The Graduate Student Handbook, effective Fall 2019, details the procedures and instructions for physics graduate students. Below is a summary of a typical timeline for Ph.D. students through completion of the program.
Graduate Program: Typical Timeline
Fall Semester: Mechanics (Phy 420), Mathematical Methods of Physics (Phy 428) and one elective course.
Spring Semester: Quantum Mechanics I (Phy 369), Electricity and Magnetism I (Phy 421) and Statistical Mechanics (Phy 442).
Research project (Phy 491) during June-August.
Fall Semester: Electricity and Magnetism II (Phy 422), Quantum Mechanics II (424), and one elective course. Many students go to group meetings in the research area they are considering for their dissertation work.
During winter break (mid-January): students take the Qualifier Exam.
Spring Semester: Nuclear and Elementary Particle Physics (Phy 364), breadth and elective courses. By this time students are expected to have formally chosen a research advisor, attend group meetings and start research if there is time.
Take specialized courses, as appropriate, do preliminary research, and put together a Proposal for Candidacy, which includes a research proposal and general exam.
Take specialized courses as appropriate and concentrate on research. An annual meeting with your dissertation committee is required.
Complete the research, publish papers, complete and defend the dissertation.
Note: Students who enter with a Master's Degree, or equivalent course work, are placed in an accelerated track. They take the Qualifying Exam after the first semester. They choose a research advisor the next semester and start on research the next summer.