The University of Chicago | Graduate Admissions

Physics - PhD

Division: Physical Sciences
Degree Type: PhD

Program Description

The Department of Physics offers the opportunity for students to pursue a PhD in many areas of experimental and theoretical physics. Entering students typically have undergraduate degrees in physics or related fields, and are drawn from the most qualified applicants from 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 Division of the Physical Sciences.

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Application Method

Applications should be initiated through the online application. Paper applications are not accepted.


Deadline for admissions and financial aid: December 15

Applications received after the deadline cannot be considered.

Campus Visits

The Department of Physics does not require interviews for applicants, but you are welcome to visit campus, sit in on classes, and meet with current students. You may contact faculty with questions, but there is no expectation that you do so.

Degree Objective

The Department of Physics admits applicants only for the PhD degree. The MS degree is granted as an interim degree after one year of graduate study, upon meeting the degree requirements.

Application Requirements

  1. Online Application Form and Supplemental Form
  2. Non-refundable application fee
  3. Three Letters of Recommendation should be submitted online.
  4. GRE and TOEFL Scores: GRE scores (General test and Advanced Physics Subject test) are required of all applicants, including those with a previous master's degree. The University Institution Code for the GRE and the TOEFL is 1832, and the Department of Physics Code is 0808.  IELTS scores are also accepted and should be delivered electronically to the University of Chicago.
  5. Candidate Statement: All applicants should carefully state their purpose in pursuing a graduate degree. This statement is given considerable weight in the final decision regarding admission. (There is a 2000 word limit.)
  6. Transcripts: Official transcripts from all post-secondary educational institutions should be submitted.


Admissions Decisions

Admission decisions are released beginning late February until March 10. The Department has a rolling admission system. 

Program Requirements

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

  1. Pass the Candidacy Examination. This examination covers fundamental material usually studied in upper-division undergraduate courses and requires some knowledge of particles and fields and of the structure of matter. The candidacy examination is given twice per year, every Autumn Quarter prior to the beginning of the academic year and in Spring Quarter. The Candidacy Examination must be passed before a student starts his/her third year of graduate study. Entering students are encouraged to take their first Candidacy Examination in September before Autumn Quarter begins.
  2. Fulfill the experimental physics requirement by completing Advanced Experimental Physics (PHY 33400) or Advanced Experimental Physics Project (PHY 33500).
  3. Pass four post-candidacy advanced graduate courses devoted to the broad physics research areas of (A) Condensed Matter Physics, (B) Particle Physics, (C) Large-Scale Physics, and (D) Intermediate Electives. The four courses selected must include at least one from each of categories (A), (B), and (C).
  4. Pass two other advanced (40000-level) courses either in physics or in a field related to the student's PhD research.
  5. Successfully defend his or her dissertation.
  6. Submit for publication to a refereed scientific journal the thesis that has been approved by the PhD committee or a paper that is based on the thesis.

Costs & Financial Aid

All admitted students receive full financial aid, which consists of a full-tuition merit scholarship and a monthly stipend for at least 11 months for their first year. All graduate students in the Department receive full financial aid for the duration of their graduate study in the form of either a teaching assistantship, a research assistantship, or a fellowship for the duration of their graduate study, assuming satisfactory progress. All graduate students in the Division of the Physical Sciences also receive full health insurance and health fee coverage.