Button to scroll to the top of the page.

information regarding the GRE: 

GRE Scores are not required to apply to the Astronomy graduate program, and are not taken into account when reviewing applications. It takes up to 72 hours for the requirement to disappear from your MyStatus page after you submit your application. Please be patient!

frequently asked questions:

  1. Why should I apply to the University of Texas Department of Astronomy?
  2. What are the admissions requirements?
  3. What does the Admissions Committee look for on an application?
  4. When will I hear from the Department about an admission decision?
  5. How can I tell if my application is complete?
  6. When should I take the GRE General Test?
  7. How do I finance my graduate education?
  8. How do I apply for an Assistantship?
  9. What about medical insurance coverage?
  10. What are the requirements for a graduate degree in Astronomy?
  11. What does the typical graduate degree timeline look like?
  12. What are the current research projects in the Department of Astronomy?
  13. Is there a qualifying exam?
  14. How long does it take to get a PhD?
  15. Where can I find out about housing?
  16. Where can I find information about living in Austin?

 



Why should I apply to the University of Texas Department of Astronomy?

The Department of Astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin is ranked in the top 10 in the nation. Faculty members have, over the years, won nearly every prize offered by the American Astronomical Society. The Hobby*Eberly Telescope located at McDonald Observatory gives Texas astronomers direct access to one of the generation of 9 m+ telescopes, one of the few that serves only a small community of collaborating universities rather than a national or multi-national community.

Other facilities located at the University of Texas McDonald Observatory include the 2.7 m Harlan J. Smith Telescope, the 2.1 m Otto Struve Telescope, and the 0.8 m telescope, including advanced instrumentation. All these facilities are available to graduate students.

The department offers strengths in many areas and the advantage of a diversity of fields in which to work. Graduate instruction and research are conducted in observational and theoretical astronomy and astrophysics and in associated astronomical instrumentation. Observational and instrumental opportunities are available in optical photometry, polarimetry, fast photometry, spectroscopy, spectrophotometry, and spectropolarimetry as well as in infrared and millimeter astronomy, in radio astronomy, and in space astronomy. These topics are applied to the study of asteroids, comets, planets, interstellar matter, star formation, nebulae, stars in all stages of their evolution, white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes, supernovae, the chemical and physical evolution of galaxies, quasars, and intergalactic matter. There are also instruction and research opportunities in theoretical astrophysics including interstellar material and star formation, stellar structure and evolution in single and binary stars, accretion disks, supernovae and nucleosynthesis, the formation and evolution of galaxies and quasars, the formation of large scale structure, and cosmology.

The University of Texas offers the rewards of a first-class university. Austin, a growing high tech center, continues to offer its unique and varied heritage of live music as well as sports, theater, film, and outdoor entertainment.

Generations of astronomy graduate students have found the department a stimulating and nurturing place to live and work.

We welcome you to join us.

top



What are the admissions requirements?

Prerequisites for graduate work in astronomy are at least fifteen to eighteen semester hours of upper-division coursework in astronomy and physics, which may include courses in mechanics, electricity and magnetism, statistical physics, and quantum mechanics. Effective in the Fall of 2016, applicants’ scores on the Physics GRE subject test are no longer considered for admission to our program. Effective Fall of 2022, we no longer require submission of General GRE test scores. 

top



What does the Admissions Committee look for on an application?

Our admissions process is holistic and recognizes that there is no unique path that leads to success in graduate school. A successful applicant exhibits evidence of achievement or strong potential in areas that include:

  • Research Preparation - Evidence of the cognitive and analytical skills necessary for research, and personal interest. Experiences include those from research, courses, extracurricular activities, etc.
  • Academic Preparation - Demonstrates a thirst for learning astronomy and evidence of likely success in graduate level courses.
  • Fit at UT - Would benefit from the UT Astronomy program and the UT Astronomy program would benefit from the applicant.
  • Non-Cognitive Competency - Demonstrates perseverance, grit, optimism, and conscientiousness.
  • Professional Maturity/Long-Term Goals - Has the professional maturity needed for a PhD program.
  • Community Engagement and Leadership - Has capacity and interest in being an ethical and engaged community member. 

Please address all relevant areas in your personal statement. 

top



When will I hear from the Department about an admission decision?

The Admissions Committee usually reviews applications around the end of January or beginning of February. Your application file must be complete in order for the Admissions Committee to consider your application - this includes payment of the application fee and uploading all official transcripts. 

Once they have made a decision to admit, the Department makes a recommendation to the Graduate School via the Graduate and International Admissions Center. If the Graduate School application (see above) is complete, a letter of admission will be e-mailed within a couple of days. If the Graduate School application is incomplete and the Department wishes to admit you, you will be contacted about completing your Graduate School application. The Astronomy Department will also send decision letters via e-mail to all applicants notifying them of the Department's recommendation, whether positive or negative. These letters usually go out mid to late February.

top



How can I tell if my application is complete?

You can check on your Graduate School application at: Status of Admission Application.

top



How do I finance my graduate education?

The Astronomy Department makes an effort to provide support to all of its students through Teaching Assistantships and Graduate Research Assistantships. Both assistantships provide wages and full tuition coverage for 9 credit hours in fall/spring and 3 credit hours in the summer. An attempt is made to keep salaries competitive with other graduate schools in astronomy, accounting for cost of living in various areas. All of our current students are employed in the department if they are not on a fellowship, as has been the rule throughout the Department's history.

