The professional master’s landscape, and survey data from department heads and undergraduates

In September and October 2019 we put a pair of surveys into the field. They helped us understand where graduating physics majors land and what components of a professional master's program might interest them. View the survey results.

We have opened another survey to ask industry professionals for their thoughts on the design of the master’s program.

Answers to some of your questions

The survey recently completed by 669 undergraduates at 107 different schools included a free response field in which participants could ask questions. Please click on the show/hide field to open answers.

  • I would like an elaboration on how it would be two semesters.
    We expect that students will enroll in three conventional courses plus the lab/project course each term. That's a course load of about 16 credits per semester, in a 32 credit program. But depending on the scheduling of an internship, the program might take some students a full year to complete.
  • After completing this program would one be given a masters?
    Yes, an M. Eng. with a concentration in Instrumentation and Applied Physics.
  • Are there specific companies we would intern for? If so what are they?
    We are currently developing contacts with potential industry partners. You'd probably intern with one of them.
  • Are you guys planning to include some quantum research in your program?
    That'll depend on the project you take on.
  • At some point why wouldn't we go for a masters in an engineering field
    We hope that the physics program will give you broad exposure to a wider range of engineering tools and techniques than a program that focuses on one engineering subfield, e.g. computer science. So the post-graduation job possibilities will be different.
  • Can we get an email with more information about this graduate program that will be offered?
    Probably best is to keep an eye on the web site as we develop the program. If all goes well, we'll be able to say a lot more about the curriculum in mid-2020.
  • Do you have a base cost yet?
    Not yet, and we don't yet know how much scholarship funding we'll be able to provide from industry partners. But the registrar's web site lists the yearly tuition + fees as $18,622 (in-state) and $35,458 (out of state) for 2019 - 2020 Grainger College of Engineering graduate programs. Note that this doesn't include living expenses.
  • Do you have any fusion based physics options, for graduate students.
    We hope to have plasma physics-related work as an option.
  • Do you know how if this would work with Air Force ROTC?
    That probably depends on the details of your obligations to the Air Force that you assumed when committing to ROTC. My guess is that this can be made to work, but please talk to your commanding officer.
  • hands-on COLLABRATIVE project work sounds terrible, hands-on SOLO project work sounds awesome!
    But working with other people lets you take on larger, more complex, and more interesting projects than you could do on your own.
  • How can I best stay updated on the progress of this program?
    Keep an eye on the web site.
  • How likely is it to be accepted into the program and get your entire master's and or PhD payed for on top of a stipend? To me, this is one of my main focuses as there are many programs willing to pay for your graduate school on top of also paying out a stipend, specifically for physicists.
    We're just starting to discuss support and sponsorship with industry contacts, so stay tuned.
  • How much would room would there be for specialization in astronomy/ earth sciences?
    We're hoping to find projects that appeal to our industry partners, so if any of them develop instrumentation for planetary missions that ought to be possible. Earth science is probably easier: a lot of environmental studies projects come to mind.
  • How soon is the program likely to be available? What are the requirements for admission? Are there any industry specialties within the idea of instrumentation?
    If the Faculty Senate approves it before the end of the 2019-2020 school year, then the first students can begin their studies during the fall 2021 semester. We are just beginning to discuss admissions requirements; the specifics of industry focus on instrumdentation will depend on who becomes a partner with UIUC.
  • How unique is this program? I have not heard of any like it and it sounds like a very interesting idea.
    I think we'll be offering one of the very few that is this strongly focused on project work. I am excited to see how it evolves.
  • How would an upcoming student looking to enter your potential program go about making the necessary connections to apply and have funding to attend the program?
    We're still in the early stages of undestanding the program's connection with (and possible level of support from) indsutry affiliates. So I'd say stay tuned--
  • How would the machine learning and artificial intelligence be incorporated into this master's program? In other words, would students be trained on how to use existing AI or trained to design them for future use?
