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Master of Science (MSc) in Physics

The Master of Science (MSc) degree in Physics includes a major research thesis. Normally, students will complete either a BSc Honours degree or Postgraduate Diploma of Science in Physics prior to admission to our MSc programme. The MSc degree is then by thesis-only (requiring a minimum of one year of full time study).

By earning a Masters degree in Physics you will have demonstrated your ability to:

  • work independently,
  • explore and understand the relevant background literature,
  • develop new technical skills,
  • carry out an original research project, and
  • accurately report your findings.

These are qualities that are valued by potential employers in a wide range of sectors. A Masters degree is also an entry route to the PhD degree.


Entry to the MSc degree in Physics by thesis-only requires:

  • a BSc Honours degree or PGDipSci in Physics or a closely related subject
  • good grades in the final year of the qualifying course, particularly in the research component
  • 400-level papers relevant to your thesis topic have been completed.

In some exceptional circumstances, students may be admitted to the MSc in Physics, on the basis of a BSc qualification. The MSc programme is then a minimum of two years, with the first year devoted full-time to 400-level papers and preliminary research preparation. The second year is full time research, and writing a thesis.

Entry to the two-year MSc degree in Physics normally requires:

  • a BSc in Physics or a closely related subject
  • an average B+ pass in your four best Physics (or closely related) papers at 300 level.

Requirements for MSc degree


120 points from 400-level PHSI or MATH papers, including at least 100 PHSI points.
Note: Only one of PHSI 480 or PHSI 490 may be included.


A thesis must be completed on a topic approved by the Head of the Department of Physics.

An MSc with papers and thesis requires a minimum of 2 years full time study, and must normally be completed within 3 years of full time study. A thesis-only MSc requires a minimum of one year full time study, and must normally be completed within 2 years of full time study.

Some recent Physics MSc theses from our department


Relativistic electron precipitation. Satellite observations of EMIC wave driven REP
VLF remote sensing - A new computational model
Relavistic Electron Precipitation

Instrumentation and Inference

Iterative maps with a given ergodic distribution
FPGA-based radio
Exploring GPS signal data & position estimation through Bayesian inference
DSP autocorrelation for musical pitch detection

Energy Studies

Renewable Energy in Malaysia: The viability of large scale introduction of solar PV for both grid-connected and stand-alone hybrid systems
World residential sector energy consumption: can implementing energy efficient designs save energy?
Short range electric vehicle motor controller
The power of many? Linked wave energy point absorbers
Suitability of a feed-in tariff for wind energy in NZ
Renewable energy: Solution to rural livelihood in Malawi
Rayleigh-Bernard-Marangoni convection in two-phase flow with a deformable interface
Alleviating Fuel Poverty in New Zealand

Biophotonics and Nano-optics

Quantum Theory

Dipoles and Disorder: Applications of Hartree-Fock-Bogoliubov Theory
Finite Temperature theory of Bosons in Optical Lattices
Direct simulation Monte Carlo method for cold atom dynamics: Boltzmann equation in the quantum collision regime
Inverse Energy Cascade in Two-Dimensional Quantum Turbulence
Single Vortex Dynamics in High Temperature Bose-Einstein Condensates

Applying to do an MSc in Physics

Applications for the MSc in Physics from well-qualified candidates are welcomed. Normally this degree is by thesis-only (see Prerequisites), and may commence at any time during the year. Please follow the steps outlined below.

  1. Your choice of research area for your thesis is the important first step. You will need a supervisor from amongst our current academic staff with expertise within that area. The research interests and expertise of our staff can be found in a number of places on our website:
    • Our Research, which gives the general areas of research and provides internal links to individual research groups,
    • Research Expertise, which has a table of key words and links to staff profiles.
  2. All students must have a confirmed thesis supervisor before they formally apply to the University to enter the degree. Local students should directly contact the staff members they are interested in working with. Students from other Universities should send an email to our Research Committee at, stating that they are interested in applying to do an MSc in our department, noting the area they wish to work in, and naming the staff member(s) they are interested in working with. Please include the following information:

    • up to date academic CV
    • academic record (with explanation of grading if not from a NZ or Australian University)
    • your country of citizenship
    • contact information for at least two academic referees
  3. You will shortly be informed by our Departmental Research Committee as to whether or not there is a staff member who wishes to consider you as an MSc student. If no staff member is available then unfortunately your application can not proceed further. If there is an available staff member, they will contact you to discuss your application, and potential projects.

  4. Once you have obtained agreement from a staff member to supervise your MSc thesis, you now submit a formal application to University, which is done through the University’s eVision portal. Follow this link, click the yellow Apply Now button on the right hand side, and follow the instructions.

Scholarships and Fees

Domestic students are eligible for University of Otago Postgraduate Awards, which are awarded to Masters candidates in their thesis year of study. The award provides an annual emolument of $13,000 for up to 1 year, the payment of the fees at domestic level and partial thesis expenses.

Some staff members may be able to provide Masters scholarships from their research grants.

Students who are not New Zealand residents or Australian, are required to pay international fees

International students

The Physics department welcomes international students. The University offers a small number of International Masters Awards which are awarded to Masters' candidates in their thesis year of study. They provide an annual emolument of $13,000 for up to 1 year, the payment of the fees at international level and partial thesis expenses.

International students will need to provide certified evidence of English language proficiency.

Read further important information on language proficiency

Find further useful information for international students.