M.S. in Optical Sciences

The Master of Science in Optical Sciences program prepares students to enter exciting and challenging careers in industry or to continue their educations in the Ph.D. program.  Program options include specializing in the Optomechanical Engineering or the Quantum Information Science & Engineering emphasis areas, and/or completing the M.S. degree remotely as a distance student through Arizona Online.  

Spring Semester M.S. Deadline

Domestic Students: December 10 (On-campus & Online)
International Students: September 15 (On-campus) / December 10 (Online)

Fall Semester M.S. Deadline

Domestic Students: August 1 (On-campus) / August 15  (Online)
International Students: July 1 (On-campus) / August 1  (Online)

A submitted online application with all supporting documents, including submitted letters of recommendation, should be completed by these deadlines. Documents submitted after the date cannot be guaranteed review.

Minimum Eligibility Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree in optics, engineering, physics, mathematics, or a related field strongly suggested.  Others will be considered with sufficient coursework in mathematics and physics or engineering.
  • Coursework must include four semesters of calculus including vector calculus and differential equations, with two or more semesters of college physics including an electromagnetism course strongly recommended. A course in linear algebra is also recommended.
  • 3.00 GPA
  • International applicants: TOEFL 79, IELTS 7.0, or CESL Endorsement

Review Timeline

M.S. applications are reviewed throughout they year as they are submitted.  Students are often notified of the outcome of their application within about two weeks of the receipt of all application materials.  

Applications to M.S. Programs

1. Application

  • Complete the University of Arizona Graduate College admission application online. There is no separate application for the College of Optical Sciences.
  • Optical Sciences does not offer application fee waivers except for Optical Sciences Winter School alumni.

2. Transcripts

  • Upload PDF scans of institute-issued transcripts or diplomas to the online application. All submissions must be in English. Please note that these uploads are not considered your official transcript.
  • Official transcripts are required only if admitted. Information on what is considered an official transcript can be found here.

3. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Scores - GRE NOT REQUIRED FOR M.S. APPLICATIONS

4. Three or More Letters of Recommendation

  • Recommendations are submitted electronically and should be produced on official letterhead except where prohibited by the letter writer's place of employment. Select individuals to write these letters who are well acquainted with you and who can comment on your qualifications and promise for a career in optical sciences. 
  • Letters MUST be written entirely by the recommender.  Letters drafted by the applicant are not acceptable and may cause an application to be dismissed.  Admissions Committee members may contact any letter writer for additional information, including asking whether or not they wrote the letter.  
  • Recommendation letters are submitted using the recommendation module in the Graduate College online application. You will input the recommender’s name and email address, and they will be emailed a link to upload their electronic letter into the online system. If a recommender is having problems uploading their letter, they can email admissions@optics.arizona.edu.  Unless prohibited by the letter writer's place of employment, email addresses should be professional rather than personal addresses.  

5. Statement of Purpose

  • Your statement of purpose should be no more than two pages.
  • There are no specific prompts for the statement of purpose. Suggested topics to discuss are: why you are interested in optical sciences, your career goals, any specific optics areas or professors that you are particularly interested in, and why you believe you are a strong candidate for the M.S. program. This is also your opportunity to address any lapse in grades or other past academic or personal issues.
  • Your statement of purpose is read and taken seriously. 
  • Upload your electronic statement to your Graduate College online application.

6. Résumé or Curriculum Vitae

  • Your resume or CV should include any work experience, research, publications, or activities that will demonstrate your ability to be a successful M.S. student.
  • Upload your electronic resume/CV to your Graduate College online application.

7. Proof of English Proficiency (International Applicants Only) 

All international students applying to an Optical Sciences graduate program must submit English proficiency test scores (TOEFL, IELTS, or CESL Endorsement). This includes students applying to online and on campus programs.

