Before You Apply
We encourage you to explore these websites to learn more about our programs:
If you are a current UA physics major interested in a Masters in Physics, you may be interested in UA’s Accelerated Masters Program.
Applying to Grad School
- Admission Requirements
- Application Requirements
- Starting the Application Process
- Statement of Purpose
- Frequently Asked Questions
COVID-19 exception: The GRE requirement for Spring 2021 and Fall 2021 applicants has been waived. Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores. For international students whose first language is not English, the at-home Duolingo English test scores will be accepted in place of the TOEFL or IELTS scores. If you have received a degree from a U.S. institution within three years of the time of enrollment, a TOEFL score is not necessary.
To be considered for regular admission to the Graduate School, applicants must have an overall GPA of >=3.0 in their undergrad or previous Masters program. The Physics and Astronomy department is looking for proficiency (As and Bs) in core physics courses. See the FAQ section below.
The minimum requirements for admission include a combined verbal plus quantitative score of at least 300 on the general GRE (1000 on the prior scoring system); this GRE score must be less than five years old at the time of enrollment.
For applicants whose first language is not English, we require a TOEFL score of at least 550 on the paper-based test (PBT) or 213 on the computer-based test (CBT) or 79 on the internet-based test (iBT) or an iELTS score of at least 6.5, or a score of 105 for the Duolingo English test; these scores need to be less than two years old at the time of enrollment. If you have received a degree from a U.S. institution within three years of the time of enrollment, a TOEFL score is not necessary.
Further information and application requirements can be found at UA Graduate School. Please also refer to:
- UA Graduate School application
- Admission Test Scores
- Prospective Students
- Graduate Catalog (physics section)
- Graduate Recruiting Expo (GREX)
A complete application consists of the following:
- Completed applicant data sheet
- Payment of the application fee
- Statement of purpose (see the section “Statement of Purpose” below for details)
- Resume or CV (Example CVs can be found at: https://career.sa.ua.edu/resources/career-guide/)
- Three letters of recommendation (which can be uploaded electronically by the letter writers)
- Unofficial transcripts from all universities attended previously
- Waived for Fall 2021 — Unofficial General GRE score ( Physics GRE score is optional. See details below.)
- TOEFL/IELTS/Duolingo score (if applicable)
Starting the Application Process
You can start the application process at the University of Alabama Graduate School’s website, http://graduate.ua.edu/application, and follow the instructions on that site regarding the documents you upload (statement of purpose, resume/CV, unofficial scans of transcripts and scores) and the documents that must be sent through official channels to the Graduate School (official transcripts and scores). Official transcripts will be requested only after admission.
IMPORTANT: It is very helpful if you upload unofficial copies (scans are fine) of your TOEFL/Duolingo scores online under Other Documents of your online application form. This allows the admissions committee to examine these documents before the official versions are received and recorded by the Graduate School.
Statement of Purpose
We will evaluate your statement of purpose (SoP) very carefully. Your statement of purpose should clearly describe how an advanced degree in physics or astronomy relates to your career goals. Please state if you have a clear preference for a particular area of research and whether your inclinations are more theoretical, experimental, or observational. If you are considering a range of possible research areas, please describe them. Our Research Overview summarizes departmental research projects and collaborations; individual faculty members’ research interests are described on their webpages, which you can find via our department directory. Your SoP should clearly summarize your undergraduate and, if relevant, previous graduate career including any research you conducted. If you were involved in research projects, please include details on the science goals of the project, what your responsibilities were, skills learned, and the outcomes of your research including any presentations or research papers.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the due date for applications?
- When are admission decisions made?
- What factors are important in securing a graduate position at UA?
- What are my chances for admission?
- How are graduate students supported financially?
- Do I need to have a bachelor’s degree in physics or astronomy to be eligible for admission?
- Do I need to take the GRE or TOEFL exams?
- Do I need to take the Physics GRE exam?
- Can I apply to your program even if I have not completed all the requirements of my previous degree?
- What degrees are offered by the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy?
- What are my prospects after obtaining a Masters or PhD?
- What are the different options under “Status” in the online application?
- I am an international student. My bachelor’s program is only three years. Am I eligible for admission?
