Grad FAQs


Your admission notification email from the Graduate College contains your Student Identification number (SID) and your Personal Identification Number (PIN). Your SID and PIN are needed to create your UA NetID and password. Once you have created your NetID and password, you may log in to UAccess Student Center at​. If you are unable to enroll, this may be due to a hold on your account. You can check for holds by looking at the "Notices & Holds" section in UAccess Student Center. This section will list all outstanding holds, including immunization record holds and others that could block enrollment. By clicking the hold, you should be informed how to resolve the hold. If there is an immunization record hold that is set by Campus Health, it can be cleared by submitting your immunization records at If you are still unable to enroll after examining and taking care of any holds, please contact the Graduate Advisor.  

A typical full-time course load would include three 3-unit courses, such as OPTI 501, OPTI 502, and OPTI 512R. Additionally, new PhD students are strongly urged to take 1-3 units of research credits via OPTI 792. MS students, and PhD students who are not taking OPTI 792, might consider another one-unit course such as a lab or the colloquium course OPTI 595A.

For most students, the first semester of the Ph.D. program is occupied with core courses and our introductory research course, OPTI 792, which will help you find a research group for your Ph.D.  All of this is explained in our Graduate Handbook

  • You cannot enroll in OPTI 792 on your own. You and a professor must agree to work together for the semester first, and then you will submit a form to Jini Kandyil who will then enroll you for the course. We recommend that you wait until the start of the Fall semester to talk with professors about research and OPTI 792 options, or start talking with a couple of professors via Zoom over the summer. You can submit the OPTI 792 paperwork once you've decided on the research activities that you will pursue for the semester.



In order to accept your offer of admission, you must log back in to your graduate application and select the button to "Accept" admission.

If your admission status indicates "Subject To", you must submit your final official transcripts within 30 days after the first day of classes. Failure to submit these official documents will prevent your ability to enroll for your second semester. Official electronic transcripts received directly from the institution or clearinghouse may be sent to or by mail to: University of Arizona Graduate Admissions, Administration Building Rm 322, PO Box 210066, Tucson, AZ 85721-0066.

Arrival at UArizona

Yes. On-campus students must submit immunization records online to Campus Health: You will not be able to register for classes until this has been submitted and approved.

M.S. Program

  • Thesis option: Students completing a thesis must complete a total of 32 units, including 24 units of coursework (including 2 labs), plus 8 units of OPTI 910: Thesis. Students must complete a defense/final oral exam based primarily on the content of the thesis.

  • Master’s Report option: Students completing an MS Report must complete 35 units, including 32 unitsof coursework (including 2 labs), plus 3 units of OPTI 909: Masters Report. Students must complete a defense/final oral exam that typically covers the content of the report.

  • Technical Writing MS option: Students completing a coursework-only MS must complete 35 units, including 32 units of coursework (including 2 labs), plus 3 units of OPTI 597B: Technical Writing and Communication. Students must complete a final oral exam over the subject matter of their OPTI courses.

Master's students are not guaranteed funding, however, MS students are welcome to apply for funding/ Graduate Assistantship opportunities in the college once they are in the MS program. Note that these positions are very competitive and limited. For Research Assistant (RA) positions, students must contact professors individually to see if they have any openings for an RA position, but should only do so after formally accepting admission. For more information about our college's research specialties and related faculty, visit Optical Sciences also maintains a small number of internal scholarships that are awarded annually to on campus students. Application takes place each spring semester for the next academic year via UA's Scholarship Universe ( Additional funding sources are identified on our External Scholarships webpage at This page lists many great opportunities for students in the field of optics. Many of our students have had success with these donors.


MS students may (re)apply to the PhD program, although admission is highly competitive and there is no guarantee of admission to the PhD program upon completion of an MS.

It is possible to get an MS degree by completing all courses online. A list of all Optical Sciences courses that are available online is available at: We currently offer OPTI 512L, OPTI 569L, and OPTI 586L as online lab options, and are working on setting up additional online lab options so that students may meet the two lab requirement. Students also have the option to submit a Lab Waiver request to waive one lab course based on prior or current equivalent hands-on laboratory experience, such as working an an optics company.

The M.S. in Optical Sciences program has no required core curriculum. Suggested coursework toward the completion of an MS can be found at, but students are not required to strictly follow this list. If a student has been approved for a sub-plan (e.g. Optomechanical Engineering), specific coursework must be completed to fulfill sub-plan curriculum requirements.

Students can switch from the Online Campus to Main Campus, or vice versa, but may not enroll in a combination of Online or Main Campus courses within the same semester. MS students seeking to change campus can do so at the beginning of the semester by requesting the change through the Graduate Advisor, who will submit a Change of Campus Request. Once the Change of Campus Request is approved, students may enroll in courses appropriate to that campus.

Our iMS program allows a student to spend a year working at an optics-related company performing job duties that double as MS thesis work. The student can spend one year taking courses on campus, and then spend a second year at a company. Or, the student can be a distance learning MS student, working at a company, and then work on the company/thesis project once courses have been completed. In all cases, the student and company must each agree to work with each other under terms that must be negotiated between them, and not all iMS requests can be accommodated. Various options are available. Please contact the Graduate Advisor for more information about the iMS program.

