufacturing optical components and systems, and (our favorite because it's what we do here) optics research and education.

Opportunities in these specialties and others are nearly unlimited, and some optical engineers and scientists cross boundaries to work in several fields at once.

The outlook is favorable. Even amidst economic uncertainty, the industry demand for optical scientists and engineers is high, and so are salaries.

In its latest poll of recent alumni, the college learned that a new graduate with a bachelor's degree will earn, on average, over $56,000 per year. With a master's degree, that number jumps to more than $72,000 per year — and with a Ph.D., an optical scientist just a few years out of college is likely to be making nearly $100,000 annually.

We've prepared a summary of our respondents' salaries, which is available for your review (PDF).

If you have any questions about applying to the bachelor's degree program at the College of Optical Sciences, please contact Ted Gatchell or Rebecca Myren at the UA College of Engineering at 520-621-6032, or

To review your application, in progress or complete, please visit the UA Graduate College Online Application. You will need to log in to access your application. You may confirm which documents have been successfully submitted.

We receive around 250 applications each year. Unfortunately, we are only able to offer admissions to approximately 60 on-campus full-time M.S. and Ph.D. applicants.

Each year our entering graduate class includes students from outside the U.S., including Asia and Europe. We welcome applicants from all countries, and we do not have quotas for applicants from any particular country or region.

Yes, you must submit a new complete application to be reconsidered for admission.

Our application deadline for fall admissions consideration is Jan. 1. It is to your advantage to submit your application on time, early if possible; however, we will accept late applications for consideration. Unfortunately, it is possible that our facility will be fully committed by the time late applications are received and no funding will be available to award.

Graduate Certificate and M.S. in Optical Sciences applications are accepted after the Jan. 1 deadline and often are considered for spring admission, particularly if the student has successfully completed graduate-level optics classes in nondegree status.

Please note that we only admit students to begin in the spring semester in extremely rare circumstances. For additional information about spring applications and admissions, contact

You can apply to be a nondegree graduate student on the Graduate College website. This is only open to U.S. citizens or international applicants not needing an I20 or visa (completing by distance). Complete and submit your application for the next application and admissions period. If you are offered admission, up to 15 units completed in nondegree graduate status will apply toward the graduate program requirements. Please note that, if you are interested in the Professional Graduate Certificate in Optical Sciences, six units completed in nondegree graduate status will apply toward the certificate requirements.

The College of Optical Sciences and the Graduate College at the University of Arizona require a 3.0 GPA. We understand there are circumstances when an applicant might have a GPA below the 3.0 requirement. You can submit your application for consideration, but please include a written explanation of the circumstances for which you did not achieve a 3.0, and why you now are able to maintain at least a 3.0 (required for all graduate students admitted to the University of Arizona Graduate College). Another option is nondegree graduate application and completing 9-15 units to raise your overall GPA.

For your application, an unofficial transcript is acceptable. However, if you are offered admission, you will need to submit an official transcript as soon as possible.

No, credential evaluation is based upon submission of transcripts from the issuing institution only.

The general GRE is required, although the subject GRE is optional. Except in rare circumstances, the general GRE score is required as part of your application. Please be sure to take this exam and arrange to have your score sent to us as part of your completed application. The Admissions Committee looks at several factors in evaluating applications, including the GRE scores.

A rare circumstance might be a Ph.D. applicant who has been awarded a previous Ph.D. or M.S. degree. If you feel your circumstance warrants consideration of waiver of GRE general exam, submit an explanation in writing to the associate dean for academic programs.

Please note that University of Arizona undergraduates applying to graduate programs are required to complete and submit the GRE general test scores.

You can note in your application the anticipated date that you will have your general GRE scores.

All international applicants must meet this requirement. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) can be submitted in lieu of the TOEFL. If the TOEFL, TOEFL iBT or IELTS is not offered in your country, you will need to travel to another country where one of these tests is offered.

Yes, all international applicants must submit a TOEFL score. The only exceptions to the TOEFL score requirement are on the Graduate College website.

The application fee is collected by the University of Arizona Graduate College. The College of Optical Sciences is not in a position to waive the application fee. Incomplete applications will not be evaluated by the Admissions Committee. In order for your application to be complete, you must pay the application fee.

Yes, we accept students who have begun graduates studies elsewhere. You will need to complete the same process as any other applicant.

If you are offered admission, some of your previous graduate-level work may be approved toward our program requirements, contingent upon permission from the associate dean for academic programs. Generally, we do not evaluate transfer coursework for applicants until after they have been admitted; however, we understand that your decision to apply may depend upon the transfer of previous work. If this is your situation, please contact the associate dean for academic programs.

Yes. You will need to submit the same application as any other applicant.

Once you are offered admissions, we look forward to having you join us; however, we do occasionally grant deferments to students who are able to explain their goals and reasons for deferring. If approved, a one-semester or one-year deferment is possible.