- I am an international student. Do I need to submit an I-20 form when I apply?
- I am an international student. Will I be able to get help navigating the visa process?
- I am an international student. Am I eligible for funding?
What is the due date for applications?
For a Fall start, the application deadline for domestic and international students is January 15. In order to be considered for university fellowships all application materials should be received by December 15. To receive full consideration for departmental support via graduate teaching or research assistantships, all application materials should be received by January 15. We will continue to accept applications after January 15, although there is no guarantee that we will have positions available after this date. We strongly encourage applicants to apply as early as possible.
For a Spring start, the application deadline for domestic students is November 1 while for international students it is June 1. Please note, while we do accept applications for Spring, we make most new offers for the Fall.
When are admission decisions made?
Decisions are normally made in multiple rounds. University fellowship candidates are selected and offers made by end-February. Department assistantships and fellowships are decided and offer emails sent by end- March. Students have until April 15th to accept offers. However, we strongly encourage students to accept/reject offers once they have made a decision. Late offers to waitlist candidates are possible after April 15th. If you have not received a decision by April 15th then you may be on a wait list. Students not accepted for Fall admission (but not rejected) can ask to be considered for admission the following Spring.
Update: As we have received many more applications this cycle for Fall 2021, the review process will take longer.
What factors are important in securing a graduate position at UA?
The graduate admission committee bases decisions on your entire application package. In general, a weakness in any one or two areas can be remedied by stronger performance in other areas. Specific criteria :
– The committee looks for proficiency (As or Bs) in undergraduate physics, especially upper level physics courses (electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, thermal physics, and classical mechanics).
– The committee looks for GRE scores higher than 300. A strong performance in the quantitative section is beneficial but not necessary. For Spring 2021 and Fall 2021 applicants, GRE requirements have been waived.
– We do not require the PGRE. However, you may submit a PGRE score if you feel it can support your application . Please note, a PGRE score of 70th percentile or higher allows us to waive the qualifying exam requirement of 1st and 2nd year graduate students. For details on the qualifying exam, please refer to the current graduate student handbook.
– Previous research experience, especially those which lead to presentations at regional or national conferences or publication of papers, are looked upon very favorably and can balance lower grades.
– Reference letters by research advisors and upper level physics instructors are very important.
– Your statement of purpose is very important. It should clearly describe how an advanced degree in physics or astronomy relates to your research and career goals. You should show familiarity with research areas and faculty. The SoP should also address any weaknesses in your application package.
What are my chances for admission?
We aren’t able to consider any prospective student for admission until an application and all required documents have been submitted. The average (range) of scores of the 2017 class are given below:
Average undergraduate GPA: 3.6 (3 – 4) — on 4 point scale.
Average graduate MS GPA: 3.7 (3.4 – 3.9) — for international/transfer students
Graduate MS percentage: > 70% — for international students
Average GRE general score: 319 (304 – 335)
Average GRE quant. score: 85% (47% – 97%) percentile
Average Physics GRE score: 830 (660 – 990) — not required for admission*.
Average P-GRE percentile: 73% (42% – 94%) — not required for admission*.
Average Toefl: 102 (89 – 116)
*Half of the incoming 2017 students took the Physics GRE. This fraction has varied significantly over the last 5 years.
Please note, students with low scores in one or more area normally have high scores in another and/or strong letters of reference and/or research experience. Please review the minimum criteria for admission.
How are graduate students supported financially?
Continuous financial support is usually available for PhD students in good academic standing either through teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or fellowships. Payment of tuition is included. Graduate students who are supported by a teaching/research assistantship or a fellowship also receive health insurance. Salary/stipends range from $18,747 (9 month) to ~$27,000 (including summer support). Graduate PhD students on assistantships are guaranteed summer TA support for their first year. In subsequent years, students generally receive summer support either through TAs or through their research advisor. The average yearly salary for current graduate students is ~$23,000.
Students are also strongly encouraged to apply for external graduate fellowships, like the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. For further details, please visit:
Financial support for Masters only students is not guaranteed and normally unavailable.
Do I need to have a bachelor’s degree in physics or astronomy to be eligible for admission?
