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Graduate Programs

Photo of Serin Physics Lab



Rutgers University takes great pride in the quality of its graduate program in physics and astronomy. Through a major expansion, over 25 new faculty members have been added to the department since 1984, and a new wing of the physics building was completed in 1992.

With over 60 full-time faculty members and approximately 100 graduate students, the department has one of the best student/faculty ratios of any PhD-granting physics department in the nation. The outstanding quality of the program is reflected in the recent National Research Council report, in which our "faculty quality" ranking showed one of the highest levels of improvement since a decade earlier, and in the level of outside funding for research, which has grown to over $6,000,000 per year in recent years.

Major research efforts in the department are devoted to astronomy, theoretical and experimental condensed matter physics (including surface physics), theoretical and experimental nuclear physics, and theoretical and experimental high-energy physics.

Description of the graduate programs

Graduate programs offered by the Department of Physics and Astronomy include curricula leading to the degrees of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Master of Science (M.S.), and Master of Science for Teachers (M.S.T ), which are conferred by the Graduate School-New Brunswick.

The doctoral program is designed to give students a broad understanding of classical and modern physics, with intensive training in one of the frontier areas of modern research. A thesis of original research is required to give the students experience in advancing themselves to the leading edge of an important area of physics. Students are encouraged to study several sub-disciplines of physics so that they will be prepared to apply their fundamental knowledge beyond the field of their thesis work. An astronomy option is available that allows students who intend to carry out their thesis work in astronomy to replace several upper-division course requirements with astrophysics courses. The average length of study is five to six years. A candidacy examination, including both a written and oral section, is ordinarily taken at the beginning of the second year. The Master of Science is not required for the Ph.D. degree and no foreign languages are required.

Graduates of the doctoral program have been successful in diverse careers at universities, in government research laboratories, and in industry. Although most of the department's graduate students are enrolled in the Ph.D. degree program, the master's programs provide attractive alternatives for students who wish to pursue a shorter advanced education program. Graduates of the M.S. degree program generally find careers in industrial laboratories. The program, requiring course work and either thesis research or a critical essay, is normally completed in two years. The M.S.T. degree program is primarily a subject-matter-oriented program for teachers. Courses are chosen in consultation with an adviser to fit individual needs.

Admission to the Graduate Program

To obtain the necessary application forms for admission to the Graduate School-New Brunswick and Physics and Astronomy program, please:

  • Go to the Rutgers Graduate School web page ( to access the on-line application forms. On-line application is strongly recommended!
  • If you can’t access the application materials on-line, you can request them from:

Office of Graduate and Professional Admissions
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
18 Bishop Place
New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, U.S.A.

  • If the above methods fail, or if you have questions, you can contact us at:

Graduate Director
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Rutgers University
136 Frelinghuysen Road
Piscataway, New Jersey 08854-8019 USA

Telephone:    (732) 445-2502
Fax:               (732) 445-4343
Email:   (don’t forget to include your return email address!)

Your application and application fee must be submitted to the Office of Graduate and Professional Admissions.  You can have supplementary materials (letters of recommendation, transcripts, etc.) sent directly to the Graduate Program in Physics and Astronomy at the address noted above.

All applicants must take the general test and the subject test in physics of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Applicants whose native language is not English are also required by the Graduate School to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). A score of 560 or better on the TOEFL is usually required for admission; a score of at least 600 is expected for candidates for a teaching assistantship appointment. Information is available on the web for the GRE and TOEFL exams, and for the ETS. Or, write to the Educational Testing Service, P.O. Box 6000, Princeton, New Jersey 08541-6000, and request information on the GRE and TOEFL exams. (Some summary information about the GRE is provided here.) To ensure that the GRE scores are promptly reported to our Admissions Committee, we recommend that applicants for September admissions should take the GRE tests in the previous October, although scores from the previous December tests can also be considered. For January admissions, we recommend that applicants take the August GRE tests.

A cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or better in undergraduate courses is normally required for admission. Admissions decisions are based on the undergraduate record, GRE examination scores, personal statement, and letters of recommendation. Decisions are made before April 15 on all completed applications received by February. While late applications may be considered, admission and financial support depend on availability of positions. In order to receive full consideration for financial aid, applicants should submit all materials (application, transcripts, and letters of recommendation) before January 1 for fall admission and before November 1 for spring admission.

Support available to graduate students

Virtually all graduate students in the department receive full financial support through teaching assistantships or fellowships, and usually students are not admitted unless such financial support can be offered.

The department policy is that most full-time graduate students in their first year and all students who maintain satisfactory academic progress in their subsequent years receive full financial support through teaching assistantships, research internships, or fellowships, if such support is needed (a few exceptions are students employed outside the university). It is possible, however, that such support may not be awarded after the sixth year, and no student will be eligible for departmental (as opposed to grant) support for more than six years.

Most newly admitted graduate students are offered teaching assistantships. The teaching assistantships are for ten months; the rate of pay is at least $15,300 plus full tuition remission. Teaching and graduate assistants and their dependents are eligible for complete health plan benefits. In return, the student spends a total of twelve to fifteen hours each week on teaching duties, including class preparation and classroom instruction. For the two summer months, support is generally available in the form of research positions or summer teaching appointments.

Superior students are offered graduate fellowships. These provide full tuition remission and a stipend of at least $20,000 for the academic year, with no teaching obligations. It is generally possible for fellows to supplement their stipends through teaching assignments. They are also eligible for support during the summer.

Many advanced students are supported by graduate research assistantships funded by the research grants of various faculty members. They receive tuition remission, a stipend of at least $17,302 for twelve months, and full health insurance benefits. The department also has a number of graduate assistantships funded by the university; these positions are awarded annually to senior students by the departmental Graduate Studies Committee.

On-campus housing is available at favorable rates for both married and single students. Information on housing is sent to applicants upon acceptance by the Graduate School-New Brunswick.

Special awards and prizes

Related pages

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Revised Jan 13, 2005