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Color Science MS

Program overview

Color science is broadly interdisciplinary, encompassing physics, chemistry, physiology, statistics, computer science, and psychology. The curriculum, leading to a master of science degree in color science, educates students using a broad interdisciplinary approach. This is the only graduate program in the country devoted to this discipline and it is designed for students whose undergraduate majors are in physics, chemistry, imaging science, computer science, electrical engineering, experimental psychology, physiology, or any discipline pertaining to the quantitative description of color.

Graduates are in high demand and have accepted industrial positions in electronic imaging, color instrumentation, colorant formulation, and basic and applied research. Companies that have hired graduates include Apple Inc., Benjamin Moore, Canon Corp., Dolby Laboratories, Eastman Kodak Co., Hallmark, Hewlett Packard Corp., Microsoft Corp., Pantone, Qualcomm Inc., Ricoh Innovations Inc., Samsung, and Xerox Corp.

The color science degree provides graduate-level study in both theory and practical application. The program gives students a broad exposure to the field of color and affords them the unique opportunity of specializing in an area appropriate for their background and interest. This objective will be accomplished through the program’s core courses, selection of electives, and completion of a thesis or graduate project.

The program revolves around the activities of the Munsell Color Science Laboratory within the College of Science. The Munsell Laboratory is the pre-eminent academic laboratory in the country devoted to color science. Research is currently under way in color appearance models; image-quality, data-visualization, and color-tolerance psychophysics; spectral-based image capture, archiving, and reproduction of artwork; analytical and empirical multi-ink printing models; spectral color rendering, color management, computer graphics; and material appearance.

Since the inauguration of the program in 1984, a number of conferences have drawn participants from around the world. Industrial seminars are held each summer on a wide range of color topics, including color perception and appearance, colorimetry, color-difference equations, instrumental tolerances, spectrophotometry, instrument-based color matching, color- and image-appearance models, color management, psychophysics, visualization and rendering, and spectral imaging. The Munsell Laboratory has many contacts that provide students with summer and full-time job opportunities across the United States and abroad.


Students must earn 30 semester credit hours as a graduate student to earn the master of science degree. For full-time students, the program requires three to four semesters of study. Part-time students generally require two to four years of study. The curriculum is a combination of required courses in color science, elective courses appropriate for the candidate’s background, and either a research thesis or graduate project. Students must indicate to the program director if they will complete a research thesis or graduate project at the conclusion of their degree.

Prerequisites: The foundation program

The color science program is designed for the candidate with an undergraduate degree in a scientific or nonscientific discipline. Candidates with adequate undergraduate work in related sciences start the program as matriculated graduate students.

Candidates without adequate undergraduate work in related sciences must take foundation courses prior to matriculation into the graduate program. A written agreement between the candidate and the program coordinator will identify the required foundation courses.

Foundation courses must be completed with an overall B average before a student can matriculate into the graduate program. A maximum of 9 graduate-level credit hours may be taken prior to matriculation into the graduate program.

The foundation courses, representative of those often required, are as follows: one year of calculus, one year of college physics (with laboratory), one course in computer programming, one course in matrix algebra, one course in statistics, and one course in introductory psychology.

Color science, MS degree, typical course sequence

CourseSem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
CLRS-601 Principles of Color Science 3
CLRS-720 Computational Vision Science 3
CLRS-750 Historical Research Perspectives 1
CLRS-602 Color Physics and Applications 3
CLRS-820 Modeling Visual Perception 3
CLRS-751 Research and Publication Methods 2
CLRS-820 Electives 6
Second Year
  Research 6
  Elective 3
Total Semester Credit Hours 30

Admission requirements

To be considered for admission to the MS program in color science, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Hold a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution,
  • Submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE),
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) for all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work,
  • Submit two professional recommendations,
  • Complete an on-campus interview (when possible),
  • Have an average GPA of 3.0 or higher,
  • Have completed foundation course work with GPA of 3.0 or higher (if required), and
  • Complete a graduate application.
  • International applicants who native language is not English must submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language. Minimum scores of of 587 (paper-based) or 94 (Internet-based) are required. International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores will be accepted in place of the TOEFL exam. Minimum scores will vary; however, the absolute minimum score required for unconditional acceptance is 7.0. For additional information about the IELTS, please visit

Additional information

Scholarships and assistantships

Scholarships and assistantships are available for qualified color science applicants and include the Macbeth-Engel Fellowship, Grum Memorial Scholarship, Saltzman Memorial Scholarship, Munsell Color Science Laboratory Assistantship, and research assistantships associated with ongoing grants and contracts. Students receiving fully funded assistantships tend to have undergraduate cumulative grade point averages of 3.5 and higher and exceptional GRE scores. Applicants whose native language is not English must submit TOEFL, TSEA, or IELTS scores. (Please see admission requirements for minimum scores.) Applicants seeking financial assistance from the center must submit all application documents to the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services by January 15 for the next academic year.

Career Outcomes

Job Titles

Color scientist, optical engineer, R&D engineer, imaging scientist


Electronic imaging, color instrumentation, colorant formulation and basic and applied research

Recent Employers

Eastman Kodak Co., GDE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Polaroid, Xerox

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