Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a required minimum GPA for admission?
You must have a 3.0 GPA - an average grade of B or better. For students whose GPAs are closer to 3 than to 4, you are a stronger applicant if your advanced undergraduate courses in physics, astronomy, or math have a GPA closer to 4 than 3.

My undergraduate program took only 3 years. Am I still eligible for admission?
Yes. You are required to have an undergraduate degree, but there is no requirement on how long you were an undergraduate. 

I was not an undergraduate physics major. Can I be admitted?
Yes. But we want to be confident that you can succeed, so it is important for our evaluation that you have taken advanced undergraduate physics courses. It is very difficult to succeed at the graduate level if you have not. A high physics GRE might also help.

I finished my undergraduate degree several years ago. Can I be admitted?
Yes. Again, we want to be confident that you can succeed, so recent evidence that you maintain an excellent understanding of advanced undergraduate physics would help.

How important is undergraduate research for graduate admissions?
Very important, particularly for Ph.D. applicants. The Ph.D. is a research based degree - you will spend most of your time as a Ph.D. student engaged in research. Letters from faculty who supervised your undergraduate research are important for estimating your abilities here.

How important is the GRE for graduate admissions? Will it hurt me if I do not submit scores?
Many schools are re-evaluating the importance of the GRE. The GREs can be expensive. For students admitted to our program there is little correlation between GRE scores and probability of getting a Ph.D., but students admitted mostly have around average or higher physics GRE scores. The GREs do provide information on students from programs we are not familiar with, so they can help give us confidence that you can do well in our program. Different subfields place different amounts of emphasis on the physics and general GREs - almost none in some cases - so try talking to faculty in your areas of interest. Starting with fall 2022 admissions, we changed our requirements so that the GRE physics and general tests are preferred for  physics applicants, but optional for astronomy applicants. 

I am an international student who was educated in English - do I need to take the TOEFL or IELTS test?
The English requirement is set by the School of Graduate Studies, and described in their web page at "You are exempt from submitting TOEFL or IELTS scores if you are a Permanent Resident, US citizen, or an international applicant with a minimum of three years undergraduate studies or a masters degree with the mode of instruction being English."

What is an acceptable minimum score for the IELTS test (as alternative to the TOEFL test)?
Information in the IELTS and TOEFL tests, along with other information for international students, can be found at An older version of this webpage is available at

Is is easier to apply for an MS degree?
Since we do not offer or guarantee support to MS students, and research is not required to the same degree as for Ph.D. students, we do not evaluate M.S. applicants as strictly as Ph.D. candidates. We do want to be confident that M.S. candidates are able to handle the graduate course work, since courses form the bulk of their degree requirements.

Can I enter as an M.S. student and then change to a Ph.D. student?
Currently we are generally required to guarantee support to all Ph.D. students for 5 years. Thus we have in recent times been requiring M.S. students who want to become Ph.D. students to go through the Ph.D. admissions process and be compared to other applicants. As an M.S. student, you will have the advantage, or possibly disadvantage, of being well known to the faculty when you become a Ph.D. applicant.

Can I enter in January?
We usually admit for September, since the graduate course sequence starts in the fall term, and we typically do not have available resources for new Ph.D. students starting in January. Occasionally students do start in January, but nearly all are students who were admitted for September and then needed to defer a term for personal reasons.

Can I apply for the Spring semester as an M.S student with no support?
You can always apply for any admission date. We are more likely to admit M.S. students in January than Ph.D. students, due to the issues of course sequence and support. Starting in January would mainly make sense for an M.S. student who should start by taking some advanced undergraduate courses.

What support is available to students?
Ph.D. students are supported as TAs (~40%), as GAs funded by research grants (~40%), and by a variety of external or internal Fellowship funds and other university funded positions (~15%). The unsupported students are typically senior students who have not quite finished their Ph.D.s but have despite this started a potentially permanent (non-academic) position. A few senior students are only supported as PTLs (part time lecturers, paid per course.) Please read the ``Graduate Student Support'' web page.

M.S. students are generally self supporting. They are not offered appointments as either TAs or GAs or Fellows. They can take on PTL assignments, perhaps make arrangements to work on research for faculty for pay, or find employment outside the department.

TA and GA appointments include tuition, fees, and health insurance. Fellows typically get a higher stipend, but limited tuition support and different health insurance. PTLs only get a paycheck, and have to cover their tuition, fees, and insurance themselves.

When do I get paid?
Rutgers students with appointments get paid every 2 weeks. This means that a couple months each year you will receive three paychecks instead of two. Some expenses, like rent, are typically paid monthly, so please budget appropriately.

Most students have academic year appointments, and are paid for the months of September through June, with paychecks coming from mid September through mid July, every 2 weeks. Separate arrangements are needed for students with AY appointments to be paid for the summer months of July and August. Most students are paid by their advisers to do research, but some instead teach a section during the summer.

Students without appointments often take on teaching / research for pays, as coads / PTLs.

Typically it takes a few weeks after arriving at Rutgers to start getting paid. All your paperwork needs to be in place so that you can be added to the payroll system. Your payment for the pay period plus any previous periods that were not yet paid needs to be figured out by a deadline some days before the pay date. Thus it is typically mid to late September before you receive your first paycheck.

I took graduate courses elsewhere. Do I have to take them at Rutgers? Can I transfer credits?
Our graduate courses divide into a set of core courses generally taken in the first year, and advanced courses generally taken in subsequent years. Rutgers allows credits to be transfered under certain conditions, including that the credits are relevant to your field of study, they do not substantially overlap a course you have taken at Rutgers, and you have passed 9 credits of coursework at Rutgers.

The program has a requirement that you pass core courses, either by taking them or by passing a ``challenge'' exam. So, for example, many students who have passed graduate quantum mechanics elsewhere come to Rutgers, pass the challenge exam, and then transfer the credits later.

You should talk with the GPD about credit transfers, including about whether advanced courses taken elsewhere can be used to satisfy the program advanced course requirements.

When do I start to work with faculty on research?
You are free to make arrangements to work with faculty with mutual interests at any point, starting from the summer before you begin graduate school. It is important for applicants to research which faculty they might want to work with - perhaps none of our faculty work in your area of interest and you should be going elsewhere. You do not need to make arrangements with faculty to be accepted. New students can start working with an adviser during their first year, but they do not need to. They are generally expected to find a research adviser by the end of their first year.

What will I do with my degree after I graduate?
Department graduates usually have very low unemployment rates, with about half of our graduates moving to postdoctoral positions and about half moving into potentially permanent positions in a range of industries. The American Institute of Physics,, surveys career outcomes for the field. Hiring data including salary ranges can be found at Employment data can be found at


Departmental Chair
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Graduate Director
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