Program of Study

Degrees Offered

M.S., M.Phil., Ph.D.


Please see our Faculty page for a current listing of faculty.

Fields of Study

Please the Research page for a current listing of fields of study.


Please see the Courses page for a listing of all courses offered by the program and the Online Course Information site for a listing of the current courses being offered.

Special Admissions Requirements

Applicants are expected to have a strong undergraduate preparation in physics and mathematics. Although some formal training in astronomy is useful, it is by no means a prerequisite for admission. Applicants are required to take the General GRE as well as the subject test in Physics.

Special Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree

A typical program of study includes twelve courses taken during the first four terms, and must include the core courses listed below:

Computational Methods in Astrophysics and Geophysics (ASTR 520), Observational Astronomy (ASTR 555), Interstellar Matter and Star Formation (ASTR 560), either Stellar Populations (ASTR 510) or Stellar Astrophysics (ASTR 550), and either Galaxies (ASTR 530) or The Evolving Universe (ASTR 565).

Students require the permission of the instructor and the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) to skip a core class if they think that they have sufficient knowledge of the field. Students will be required to demonstrate their knowledge of the field before they are allowed to skip any core class.

Two of the twelve courses must be research credits, each earned by working in close collaboration with a faculty member. Of the two research credits, one must be earned doing a theoretical project and one doing an observational research project. The students need to present the results of the project as a written report and will be given an evaluation of their performance.

The choice of the five remaining courses depends on the candidate’s interest and background and must be decided in consultation with the DGS and/or the prospective thesis adviser. Advisers may require students to take particular classes and obtain a specified minimum grade in order for a student to work with them for their thesis. Students must take any additional course that their supervisors require even after their fourth term. In addition, all students, regardless of their term of study, have to attend Professional Seminar (ASTR 710) every term. The fall term of this course discusses ethics and responsible conduct in scientific research and fulfills the requirement stipulated by the National Science Foundation for all students and for all postdoctoral researchers funded by the NSF. Note that ASTR 710 may not be used to fulfill the twelve-course requirement.

Students are encouraged to take graduate courses in physics or related subjects. On an irregular basis, special topic courses and seminars are offered, which provide the opportunity to study some fields in greater depth than is possible in standard courses. To achieve both breadth and depth in their education, students are encouraged to take a few courses beyond their second year of study.

There is no foreign language requirement. A written comprehensive examination, normally taken at the end of the fourth term of graduate work, tests the student’s familiarity with the entire field of astronomy and related branches of physics and mathematics. Particular attention will be paid to the student’s performance in the field in which the student plans to do research. An oral examination, held a few weeks after the written examination, is based on the student’s chosen field of research. Satisfactory performance in these examinations, an acceptable record in course and research work, and an approved dissertation prospectus are required for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. The dissertation should present the results of an original and thorough investigation, worthy of publication. Most importantly, it should reflect the candidate’s capacity for independent research. An oral dissertation defense is required.

Teaching experience is an integral part of graduate education in astronomy. All students are required to serve as teaching fellows for four terms. Both the level of teaching assignments and the scheduling of teaching are flexible and determined by the needs of the department.

Honors Requirement

Students must meet the Graduate School’s Honors requirement by the end of the fourth term of full-time study.

Master’s Degrees

M.Phil. Upon application, the department will recommend for the award of the M.Phil. degree any student who has completed all the requirements of the Ph.D. degree, except the Ph.D. dissertation. A written master’s thesis containing original astronomical research is also required. Students are not admitted for this degree.

M.S. (en route to the Ph.D.) Upon application, the department will recommend for the award of the M.S. degree any student who has taken at least nine courses (not including ASTR 710) and one research project (ASTR 580). The student should have a grade average of High Pass in the courses and a grade of High Pass or above in the research project.