    We'd like you to understand the basics of it well enough to be comfortable taking on projects which might need new algorithms to be developed for specific projects. We'd like you to be able to use some of the tools that might already exist, but also become bold enough to consider writing your own code.
  • I am interested in other topics in physics and i want to know about opportunities to do research in topics related to Optical and Particle physics in grad school.
    Depending on the project, optical techniques might be important, and there might even be some applications to particle physics instrumentation that arise. But this is an applied physics program, so we won't be asking students to undertake projects that resemble conventional particle physics research.
  • I am very interested in this option, as i am about to enter the work force, and plan on obtaining more education, but dont want to commit to a full Phd
    Good to hear!
  • I am very interested in this program, and am eager to learn more about it!
    Keep an eye on the web site.
  • I don't know what career opportunities are available for someone with a masters.
    There are plenty. Perhaps a start would be to look at the website of the American Institute of Physics.
  • I have no questions at the moment. Thank you for informing me about such a program :)
    You're welcome!
  • I have read your survey and see that you have question about will I likely to go as master and Phd degree or not. I am really interested in going to master and Phd in physic major. I am wondering that can you provide information how can I apply on it or the process?
    The physics department has a PhD program, separate from the professional master's. You can apply directly to that or, after we are approved, apply to us.
  • I wondered if you have any specific aerospace specialization programs?
    Don't know yet, but my colleagues in Aerospace Engineering have just started a new professional master's.
  • I would like to know the first semester the program will be enrolling students. I would also like to know what technical electives are being considered - I am very interested in quantum science and think this program would be a great preparation for industry work in that field. Also, will there be an option to continue straight into a Ph.D. program? I am not yet sure if I want to commit to such a program and am considering a masters degree to help me decide how far I would like to go in my academic career. Having that option would make the program much more appealing to me.
    If we receive Faculty Senate approval, we'll begin teaching the program during the Fall 2021 semester. The possible spectrum of technical electives will be broad-- probably most of the graduate physics courses we offer, along with classes in related engineering and technical subjects. Even though we aren't planning for the master's to feed directly into a PhD, this would be a natural next step for graduates who decide they really DO want to pursue a PhD.
  • I'm very interested in this program, but I'm not sure whether I qualify or not due to my GPA. How flexible is this program concerning the GPA, GRE ect.?
    We haven't set the admissions requirements yet, but I expect that we'll be reasonably flexible. We'll want you to have graduated from college with a solid undergraduate physics education before coming to us.
  • I'm interested in going into Quantum Computing in the future. Does this school have an operational Quantum Computer? That is big factor in my decision for grad school, along with financial aid. CWRU does not have one on campus.
    We don't have a quantum computer on campus at the present time.
  • If there might be financial support, how much will it be?
    We're hoping that some of our industry partners will sponsor (prospective) employees. But we'll know more as we develop the program.
  • In the examples given in the survey, none pertained to astronomy or astrophysics. Is this a field that you will have internships and/or technical electives in?
    We'll be concentrating on areas in which there is industry interest. If we should develop partnerships with firms that, for example, contract with NASA in the design of astronomical instruments, we might have projects of this sort.
  • In what ways do such machine learning/related courses differ from your computer science program? Might such learning be specifically specialized for the field of physics?
    We haven't designed the course yet, but expect that it will focus on analyses of data from field-deployed instruments.
  • Is the Physics GRE required to apply?
    We haven't decided yet. Stay tuned--
  • Is the program more suitable for students who know that they want to work in a specific industry, or students who does not yet have such specific interest?
    Both are fine, but we'll want you to develop a sense of a possible professional direction early in the first semester.
  • Is this program a good possibility for someone who wants to pursue partial accelerator design but not a PHD?
    Yes, for sure.
  • It's an interesting degree program.
  • No questions. Later if I have questions where would I go to ask?
    Keep an eye on the web site, and contact us.
  • please can you send more information aout your program, thanks
    So far everything we're willing to release publicly is/will be available on the program web site.
