Master Physics

What’s special about the MSc Physics in Heidelberg?

As in nearly all universities, the Master program offers much more room to specialize than the Bachelor. In Heidelberg, one advantage is that there is not a single mandatory course, but instead a pool of ten “core courses” from which two can be chosen freely. There is also a mandatory seminar whose topic you can choose from different fields of Physics. So you can focus strongly on one field, but you don’t have to: you may still combine core courses, seminar and electives from different fields.

The Physics faculty is one of the largest of its kind in Germany, which comes with an advantage: a wide range of different research groups, from quantum optics and cosmology to environmental physics. This means that there are usually plenty of opportunities to work as a student assistant (HiWi), for internships and for Master theses. As far as we can tell, the selection of specialized lectures is also among the widest you can find in Germany.

Selection process

Because of the high demand the faculty once found it necessary to introduce a selection process. This doesn’t necessarily imply that teaching is better or worse than at other universities, simply that Heidelberg is a highly popular choice for graduate students.

If you submit a complete application, it’s very likely that you will be invited to the interview, provided that the grade of your Bachelor diploma is 2.9 or better (German grading scale). Comments on the interview itself come with a rather large amount of uncertainty, though: content and structure of the interviews fluctuate wildly between different interviewers.

As a rule of thumb, you will spend about 1/3 of your time answering questions about your motivation, and 2/3 about topics from your undergraduate Physics courses. Especially for students applying from abroad, it’s important to know that the standard applied by most interviewers corresponds to the topics taught in Heidelberg resp. Germany. So if you feel unsafe, a hint is to consult the BSc module handbook (only in German, unfortunately), where the topics usually covered in each core lecture are listed. Our page about the Bachelor program might also be a starting point.

After the interview, it usually takes 1-3 weeks until your certificate of acceptance (Zulassungsbescheid) is sent out. But of course this can vary, so you might ask the interviewers after the formal interview.

Getting started

Of course the basic condition to study is to be inscribed (immatrikuliert) at the university. You can actually attend lectures without this, but can’t do much else (inscribe for tutorials, lend books from the library, eat at the canteen, use public transport in the evening…). There’s a strict deadline for this, usually the first week of the lecturing time (more information here, in German). Just like at many other universities, your student card (Campus-Card) is basically your life insurance.

Once you receive your enrolment certificate by mail, you can activate your access to the university’s online systems. At least for the core lectures, the registration for tutorials usually opens well before the start of the semester in the “Übungsgruppen-System”. So if you don’t want to attend the Friday afternoon tutorial, we recommend signing up for this in advance!

Of course, we offer some events to actually get your studies started in Heidelberg. Usually we organize two events for “Master freshmen”. First, a welcome with coffee and cake over which you can discuss all kinds of questions with other Physics students. We also organize a pub crawl (Wechsler-Abend) to get to know your fellow students (and of course some localities in Heidelberg’s old town) in a more informal way. Additionally, sometimes there is an official “Master’s welcome” by the Faculty. The dates for all of these events will be announced on time in the News section.

During your studies

Once you’ve gotten the start behind you, you will find that lots of information is available from your fellow students (and us, of course!), the website of the faculty and the module manuals. In case you haven’t come across this link yet, Prof. Dullemond’s FAQ page is also very useful. One last hint: sometimes, the hardest thing is to decide from plenty of lectures. The collection of past evaluations in our office might help you with the decision.