While we do not automatically require a bachelor’s in physics to be eligible for admission, we are looking for evidence that our applicants are prepared for graduate level physics. This is usually indicated to us by good grades in upper level undergraduate physics classes — two semesters of electricity and magnetism, two semesters of quantum mechanics, thermal physics, and classical mechanics. If you have not taken these classes as part of your degree, but have studied upper level physics on your own, we would require a Physics GRE score (most likely at the 50th percentile or higher) to consider your application in order for us to be assured that you are ready for graduate level physics. If you have not taken the above undergraduate physics courses nor the Physics GRE then it is unlikely that we would consider your application for admission.
Do I need to take the GRE or TOEFL exams?
The GRE requirement has been waived for Spring 2021 and Fall 2021 applicants. Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores.
Non-native speakers are required to submit TOEFL, IELTS, Duolingo, or PTE scores unless they meet at least one of the following criteria: 1) at the time of initial enrollment, they will hold a degree from a U.S. institution or an institution in one of the English speaking countries or regions listed on the graduate school international admissions website; 2) at the time of initial enrollment, they will have been enrolled in coursework for at least two years at a U.S. institution or an institution in one of the English speaking countries or regions listed on the graduate school international admissions website; 3) they are a citizen or legal resident of one of the English speaking countries or regions listed on the graduate school international admissions website.
Do I need to take the Physics GRE exam?
We do not require the Physics GRE (PGRE) exam. However, you may submit a PGRE score if you feel it can support your application. For example, if you have a degree in Engineering instead of Physics, you can take the PGRE to demonstrate your proficiency in undergraduate Physics. Please note, a PGRE score of 70th percentile or above allows us to waive the qualifying exam requirement for incoming students. This allows you to start research sooner. For details on the qualifying exam, please refer to the current graduate student handbook.
Can I apply to your program even if I have not completed all the requirements of my previous degree?
Yes, you can, but you will need to submit all materials demonstrating completion of your previous degree before you enroll here in January/August.
What degrees are offered by the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy?
The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers both MS and PhD degrees in Physics. Astronomy students receive an “MS/PhD in Physics with a specialization in Astronomy”. Precision timing students receive an “MS/PhD in Physics with a specialization in precision timing”. Students in all other areas of Physics receive an “MS/PhD in Physics”. For details, please refer to our current graduate handbook.
If you are interested in a particular area of Physics, please list it under the specialty area section of your graduate application. Options include: condensed matter experiment, condensed matter theory, precision timing, experimental particle physics, high energy theory, astroparticle physics, observational astrophysics, theoretical astrophysics. If you are open to multiple areas of physics and astronomy then you can leave the specialty area blank.
Prospects after Masters or PhD?
Students who graduate with an MS or PhD in Physics/Astronomy from UA have moved into multiple career paths, including academia, national labs, industry, teaching, as well as non STEM fields.
Please see our Alumni page for information on career paths taken by our recent graduates.
What are the different options under “Status” in the online application?
Incomplete — Some parts of your application are missing or have not been received yet.
Grad Review — The grad school verifies that the min GPA/GRE thresholds have been met.
Referred, Evaluations, Dept Review — Departments review applications.
Decision — Accepted or Rejected.
Most applications stay under “Grad Review” or “Referred” until April. This can be because official scores have not yet been received or some letters are missing. The department reviews applications once they are complete, as long as scanned copies of all required documentation have been uploaded. Please make sure to remind your letter writers to submit letters by the application deadlines.
I am an international student. My bachelor’s program is only three years. Am I eligible for admission?
Students from certain countries, such as Nepal and some universities in India have a 3-year bachelor’s program plus a 2-year master’s program in physics. We require students at these universities to complete the 2-year master’s program to be eligible for admission in our program.
I am an international student. Do I need to submit an I-20 form when I apply?
No, this step is not necessary until after you receive an offer from us and intend to enroll.
I am an international student. Will I be able to get help navigating the visa process?
There is a significant international presence in the community, and help is available in obtaining visas.
I am an international student. Am I eligible for funding?
Continuous financial support is available for all PhD students in good academic standing either through teaching assistantships or fellowships.
For More Information
If you have additional questions about the department or the application process please contact us at email@example.com.