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Optics & Photonics

Conduct innovative research projects alongside world-class scholars in subject areas such as remote sensing, laser engineering, lidar, signal processing and more.

Optics & Photonics – Master of Science (M.S.)

In this interdisciplinary program in the departments of Physics, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Chemistry and Biochemistry, Optics and Photonics graduate students at Montana State learn to harness the power of light to prepare for in-demand jobs or research careers in laser engineering, remote sensing and more. Montana State's Optical Technology Center, founded in 1995, has supported a culture of interdisciplinary research and has a long history of partnership with Bozeman's thriving optics and photonics industry.

In addition to the Master of Science degree, Ph.D. studies in optics and photonics are available through several departments at Montana State.




Graduates from MSU’s Spectrum Lab have gone on to found companies such as Blackmore Sensors and Analytics (now Aurora Innovation, Inc.) and Double Helix Optics, both award-winning firms recognized at the 2019 Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation.



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Carnegie Classified
The prestigious Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education® ranks Montana State University among the Top 5 public, 4-year universities for Very High Research Activity with a STEM-dominant research doctoral program.

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Spectrum Lab
MSU's Spectrum Lab was established in 1999 to advance the opto-electronic technologies emerging from the Montana State research laboratories and foster their transition to Montana companies while providing enhanced educational opportunities for students


WICHE Partnered Program
This graduate program honors the WICHE partnership for students from 15 western states. If you’re a resident of a WICHE state, you qualify for tuition significantly less than standard non-resident tuition. Learn more.

*Plan B Option Only




Fund Your Education

The Graduate School at Montana State is dedicated to helping students secure funding during their time at MSU. Some resources the Department of Physics and Graduate School offer includes:

Additionally, most students admitted to advanced degree programs in the Physics Department are awarded financial aid, in the form of research and teaching assistantships, fellowships, and fee waivers. For more information, please consult the Department of Physics website for more information.

Learn By Doing

Graduate candidates in the Optics & Photonics department at Montana State have conducted research projects that include:

  • Using lidar to detect clusters of invasive lake trout for removal in Yellowstone Park
  • Analyzing the atmospheric effects of total solar eclipses
  • Developing cutting-edge optics technology under a $10.5 million Air Force contract
  • Using low-cost lasers to make detailed, real-time measurement of water vapor in the atmosphere to improve weather forecasting




Admissions Requirements

Each program within the Graduate School at Montana State has its own particular requirements for admission, and the Optics and Photonics program is not different. To ensure that you start your application on the right foot, please review the admissions requirements for the Optics and Photonicsprogram. This includes any additional deadlines that the College of Letters & Science may have aside from the Graduate School, which does practice rolling admissions.






Careers after Graduation

Masters alumni in optics and photonics embark on a wide range of careers within 10-years of their graduation.

Nearly 57% are working in for-profit, 28% in academia, and about 14% for government. Top industry employers include AGILE Focus Designs and Aurora Inovation Inc.

Across all career paths the estimated salary of alumni within 10 years of graduation ranges from $100,000 to $110,000 with an average of $105,000 (source of data Academic Analytics).