Graduate Program

The Department of Physics offers the opportunity for students to pursue a Ph.D. in many areas of experimental and theoretical physics. Entering students typically have undergraduate degrees in physics or related fields, and are drawn from among the most qualified applicants around the world. The department does not offer a terminal master's program; however, a student can specialize in physics in the master's program offered by the Physical Sciences Division.

How to Apply

Applications will be accepted September 15 through December 15. Please complete your application and submit it online at the following URL: . When you create your application account, you will be able to access the Physics Department's admission requirements and related information. All our graduate students begin in the autumn quarter; there are no mid-year admissions.

When you fill out your application, please pay special attention to the "Physics Supplement" page. Make sure that you indicate your area(s) of research interest. Also, please do not submit your application until it is complete.

Please direct questions about the admissions process to Amy Schulz, Graduate Affairs Administrator,, 773-702-7007. Please direct questions about academic matters to David D. Reid, Executive Officer,, 773-702-3067. Mr. Reid can also take questions on the admissions process when the Graduate Affairs Administrator is not available. The University of Chicago requires a non-refundable graduate application fee of $90.

General Admissions Information

For admission to the doctoral program in Physics, a bachelor's degree in any physical science or engineering is required. The General GRE and the Physics Subject GRE are both required. The average GRE Subject Test score for the Class of 2014-15 was 840, and 90 students were admitted from 596 applicants. Students from non-English speaking countries are required to demonstrate proficiency in English via the TOEFL or the IELTS examination. On the TOEFL we require a minimum total score of 102 with 26 in each area except speaking for which we require a score of 24. All admitted graduate students are appointed as teaching or research assistants with full financial aid. The Department of Physics also awards a few special fellowships.

IMPORTANT:  Applicants should enter all the information being requested before submitting the application form. This includes your GPA and the required test scores (GRE and TOEFL). You must take the GRE Physics Subject Test on or before the October test. There is no longer a November subject test. Please take the General Test as early as possible. Log in to the following URLs to get the details on the GRE and the TOEFL schedules and related information: and (for international students).

The Ph.D. Program

During the first year of the doctoral program, a student typically takes introductory graduate courses and usually serves as a teaching assistant. The student is encouraged to explore research opportunities. After admission to candidacy and identification of a research sponsor, the student begins dissertation research while completing course requirements.

Interdisciplinary research leading to a Ph.D. degree in physics may be carried out under the guidance of faculty committees including researchers from other departments such as Astronomy and Astrophysics, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geophysical Sciences, Mathematics, and Statistics. Opportunities also exist for student to perform dissertation research in laboratories in Biological Sciences Division, at Argonne National Laboratory, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or the new Institute for Molecular Engineering.

In addition to fulfilling University and Divisional requirements, a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in physics must:

  • Achieve doctoral candidacy by displaying graduate-level proficiency in core areas and techniques of physics. This proficiency can be demonstrated by satisfactory performance on the graduate diagnostic exam (GDE), by satisfactory performance in core graduate courses, or by a combination of the two.
  • Fulfill the experimental physics requirement by completing Advanced Experimental Physics (PHYS 33400) or a Special Experimental Project (PHYS 33500).
  • Pass four post-candidacy graduate courses. At least one course must be selected from each of the broad physics areas of (A) Condensed Matter Physics, (B) Particle Physics, and (C) Large-Scale Physics. One of the four courses may be selected from a menu of (D) Intermediate Electives.
  • Pass two other advanced (40000-level) courses either in physics or in a field related to the student’s Ph.D. research.
  • Successfully defend his/her dissertation.
  • Submit for publication to a refereed scientific journal the thesis which has been approved by the Ph.D. committee or a paper based on the thesis.

The average length of time for completion of the Ph.D. program in physics is approximately six years.

More Information

For more details concerning our graduate program, please consult the Graduate Catalogue or contact either the Graduate Affairs Administrator (Amy Schulz) or the Executive Officer (David Reid). For more information on research opportunities please see our research page. You may also consult our entry in the AIP Grad Programs Book.