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Department of Physics and Astronomy

Apply to Graduate Programs

A graduate degree in physics is a key to numerous paths in your future career, as well as a challenging and life changing experience.

Application Requirements

We offer master's and doctoral programs. Most of our graduate students have completed an undergraduate degree in physics. On some occasions, we admit students who don't have a bachelor's in physics. In that case, we may require you to take additional coursework as part of your program.

Physics Requirements

Applicants are expected to have successfully completed the following courses at the advanced undergraduate level: quantum mechanics, mechanics, electromagnetism, statistical mechanics, nuclear physics, and solid state physics.

Math Requirements

Mathematics through Advanced Calculus, including ordinary and partial differential equations and vector analysis, also should have been completed in the undergraduate program.

You also need to have completed the required courses with a C or better grade. If you haven't taken these courses, it's still possible to be admitted, but you may need to take additional courses during your graduate study.

FAQs for Graduate Admission

If you have questions about our program that are not answered in these FAQs, you can contact us at

All applications have to be submitted through the USC Graduate School webpage. Follow the instructions given there. For technical questions about the application process, please contact the Graduate School at

Application deadlines are Sept. 15 for the Spring semester of the following year, and January 15 for the Fall semester. However, applications are accepted and reviewed on an ongoing basis throughout the year and are evaluated in a short time frame. Applications submitted before the deadline will be given priority.

You will need to upload a curriculum vitae (CV), a personal statement, scanned copies of your bachelor’s and, if applicable, master’s transcripts, and, for non-native-English speakers, an unofficial copy of your English test results. You will also need to ask three references to submit letters of recommendation on your behalf. Please submit a CV, not a resume.

The graduate application fee will be waived for all applicants for the Fall 2024 and Spring 2025 admission terms.

No, GRE scores are not required. If you have taken the GRE, you can of course report your results if you would like

No, a completed MS degree is not required for the PhD program. You can apply directly to the PhD program with a completed bachelor’s degree in physics.

The physics and math requirements that we typically expect are listed on the application page. On some occasions, we admit students who do not have a bachelor’s degree in physics. In that case, we may require you to take additional coursework as part of your program.

If your native language is not English, you must submit the results of an English proficiency test (TOEFL, IELTS, PTE). For details of accepted tests and minimum scores please see the Graduate School page for international applicants.

The Graduate school waives the English requirement for applicants who have a US degree and usually offers a similar waiver for those with a degree from an institution in a country whose native language is English. However, a waiver is not offered based solely on the language of instruction, including programs taught in English at institutions in countries whose native language is not English. Please contact the Graduate School at with specific questions.

During the application process, unofficial copies/scans of transcripts and test scores are accepted.

The personal statement is your chance to present yourself, your interest in physics, and why you want to join our Department. Concentrate on facts, not on feelings. Do not be modest, but definitely be honest. The personal statement is not the place to list the courses you took (this information is in the transcript). We are particularly interested in learning about papers you have authored, talks you have given, and any other physics-related activities in which you have participated.

If admitted to our Ph.D. program, you will be offered a Teaching Assistant (TA) position. Full-time TAs (teaching 20 hours per week) will receive $20,000 for the 9 months of the Fall and Spring semesters. In your first year, you will also receive a supplemental research fellowship of $3,000. Some opportunities for assistantships during the summer semester might also be available. More information on TA positions is available on the application page.

The stipend also provides a tuition waiver, i.e., you will not have to pay tuition

You will receive health insurance through the University.

Excellent graduate students have an opportunity to be nominated for the University's Presidential Fellowship or the Graduate Assistantship Enhancement Program from the College of Arts & Sciences. Both of these provide additional support for up to four years, with the former providing $10,000 per year and the latter $4,000 per year.

We do not guarantee financial support for master’s students. A teaching assistant position may be available for you occasionally, but its availability is unpredictable. If you apply to our MS program, you must be prepared to cover your tuition, living expenses, etc. yourself.

It is not possible to determine your chances based on grades or test scores alone. The decision of the Admissions Committee depends on several factors, including your performance in your undergraduate and master’s courses (in case you have already earned an MS degree), recommendation letters, your CV and personal statement, research papers authored by you, as well as any other relevant materials you have supplied. We may also contact you to set up an online interview (see What happens after I apply? below).

You are of course welcome to reach out to any professor if you find their research interesting. However, it is not required. New graduate students are admitted to the Department of Physics and Astronomy as a whole, not to a particular group or professor. Admitted students can use their first few semesters to find the area of physics they really like. Of course, it does not mean that having an interest in a particular field is wrong in any way. You can start working with the group of your choice as soon as you are admitted.

The Admissions Committee will consider your application materials. We may invite you for an online interview. The idea is to learn more about you and your physics background. We will also be able to answer questions you may have about USC and our Department. This interview will be a part of your admission process.

There will be two parts to the interview. First, we would like to learn about the science projects you have worked on. You can pick any one of them and give a 15–20-minute presentation. During the presentation, we would like to understand your contribution to the project. Please do not make your presentation longer than 20 minutes. We may ask for clarifications during your presentation, in which case you will be given more time overall.

Second, we will give you a few problems to solve and discuss. They will be at the introductory physics level (mechanics, oscillations, waves, electricity and magnetism, heat) and college math level (geometry, elementary functions, calculus, simple differential equations). It is not assumed that you will be able to give the answer right away or think aloud. You will have time to solve the problem using your pen and paper, and then explain your solution.

After the interview, you will be given a time frame for the final decision to be made by the Admissions Committee.

The review of all graduate applications can take several weeks. For Fall admissions, the Admissions Committee typically starts making the first round of offers in February. The deadline for accepting or declining our offer is April 15, and we may start making a second round of offers after this deadline.

If you are admitted to our graduate program, USC International Student and Scholar Support will assist you in all visa matters.

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