The Department of Astronomy offers graduate study leading to the Master’s of Science degree in astronomy. The degree is designed to prepare students either for further graduate work leading to the doctorate, or for a professional career in teaching or in industry. In brief, all students will complete coursework in astronomy and closely related fields, and then complete either a written thesis (“Plan A”) or pass a comprehensive examination (“Plan B”).

Thesis projects are conducted in collaboration with department faculty, whose research ranges from the structure and evolution of stars, to the physics of the brightest explosions in the universe, to the formation and growth of galaxies. Graduate students have access to MLO observing facilities, as well as to extensive campus computing facilities and to the San Diego Supercomputer Center. Students interested in broader community outreach may make use of numerous on-campus observing facilities for this purpose, including a Clark 12-inch refractor, two permanently fixed 12-inch reflecting telescopes, ten portable 8-inch Meade LX200 reflectors, and 20 smaller assorted portable reflecting telescopes. Students may also design their own planetarium shows using our classic Spitz AP3 planetarium.

Course Requirements: Students must complete a minimum of 30 units of 500-, 600-, and 700-level courses selected with the approval of a graduate adviser.  A full listing of all courses offered by the Astronomy Department can be found here.

Advancement to Candidacy: All students must satisfy the general requirements for advancement to candidacy as specified in Part Four of the Graduate Bulletin. If the student’s undergraduate preparation is deficient, he/she will be required to take courses for the removal of the deficiency. These courses are in addition to the minimum of 30 units required for the Master’s degree.

Specific Requirements for the Master of Science Degree: In addition to meeting the requirements for classified graduate standing and the basic requirements for the Master’s degree as described in Part Four of the Graduate Bulletin, the student must also meet the following departmental requirements in a 30-unit program:

  1. Complete the 12-unit core course curriculum (ASTR 630, ASTR 650, ASTR 660, and ASTR 680).
  2. Complete at least 15 additional units of 500-, 600-, or 700-level graduate courses in astronomy or related fields (e.g. physics, geology, computer science) with the approval of the Graduate Advisor. The student shall not exceed 15 units of 500-level courses if pursuing Plan B (see below).
  3. Complete the requirements for “Plan A” or “Plan B” as outlined below.
  4. The student is required to demonstrate competency in a scientific computing language.

Plan A (thesis): In this option, the student writes and defends a thesis. The student should enroll in ASTR 799A (Thesis) for 3 units with the Cr/NC/RP option during the semester of graduation. The student is also required to pass a final oral examination of the thesis that will be administered. The student must be enrolled in ASTR 799A (Thesis) or ASTR 799B (Thesis Extension) when this examination takes place.  A sampling of theses by previous graduate students can be explored via the SDSU Library.  The Plan A option requires the consent of the Astronomy Graduate Advisor.

Plan B (exam): In this option, the student should pass a final comprehensive examination covering the astronomy core curriculum and complete three additional units of 500-, 600-, or 700-level courses in astronomy or related fields with the approval of the Graduate Advisor.

Courses Acceptable for the Master’s Degree Program in Astronomy: Please refer to “Courses and Curricula and Regulations of the Division of Graduate Affairs” sections of the Graduate Bulletin for explanations of the course numbering system, the definition of a unit or credit hour, the prerequisites, and related information.

Degree Learning Outcomes and Curriculum Map