  • Please send me an e-mail when your curriculum is determined. Since I am really interested in Engineering program concerned with Physics, I will definitely look for your program if it is not expensive for me.
    Please keep an eye on the program web site.
  • Say after this program, you do decide to go for a Phd will this restrict you or set you back in doing so?
    I think completion of this program will lend itself well to further studies in a PhD program, if that's the direction a graduate would like to follow.
  • So a person would pick up a master's degree in a year? How is it done so quickly?
    3 conventional courses each semester, along with the lab/project course two afternoons per week each semester.
  • The idea that it is two semesters, for if someone is looking for an intermittent program between long commitments for one reason or another, is very attractive. My main question is what is the planned outcome for students? Is it further graduate school, the job market, either, etc.?
    We expect that most students will (re)enter the work force, though some might decide to transfer to a PhD program upon graduation.
  • This survey is incredible for up and coming ideas on programs. I love when our voices are heard and we get input on our own future, regardless of where we decide to go!
  • What are the gpa requirements to be eligible for this masters program? And if your gpa does not meet the requirement, what extended coursework to make up for the requirement can be taken to be eligible?
    We haven't set the admissions requirements yet, but I expect that we'll be reasonably flexible. We'll want you to have graduated from college with a solid undergraduate physics education before coming to us.
  • What CAD/CAM projects are you planning?
    That depends on the needs of your project and what facilities are available on campus at the time the program starts. There might be some CNC machining, 3D printing, PCB fabrication…
  • What opportunities for research does the school offer?
    Keep an eye on the list of projects that we'll be developing over the next year. Since we plan to have a significant amount of on-campus project work, you'll have all sorts of chances to undertake a research project.
  • What variety of focused physics topics would be available?
    That's under development. I'd like us to have sub-concentrations in lots of areas, but this'll depend on the partnerships we develop. I have personal interests in medical instrumentation, acoustics, and other areas, to name a few.
  • What will be the program.s admission requirement? Which businesses have expressed interest in the program?
    We haven't decided the admissions requirements, and we're still in the early stages of connecting with industry partners. So I can't really discuss the details of that yet-- stay tuned!
  • What would the size of this program include? Would the projects be based on the research done within the University or partnerships with other companies?
    Size of the program? Do you mean the number of students we enroll? We'll probably organize projects based on our local interests at UIUC as well as those of our industry partners.
  • When do you expect to have this program available, as I am very interested?
    If all goes well we'll be open fall 2021.
  • When do you suspect that this program will be finalized, and are you aware of other universities that are also developing, or already have graduate programs similar to the one described here? Thank you.
    Perhaps fall 2021; yes.
  • Will there be a minimum GPA required to apply? Moreover, would it be possible to start this program during a Spring semester?
    We haven't worked out the entrance requirements yet. Initially we'll ask students to start in the fall semesters of academic years, but I hope we can open it up to allow both fall and spring starts.
  • Will there be financial aid available for this program available from the University?
    Don't know yet.
  • Would the program have concentrations and tracks ( for eg biophysics? )
    We are discussing the possibility of "graduate certificates" in a number of subfields. These would be additional credentials awarded on top of the master's degree. I think that's kind of what you're talking about.
  • Would there be a stipend?
    We're hoping to find indutrial partners who are willing to sponsor some of our students. But we haven't worked out any of the details of this yet, so I can't yet say whether or not there'll be a stipend on top of tuition support.
  • Would there be an obligation to work for a company if they were to sponsor me? Or would the sponsors be sponsoring the program in its entirety.
    That'll probably depend on the agreements between individual students and their sponsoring companies.
  • Would this program be available to students wanting to use Veteran Benefits?
    I think so, but will know more about this in a few months
  • Would this program be for students who could attend class on campus only? How many credits would a student have to take each semester to complete the program in only two semesters? The short length of time commitment is potentially the most attractive part of your program.
    We're going to start off with a 100% residential program, 16 credit hours per semester, two semesters and (probably) an external intership. It'll be kind of intense, but the project work ought to be a blast.