Distance Learning / Arizona Online MS Program

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. If you have any uncertainty whether or not your previous experience or coursework has prepared you to take the course, you are urged to communicate with the professor about your experience and background and ask for their opinion about your enrollment in the course.



No. Students talk to and develop rapport with instructors and even fellow classmates through email, D2L discussion boards, chatrooms and telephone calls. Recently, the Discord app has been frequently used by OSC graduate students (local and remote) to discuss coursework. You may also communicate with your teaching assistant. Some courses have live recitation sessions that encourage your participation, and these may involve using Zoom for instance. 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 UA’s D2L web site. You will use your 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.

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. The course instructor will let you know what is needed for a given course.

Through email and telephone communication, distance students will communicate with the graduate student academic adviser for most questions, particularly involving academic requirements. For questions regarding course suggestions, the Associate Dean for Graduate Academic Affairs may be consulted.

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.

For most courses, students need to choose a proctor for exams. Exams will be emailed to the proctor with all instructions included. The exam proctor could be an HR person or supervisor at your company, 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 by UA to six years. It takes approximately two years to obtain a master's degree if classes are taken full-time, but at the rate of one course per semester, it is going to take much 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 to the UA Graduate College for an extension of time to complete your degree. Speak with the graduate academic advisor for more information and details. The time limit is typically not a problem for most students.

Distance students are encouraged to review the faculty areas of research expertise and propose a thesis or report topic to a particular faculty member, and ask if the faculty member would be willing to supervise the thesis or report work and serve as the chair of the MS committee.

There are 3 tracks to complete the MS, and each track is available to distance students.  For M.S. students who are not following one of the emphasis areas (Optomechanical Engineering, Quantum Information Science a& Engineering), the tracks are distinguished as follows:

- MS Thesis: Total 32 units, which consists of 24 units coursework + 8 units OPTI 910: Thesis, with thesis defense and thesis submission to the Graduate College. A Master’s Thesis is a summary of an original research project that the student has conducted during the graduate program, and that necessarily involves an original contribution to the field of optics. The written thesis will discuss the research along with the results of the study. Research may be conducted in a UA lab or externally. Working professionals may want to consider completing the Optical Sciences MS Thesis- Industrial Track MS (iMS) program. This track is available to students who are employed with optics-related companies and are interested in pursuing research toward an MS in collaboration with their company. In this program, you can complete a thesis while working on a project with your company under the supervision of a company employee, along with an Optical Sciences faculty member who will guide you on academic requirements as well as thesis completion.

- MS Report: Total 35 units, which consists of 32 units coursework + 3 units OPTI 909: Master's Report, with report defense and submission of report to College of Optical Sciences. A Master’s Report is typically a literature review in which the student selects a topic in optics, collects data from scholarly papers, and summarizes the collected information into a final report. The report does not require the student to conduct their own research and report final results, though some MS Reports will incorporate some work or original research that a student has done.

- Technical Writing: Total 35 units, which consists of 35 units coursework, including 3 units of OPTI 597B, with final oral exam over coursework. A student must select the MS committee chair, who will typically help the student select two additional committee members. All three committee members are typically Optical Sciences faculty members.

Students who are currently earning or have completed a Graduate Certificate and then wish to pursue the MS degree may apply all graduate credits earned toward a Certificate to the MS degree program. Admission to the MS program will require the submission of a new application for admission. You may choose to complete both the Certificate and MS, or discontinue the Certificate and complete the MS, upon admission to the MS program.

The MS and Certificate programs do not have a set curriculum (outside of the 2 lab course requirement for the MS program), so you may choose any of the OPTI 500-level or above classes that interest you from the list of Distance Learning courses. However, please note the course restrictions listed in the Graduate Handbook.  See also our course  recommendations for new students.  

Two lab enrollments are required for the MS degree. We currently have 3 online lab offerings (OPTI 586L, OPTI 512L, and OPTI 569L). Students can also request to waive one of the lab requirements on the basis of optics lab experience at work or elsewhere. That lab waiver is available at our Graduate Student Resources Forms webpage.  Only one lab course may be waived. Please note that waiver of a lab course does not reduce the overall number of coursework units required for your MS, and that the waived lab unit must be replaced by other coursework.

Please see our web page on course  recommendations for new students.  

Up to 6 units of non-Optical Sciences or non-UA courses can be applied toward the MS, and up to 3 units of non-Optical Sciences or non-UA courses can be applied toward the Certificate, upon approval of these courses for inclusion by the Associate Dean for Graduate Academic Affairs. Please forward the course information to the Graduate Academic Advisor for preapproval prior to enrollment. Please note that no undergraduate-level courses can be counted toward your MS/Certificate.


University funding for Online students is limited. Teaching Assistantships are not available to Online students, and although Research Assistantships are possible, they are often difficult to secure. Many of our Online students are able to obtain tuition assistance from their employers or through scholarships. You may want to check out the Resources for Finding Funding at the Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement website at to help identify scholarship opportunities available to Online students, should you choose that option.