For the Fall 2021 semester, about 2/3 of our graduate students work as Graduate Research Assistants or Teaching Assistants and the remaining 1/3 are on fellowships or internships. The Department regularly nominates its outstanding students for University Fellowships and encourages and supports applications for outside fellowships. See also information on Financing Your Graduate Education available from the Graduate Outreach Office.

top



How do I apply for an Assistantship?

Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs) are usually arranged by the student with a faculty or research scientist doing work of interest to the student. This is done on an informal basis since most GRAs are employed by their Thesis/Dissertation Supervisor. New students are usually employed as Teaching Assistants unless they make arrangements for a GRA position prior to the beginning of the fall semester in which they enter the program. Some supervisors do not have grant money to support a student, in which case the student usually works as a Teaching Assistant. 


top



What about medical insurance coverage?

Please see the Graduate School's page regarding health insurance options for graduate students


top



 What are the requirements for a graduate degree in Astronomy?

Please note that we only admit students who intend on pursuing a PhD in Astronomy. We do not offer "Master's only" admissions. If you are admitted to our PhD program, you have the option of applying for a masters in your second or third year.

Students must complete nine courses for a grade from a pre-determined set of courses, listed in section K of our Graduate A to Z handbook

Students begin research during their first year. Research is done under the supervision of an advisor and committee. PhD research normally requires about five years. In spring of their second year, students must present a summary of their research to date, and pass an oral Qualifying Examination. Students must apply for PhD candidacy by the end of the summer of their second year. Two presentations on research must be given in colloquia or seminars. Finally, the student must complete the dissertation and pass an oral examination on the dissertation.

top



What does the typical graduate degree timeline look like?

 

Year 1 Fall

  • Take 2-3 graduate courses; earn a B- or better.
  • Attend 1st-year Seminar for Graduate Students
  • Attend Exgal/Cosmology or Stars/ISM Seminar

Year 1 Spring

  • Take 2-3 graduate courses; earn a B- or better.
  • Attend Exgal/Cosmology or Stars/ISM Seminar
  • Present a research seminar
  • Advisor choice for 2nd year project due
  • Develop committee and submit Committee Agreement Form to the graduate coordinator. 

Year 1 Summer

  • Register for 3 semester hours of research, thesis, or dissertation credit.

Year 2 Fall

  • Take 2 graduate courses; earn a B- or better.
  • Attend Exgal/Cosmology or Stars/ISM Seminar.
  • Present a research seminar (1 / year).
  • Follow requirements for committee meetings.

Year 2 Spring

  • Take 2 graduate courses; earn a B- or better.
  • Attend Exgal/Cosmology or Stars/ISM Seminar.
  • Present a research seminar (1 / year).
  • Take 2nd year qualifying exam. Submit written Research Report or peer-reviewed paper to your Research Committee and the Graduate Advisor no later than 1 week before your exam. 

Year 2 Summer

  • Register for 3 semester hours of credit.
  • Apply for PhD candidacy.
  • Submit 1st first-author paper.

Year 3 Fall

  • Take 9 semester hours of dissertation courses (once in candidacy); supplement with seminar courses as needed.
  • Attend Exgal/Cosmology or Stars/ISM Seminar.
  • Present a research seminar (1 / year).
  • Follow requirements for committee meetings.

Continued research semesters ...

  • Repeat items from Year 3 Fall.

Graduating

  • Submit Dissertation to Dissertation Committee.
  • Complete Oral Defense Examination.
  • Upload final draft of dissertation, approved by the Dissertation Committee, to the Graduate School.
 

 

More information on required and elective courses can be found in the Graduate Catalog.

top



What are the current research projects in the Department of Astronomy?

Information about papers and research can be found in the AAS Annual Reports, listed in the Research section of our website. Also, check out the web pages of our faculty, research scientists, postdocs and current graduate students.

top


 

Is there a qualifying exam?

Yes. Towards the end of your second year, you will make a public oral presentation summarizing the research you have done up to that point. This is accompanied by a written report of the research which is submitted to your Research Committee for review. The Research Committee will also conduct an oral exam after the public presentation. The oral exam will cover the research you presented as well as three areas of increasing breadth in which you will be expected to be knowledgeable. In consultation with your advisor, you identify these three areas beforehand to your committee. The approved written report may be submitted to the Graduate School as your thesis for obtaining the MA degree.


top



How long does it take to get a PhD?

The average number of years to obtain a PhD has been decreasing in our Department. Due to legislative measures limiting the amount of time graduate students qualify for in-state tuition, the Astronomy Department revised its curriculum to enable students to complete their degree within five full years. The current median number of years to PhD is 5.4 years.

top



Where can I find out about housing?

The University has dormitories and married student housing available through University Housing and Food. On campus housing costs approximately $5000-5200 for 9 months which includes meals. Most graduate students live off campus in apartments. There are links to apartment locator services at the page UT maintains about Austin. Off campus housing costs approximately $560/month for a one bedroom apartment, $750/month for a two bedroom apartment. If possible, it is wise to arrange housing in the summer, before all the undergraduates return to Austin.

top



Where can I find information about living in Austin?

UT maintains an Austin web page with links to sites full of information about Austin.

top