All international students are required to submit a Financial Guarantee Form to the Graduate College; however, you can wait to submit this form until after you are offered admissions to a graduate program. If your admission offer includes funding, we will submit to the Graduate College your funding award. Your funding may or may not cover the anticipated costs reflected on the Financial Guarantee Form. If it is not entirely covered, you will then need to submit a Financial Guarantee Form for the difference.

Nearly all Ph.D. applicants offered admissions to the College of Optical Sciences are awarded funding, generally as a graduate research assistant, which includes a tuition and health insurance benefit; however, there are some scholarships and fellowships awarded as well. M.S. students are generally awarded a Graduate Tuition Scholarship which waives the out-of-state tuition. There is no funding available for the Professional Graduate Certificate in Optical Sciences or the M.S. distance programs. You will be asked about financial assistance and funding when completing your application. You can also consider a FAFSA application, as scholarships and fellowships often require FAFSA completion. Other scholarships may become available as well.

You can find more information under Tuition, Fees & Funding.

Prospective graduate students are free to contact professors; however, most professors will respond that they will discuss research and employment opportunities with you once you have been offered admissions to one of our graduate programs.

The Admissions Committee review and evaluation process for fall semester admissions consideration is ongoing from January to March. As soon as the Academic Programs office is notified, you will receive an email. Only complete applications are forwarded to the Admissions Committee, so be sure your application is complete. Spring applications are considered in November each year.

We coordinate prospective applicant and student visits as requested. Unfortunately, we cannot assist with travel costs, but sometimes we can provide overnight accommodations with a current graduate student and assist with transportation to and from the airport. To arrange your visit, please contact the Academic Programs office to coordinate a tour and schedule a time to meet with a professor of your choice. You are also welcome to attend an optics class while visiting.

Please note if you are among the top 20 applicants being offered admission, you will be invited to visit the College of Optical Sciences with all expenses paid. Recruitment weekend is generally scheduled during March or April.

First, check this FAQ to see if your question has already been answered. If not, please submit a request through our Service Request Form. You may also contact the help desk by sending an email to Please do not contact a TMG staff member directly; when you sending your issue to the help desk address, we can route your issue to the proper person.

If you are unable to browse the Web or to send email, you can call the help desk at 520-621-8838. If your call is answered by voice mail, please leave a detailed message. Don't forget to include the following information:

  • Your name
  • Your phone number
  • Your room number
  • Your user name
  • A detailed description of your problem
  1. Browse to
  2. The resulting page will have two or three blank fields. Enter the following information, replacing username and password with your own user name and password.
  3. On the two-field page:
    • User name: username
    • Password: password
  4. On the three-blank page:
    • User name: username
    • Password: password
    • Domain: optical-science
  5. Provided you have entered all of your information correctly, you should now gain access to your mailbox through a Web interface resembling Outlook.
  6. When finished, be sure to click "Log Out" and completely close your browser. Failure to properly log out may result in someone else gaining access to your mailbox.

OSC provides website resources for faculty and student groups through a Wordpress-based content management system, located at These sites allow some customization while still meeting current University of Arizona and OSC branding standards. The WP sites are maintained by the Communications and Technology Management groups. To request a WP site, please use the New Website Form.

If you need other web development solutions, the University of Arizona provides some guidelines for Web development.

OSC mailbox and network accounts are deleted five business days after a user's final day. Users with a valid business need may have a contact account set up to forward mail from their OSC email address to another address.

Exceptions to this policy must be submitted to the Dean's Office for approval. Exceptions to this policy will be implemented by the manager of the Technology Management Group. The amount of grace time may be shortened and accounts may be deleted or disabled immediately for administrative or security reasons.

For Windows XP/Vista/7: Press "Ctrl+Alt+Del" while logged onto an OSC machine, and then click "Change Password."

For Windows 95/98/ME: Go to your control panel and double-click on the passwords button. You can change your Microsoft Network password there.

The two systems are not connected. Changing one in no way affects the other.

Requirements for passwords:

  • Minimum seven characters in length.
  • Maximum 14 characters in length.
  • Must contain English uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • Can not contain all or part of the user’s user name.
  • Can not contain any part of the user’s full name.
  • Can not reuse previous three passwords.

Users wanting to strengthen their passwords further can follow these suggestions:

  • Do not use words found in the dictionary.
  • Do not use proper names.
  • Use one or more numbers in the password.
  • Use one or more nonalphanumeric characters in their password.
  • It is strongly recommended that users with access to confidential and/or sensitive data utilize one or more of the suggestions to harden their password beyond the minimum requirements.
  1. In Outlook, click “File > Import and Export.” (screenshot)
  2. Select “Export to a file." (screenshot)
  3. Click “Next.”
  4. Select “Personal Folder File (.pst).” (screenshot)
  5. Click "Next."
  6. Select your mailbox.
  7. Make sure "Include Subfolders" is checked. (screenshot)
  8. Click “Next.”
  9. In the "Save exported file as:" field, type C:\mailbkup.pst. (screenshot)
  10. Click “Finish.”
  11. When the "Create Microsoft Personal Folders" box appears, click "OK." (screenshot)
  12. At this point Outlook should copy your entire mail account to your hard drive.