You can switch between main and online campus for any given semester, although you cannot mix Main Campus and Online Campus courses within a semester. If you are interested in switching to or from Main Campus for a semester (or longer), please contact the Graduate Academic Advisor, who can submit a Campus Change Request for you. Please note that applicants who are residents of Alaska, Arizona, California , Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming may qualify for WICHE/WRGP instate tuition rate upon their first semester of switching to Main Campus.


FoTO scholarship funding will be released the week of August 15th, which is the week before classes begin. This includes your tuition waiver, Fall 2022 stipend (at least $10,000, which was the Fall 2021 amount), and health insurance award. All funding is processed by the UA Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid and will be credited to your UA Bursars Student Account. Your student account is a central billing account for University tuition charges, department charges (student housing, meal plan, campus health, books, etc), miscellaneous fees, and receiving payments and financial aid. It is recommended that you enroll in Web Refund to have refunds sent directly to your bank account. This will expedite the receipt of your stipend funds. For further funding questions that are specifically about FoTO scholarships, please email the Manager for Academic Programs Finance & Operation.

The Fall Research Assistantship (RA) start date is in mid-August, one week before the start of classes.  Students being hired as an RA by an Optical Sciences professor will need to complete a Fall Funding Authorization Form. The form will be available in mid-June at the Graduate Forms webpage.   Note that the tuition award and health insurance award provided by an RA position will be posted to a student's account the week before the semester begins, if hiring is completed. The stipend benefit will be provided in the form of a pay-check, issued bi-weekly over the course of the semester.

  • Review the UA Tax Services Office website for information regarding taxation of scholarships and fellowships. All enrolled students are issued a Tax Statement Form 1098-T from the University by January of each year. The form includes tax related information for the previous calendar year (January-December). Students are advised to consult a tax professional regarding this information.

  • All University employees, including RAs and students hired into Student Wage Positions (including a portion of a FoTO recipient's Spring semester stipend) are subject to income taxes. RAs are subject to federal and state withholding at the student rate. RAs are FICA exempt during fall/spring when enrolled for six or more units but FICA is withheld during summer. The University will issue employees a form W-2, which reports taxable salaries/wages received form the University during the previous calendar year. Additional questions should be directed to the UA Tax Services Office.


Please see the Housing section on the Newly Admitted Students page on this website. Also, one of the best resources for this kind of information is to talk with other Optical Sciences graduate students.

International Students

Parking and Transportation

Here is the website for the UA Parking and Transportation office: Rates for parking permits can be found here:

On most of the streets in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding campus, street parking is not allowed without a permit along the few blocks closest to campus. Permit-free street parking is possible a little bit further away, and some students find parking to the south of campus about a 15 minute walk away from the Optical Sciences building.

Yes. There are bike racks by the Optical Sciences building. There are also other options for more secure bike parking. For about $35/year, you can lock your bike in an enclosure in the parking garage next to Optical Sciences. A bicycle locker can be rented for about $100/year. There are a few lockers near Optical Sciences, check with Parking and Transportation for availability. Bicycle enclosure and locker information can be found here:

There is a bus stop on the north side of Optical Sciences. Also by the bus stop is a station for TuGo, the Tucson bike share program: Annual passes for the bike share program are $80, although UA students may be able to get 50% off of a yearly membership. There is also a streetcar with a route between UA and downtown Tucson. Finally, there are many places to live that are close enough to the UA to walk to campus.

Yes. A bike route map can be found here: Note in particular the north/south bikeways along Mountain Ave and Treat Ave, and the east-west bikeway along 3rd St and the east-west bike path along the Rillito "River". These the especially popular bike routes.


Transfer Credits

Possibly, as long as those credits were not applied to your bachelor's degree. You must first submit a Transfer Credit Form in GradPath ( so the Graduate College can determine if your courses are eligible to be transferred. Once the Graduate College has deemed your course(s) eligible then you need to submit an Optical Sciences form including all related course syllabi to determine whether the transferred credit can also be counted towards your degree. You may do all of this once you arrive on campus and after you have started your graduate program, but the request needs to be submitted to the Graduate College by the end of the first year of study. The minimum grade for transferred credits must be an A or B or the equivalent at the institution where course was taken.

Typically, up to 12 units of transfer coursework may be approved for use toward the Ph.D requirements. Additional transfer units may be approved in exceptional circumstances. For example, students with numerous optics courses from a non-UA optics MS program may have more than 12 transfer units approved. Please discuss your situation with the Associate Dean for Graduate Academic Affairs. Please see for additional policies.

According to UA Graduate College rules, no more than 20% of the minimum number of units required for a master's degree can be transferred from other accredited institutions. For example, if the MS degree requires 32 units, then no more than 6 units can be transferred, or if the MS degree requires 35 units of coursework, then no more than 7 units can be transferred. However, if graduate coursework was previously taken at UA, then additional units can be applied to the MS degree. Please see for additional policies.