Current Montana State University undergraduate students can simultaneously work toward their bachelor's degree and an accelerated version of the Master of Science in Optics and Photonics

  • Students typically apply in Fall semester of their junior year (with at least 83 credits earned or in progress)
  • Eligibility: STEM students with at least 3.25 cumulative grade-point average 
  • Once approved, undergraduate students can reserve up to 12 credits toward their graduate degree while completing their bachelor's degree. Once they complete their undergraduate requirements, they receive that degree and immediately move into graduate student status. 

This accelerated master's degree allows undergraduate students to make simultaneous progress toward bachelor's and master's degrees to prepare for high-demand jobs in laser engineering, remote sensing, and more. In addition to the Optical Technology Center founded in 1995, MSU has a culture of interdiscplinary research and a history of partnership with Bozeman's thriving optics and photonics industry. 

This is an interdisciplinary degree managed by the Optics and Photonics Degree Program Committee on behalf of the Departments of Physics, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Chemistry and Biochemistry. Students apply directly to the Optics and Photonics Master's Program and are admitted through one of the participating departments, chosen by the applicant based on their areas and department affiliation of faculty working in those areas.

Applicants interested in pursuing the MS in Optics & Photonics enroute to a PhD should visit the PhD options page.

Apply through the Graduate School page:

Applicants are encouraged to contact faculty to discuss research and funding opportunities prior to submitting their application.  For information on research opportunities in optics and photonics, visit the Optical Technology Center faculty webpage and the following research web pages for participating departments: 

The on-line application asks for the following:

  • Statement of Purpose: In an essay approximately one page in length, describe your primary research interests, specific faculty members you are interested in working with at Montana State University, and career goals.
  • Conferred bachelor’s degree: Unofficial transcripts can be uploaded by the student during this online process; however, MSU must receive official transcripts directly from all universities previously attended. Have official transcripts sent to the Graduate School. Applicants who are undergraduate alumni of MSU-Bozeman do not need to submit their official MSU transcripts but should instead upload unofficial transcripts during the application process.
  • Official Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores: The requirements for GREs have been suspended for the 2021 academic year. We will NOT require any GRE scores in graduate applications for fall 2021 enrollment.
  • Contact information for three (3) reference letters: The electronic process will prompt each reference to submit a signed reference letter. Letters should be written by people who are able to judge your ability to succeed in graduate school, such as under-graduate professors, research advisors, and internship supervisors. Please do not ask for letters of recommendation from family members, friends, roommates, etc.
  • International Applicant Information: In addition to the above, international applicants will be required to submit a variety of additional documentation including English proficiency scores (at or above) the following: TOEFL [iBT: 100, PBT: 600], IELTS [level 7.0], or PTE [68]. Please see International application process for further information.

The Master of Science in Optics and Photonics can be earned with a thesis or project option: 

For additional information, please contact: 
Michelle Leonti, Administration Manager, 
Prof. Joe Shaw, Director, Optical Technology Center,