  • TOEFL scores are required for international applicants. Applicants to the College of Optical Sciences must have a score of at least 600 paper-based (PB) or 79 Internet-based (iBT). Submit your scores to the University of Arizona (code number 4832). All reported scores must be dated within two years of the proposed date of enrollment.
  • Those who completed the IELTS must have a minimum score of 7. Have IELTS send official scores to Graduate Admissions, Administration Bldg. Room 322, The University of Arizona, P.O. Box 210066, Tucson, AZ 85721.
  • Optical Sciences accepts CESL Endorsement. The student must receive the endorsement during or close to the application deadline.
  • Applicants who have completed a bachelors or graduate degree at a regionally accredited institution in the United States, or an approved institution in an official English speaking country.  
  • Exemptions for submitting English proficiency scores are explained on the Graduate College website.
  • Other options may be available as explained on the Graduate College International Applicants website.  

8. Supplemental Documents

Applicants who have publications should not include the actual papers with their application. Instead, applicants can include the publishing information in their resume.


The College of Optical Sciences does not guarantee funding for M.S. students. Once the student has started their studies in our department, research or teaching assistant positions may be available, but are not guaranteed. There is no supplemental application with your admission application to be considered for funding since no funding is provided entering the program. Funding options are only available to on-campus students. To see the current tuition and fees rates, please visit the Tuition Calculator.


For more information about graduate degree program requirements or completing an admission application, please email admissions@optics.arizona.edu or call (520)621-8418.

Graduate Student Handbook

  • The Optical Sciences Graduate Student Handbook is the complete reference of the M.S. program's requirements, including the emphasis areas (Optomechanical Engineering, Quantum Information Science & Engineering), and Distance Learning program options and requirements.  


  • The general Optical Sciences M.S. degree, without an area of emphasis, does not require the completion of any specific core courses.
  • The Optomechanical Engineering (OME) and the Quantum Information Science & Engineering (QISE) areas of emphasis require the completion of some specific courses.  See the appendices of the Graduate Student Handbook for details about these emphasis areas. 
  • Two laboratory courses must be completed.  One lab may be waived with suitable concurrent or prior experience working in the optics industry, or prior completion of an optics undergraduate degree.
  • Up to 6 units of credit for appropriate graduate courses may be transferred from other universities with approval from the college. 
  • Optics courses taken as part of a Certificate program can be counted towards the M.S. degree as long as they were not used in the completion of any other degree.

Qualifying and Comprehensive Exams

  • Optical Sciences M.S. programs do not require the completion of qualifying or comprehensive exams.

M.S. Thesis Option and Final Examination

  • With the thesis option of the M.S. in Optical Sciences degree program, the student must complete a minimum of 32 units of University of Arizona graduate credit in optics or optics-related courses, including eight units of OPTI 910: Thesis (6 units for QISE emphasis area). Most graduate courses are three units.
  • For students who select the Thesis route to M.S. completion, the final examination is an oral exam based primarily on the content of the thesis.

M.S. Non-Thesis Option and Final Examination

  • A minimum of 35 units (32 units for QISE emphasis) of University of Arizona graduate credit in optics or optics-related courses is required for the non-thesis option of the M.S. in Optical Sciences degree.  Most graduate courses are three units.
  • The total of 35 units must include either three units of OPTI 909 Master's Report OR completion of an approved three-unit technical writing course. Completion of a master's report or technical writing course is required to demonstrate competence in written communication.  
  • Up to 7 units (6 for QISE emphasis) of credit for appropriate graduate courses may be transferred from other universities with approval from the college. 
  • Master's Report Option: requires that students write an acceptable master's report, for which three units of OPTI 909 credit are received.  The student's faculty advisor supervises the master's report work.  The final M.S. oral exam typically primarily covers the subject of the M.S. report, and may occasionally cover topics addressed in some of the optics courses taken.
  • Technical Writing Option: requires that students successfully complete a three-unit graduate course involving technical writing with a grade of A or B.  This non-thesis option is usually pursued instead of the M.S. Report, although it is possible to follow the Report Option and also receive credit for a technical writing course.  The main distinguishing factor of the Technical Writing option is that the final M.S. oral exam is over topics covered in various optics courses taken by the student.