How to Graduate

A note for international students

Many international students plan to remain in the U.S. for a postdoc position after completing their Ph.D. This often involves going though the "OPT" process, which can take several months. Information for international students from Rutgers Global Services can be found here, with OPT information here. We recommend you look through the linked web pages and, if you have questions, schedule a meeting with your adviser at Global Services.

Information from the School of Graduate Studies

Graduation requirements of the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) are posted on line. In case of any conflict between the SGS postings and the materials on this page, you should consider the SGS postings authoritative - follow them!

Graduation requirements include 30 / 72 credits for an M.S. / Ph.D. degree, continuous registration while a graduate student (for a May / October degree, you must have been registered for the preceding spring term, while for a January degree, you must have been registered for the preceding fall term), the qualifying exam and advancement to candidacy for Ph.D. students, and a final exam, which is a thesis defense, or perhaps an essay defense for certain M.S. students. For more details, see the SGS pages linked below and / or discuss your situation with the GPD.

Related SGS web pages include:

Physics and Astronomy Program Information

The program practice is to have 4 (5) committee members for your M.S. (Ph.D.) committee, which exceeds the SGS requirements by one. Ph.D. committees need an outside member, but M.S. committees do not. The OCM is "outside" in the sense that they are not on the Physics and Astronomy Graduate Faculty. The OCM should be someone very familiar with your area of research. Typically they are faculty, laboratory staff, or even postdocs in your field of research whom you already know. They can be collaborators in your Ph.D. project, a former grad student of your adviser, or Rutgers faculty from a different department. Once you have decided on an outside committee member, send a CV in pdf format to the GPD, who will arrange SGS approval.

Scheduling of your M.S. or Ph.D. defense is up to you and your committee. Contact your committee and arrange a time and date for the defense. Note that many faculty are more likely to be on travel during the summer, so it is typically easier to schedule a defense during the academic year. Once your defense is scheduled please tell the GPD and Grad AA. Shirley can help in arranging a room for the defense if needed, and will announce your defense to the department. If you are meeting over zoom, send the zoom meeting information as well, for the announcement. 

Your thesis should be sent to the committee 10 days - 2 weeks in advance of the defense, so that the committee has suffficient time to review it. Standard practice in the program is that you will be asked by the committee to correct small errors in your thesis.

Once you successfully defend your thesis, there are two documents that need to be signed, the title page of your thesis (signed by your committee) and the "FInal Defense Committee Report", which is page 2 of your Application for Candidacy (your committee signs section A - note special line for outside member - and the GPD signs at the bottom of the page). For in person defenses, bring the Candidacy form, picked up from SGS, and your title page, along with a black pen, so that your committee can sign off on your successful defense. This sometimes happens at the defense, but sometimes does not happen until you complete edits to your dissertation.

SGS rules allowed remote participation of up to 2 people on the committee, but both the student and adviser must be present. But since the onset of COVID, the rules concerning in-person Ph.D. defenses and signing forms have been suspended. At present, Ph.D. defenses remain largely remote, and forms are signed electronically, such as by pasting signatures onto PDFs, or using

For in-person signatures, if one of your committee members is not present to sign, the GPD can sign for them. They need to email the GPD a statement minimally indicating that "I approve YYY's dissertation and authorize you to sign on my behalf." (Where YYY should of course be replaced by your name.)

The GPD usually signs off last, after you have obtained all other signatures. Please give Shirley Hinds a copy of the forms you will submit to SGS.



Departmental Chair
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Graduate Director
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