Graduate Program Astronomy Degree Requirements


The UBC Department of Physics in Astronomy issues M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees labelled `Astronomy'. The following material was adopted by the department in June 2013 and will apply to students who begin MSc or PhD degrees AFTER that date; students who began their degrees before that date may follow the program guidelines in force at the time they began their degree.

Master of Science in Astronomy

With a few specific exemptions, listed below, the M.Sc.(Astronomy) program would consist of a thesis (ASTR 549) and 18 credits of coursework, as follows:

  1. PHYSICS REQUIREMENT: One of PHYS 500, 501, 504, 508, 516.
  2. TWO of the three Techniques courses ASTR 502, ASTR 514, (ASTR 509 or PHYS 509).
  3. TWO of the five Subject courses ASTR 505, 506, 507, 508, PHYS 571.
  4. ONE other course. This would commonly be one of: (1) Any graduate PHYS course, (2) another graduate Technique or Subject course, (3) the Directed Studies course ASTR 530 (although this may be better reserved for the PhD), or (4) any 400-level course in ASTR or PHYS (ASTR courses co-taught with a 400-level course may not be taken at the 400-level version of the course).
  5. Students lacking some 4th-year physics background may need to take additional 400-level physics courses to make up for weak preparation.
  6. With signed approval from both their M.Sc. supervisor and the ASTR Grad Advisor, a student may substitute a graduate physics course for one of the technique or subject courses.


Title Techniqe/Subject Frequency or Note
ASTR 502 ASTRONOMICAL DYNAMICS Technique Every other year
ASTR 505 Galaxies Subject Every other year
ASTR 506 High-energy Astrophysics Subject Annual
ASTR 507 Planetary Astronomy Subject Annual
ASTR 508 Stars Subject Every other year
ASTR 509 Astronomical Statistics Technique Every other year.  PHYS 509 may be substituted
ASTR 514 Observational Techniques Technique Annual
PHYS 571 Cosmology Subject Every other year
ASTR 530 Directed Studies -- When offered by a faculty member
ASTR 549 Thesis: MSc Astronomy -- All MSc students must register
ASTR 649 Dissertation: PhD Astronomy -- All PhD students must register


Doctor of Philosophy in Astronomy

Entry to the PhD(Astronomy) program requires the equivalent of the UBC MSc(Astronomy) program (unless the Direct Transfer option is used). With a few specific exemptions, listed below, the PhD(Astronomy) program would consist of a dissertation (ASTR 649) and at least 12 more credits of coursework. The 6 requirements below assume the MSc(Astronony) has been obtained at UBC.

  1. LEVEL: all courses must be at the 500 level or higher, for which the student would normally take:
  2. A. The remaining Technique courses (thus completing three).
  3. B. Two more of the five Subject courses (making 4 of 5 during the degree).
  4. One other course. This would commonly be one of: (1) Any graduate PHYS course, (2) another Subject course, (3) the Directed Studies course ASTR 530). A student's PhD supervisory committee may require a student to take specific additional courses (exceeding 12 credits) if the committee judges this needed.
  5. Students must form their PhD committee and meet within 4 months of their entry into the PhD program. At this first meeting, with a greater than two-thirds majority of their supervisory committee and the astronomy graduate advisor, a student may be freed of one or both of the requirements A or B due to specialized needs or past courses. Such an alteration does NOT affect the need for the student to pass the PhD(Astro) Qualifying exam.
  6. Students must attempt the written PhD(Astro) Comprehensive exam within 13 months of entering the PhD(Astro) program. They may attempt it in the fall of their entry year if they so choose. A student that does not pass the Comprehensive exam within 36 months of entry into the PhD program will be required to withdraw from the program. The PhD(Astro) Comprehensive exam is described elsewhere, but will be offered for the first time in September 2014.

External Entrants to the Doctor of Philosophy in Astronomy

-These students have a recognized M.Sc. in astronomy from an external institution whose content is considered comparable (but probably not identical) to UBC's M.Sc.(Astro) education.
-Such a student must quickly form a supervisory committee (within the first 3 months of arrival) and get agreement from their committee on their course requirements. The minimum requirement is another 12 credits, but again the committee has the right to enforce more (and has, in principle, the option to impose additional requirements before advancement to candidacy). Evaluation of equivalence of previous courses will form a major part of the deliberations of this first PhD Committee meeting (before Christmas assuming a September start).
-The student must pass the PhD(Astro) Comprehensive exam as per common elements above.

Direct Transfer at UBC to the Doctor of Philosophy in Astronomy

-Such a student entered UBC via the MSc(Astro) degree.
-The student will have obtained >=85% average in 12 credits (4 courses) of 500-level coursework and have the permission of their future PhD supervisor.
-Such a student must quickly form a supervisor committee (as regular PhD program requirement) and get agreement on their courses. The minimum requirement is 12 credits, but again the committee has the right to enforce more.
-The student must attempt the PhD(Astro) Comprehensive exam on the normal 13-month schedule after starting the PhD.

UBC Honours undegraduate students who enter grad degrees

Students who graduate from Honours or Combined Honours UBC undergraduate degrees and obtained credit in ASTR 404, 406, or 407 would not normally be permitted to claim these as graduate credit (for the co-taught 514/506/507 versions) and would substitute other ASTR or PHYS courses. At the masters level a 400-level course would be an acceptable substitute (but more than 6 credits of less than 500-level courses are not permitted).