Before You Apply

the University's Quad, a large green space at the center of campus.
The Quad, the central green space on the UA campus.Before You Apply

We encourage you to explore these websites to learn more about our programs:

For a research profile of our department, read our Research Overview. Additional general information about the department can be found in this department fact sheet (PDF).

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

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; 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:

Application Requirements

A complete application consists of the following:

  1. Completed applicant data sheet
  2. Payment of the application fee
  3. Statement of purpose (see the section “Statement of Purpose” for details)
  4. Resume or CV
  5. Three letters of recommendation (which can be uploaded electronically by the letter writers)
  6. Transcripts from all universities attended previously
  7. General GRE score (a Physics GRE score is requested if available, but not required)
  8. TOEFL/IELTS 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).

IMPORTANT: It is very helpful if you upload unofficial copies (scans are fine) of your transcripts, GRE, and TOEFL scores online under Other Documents of your online application form. This allows the admissions committee to examine these documents before the official versions sent from your university’s registrar office or testing services are received and recorded by the Graduate School.

Statement of Purpose

We will evaluate your statement of purpose 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.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the due date for applications?

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 February 15. We will continue to accept applications after February 15, although there is no guarantee that we will have positions available after this date. It is best to apply as early as possible.

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.

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.

When are admission decisions made?

Decisions are normally made in two rounds. University fellowship candidates are decided by end February. Dept. assistantships and fellowships are decided by mid March and emails sent by March 15th. Late offers, after April 15th are possible. If you have not received a decision by April 15th, 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.

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.

– 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 above 70th percentile allows us to waive the qualifying exam requirement of 1st and 2nd year graduate students.

– 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. 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 incoming 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 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. Please review the minimum criteria for admission.

How are graduate students supported financially?

Continuous financial support is available for PhD students in good academic standing either through teaching assistantships or fellowships. Tuition and fees are waived. Graduate students who are supported by a teaching assistantship or a fellowship also receive free health insurance. Salary/stipends range from ~$18,747 (9 month) to ~$25,000 (including summer support). Graduate PhD students are guaranteed summer TA support for their first year. In subsequent years, students may receive summer support either through TAs or through their research advisor. The 9 month financial support awarded is more than sufficient to provide complete living expenses for a graduate student for a year.

Students are also strongly encouraged to apply for external graduate fellowships. For further details, please visit:
https://physics.ua.edu/graduate-program/teaching-and-research-assistantships/

Financial support is not available for Masters students.

What are the different options under “Status”?

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.
Evaluations, Dept Review — Departments review applications.
Decision — Accepted or Rejected.

Most applications stay under “Grad Review” until Mid March.
The department reviews applications once they are complete, even if the status is not updated.

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.
https://physics.ua.edu/physics-astronomy-alumni/

The University of Alabama Career Center provides career resources for all UA students and postdocs. The resource is especially useful for those wanting to move into industry.

Frequently Asked Questions – International Students

I am from a country where the 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 physgrad@ua.edu.

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