Graduate Program

The first Ph.D. in physics from Rice was awarded in 1920, as the second doctorate earned at the university. Since then, the Physics and Astronomy graduate program has grown to an enrollment of about 110, with 15 to 20 students arriving each year. Recent graduates hold positions in academic institutions, national laboratories, industrial laboratories, and entrepreneurial enterprises.

The department now offers graduate programs for a wide range of interests. Research facilities and thesis supervision are available for Ph.D. students in Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics, Biophysics, Condensed Matter Physics, Astrophysics of Star and Planet Formation, Relativistic Astrophysics and Cosmology, Nuclear and Particle Physics, and Space Plasma and Solar Physics.

For the 2024 application round, with deadline December 15, 2023, the Physics and Astronomy Department is not requiring the reporting of general and physics subject GRE scores.

For more details, please see the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website at:


We encourage current students and applicants to also apply for graduate fellowships from various external agencies, which can increase the resources available to you during your graduate studies and help you in various ways throughout your career. Links to some opportunities:

Resources describing the Graduate Program in Physics and Astronomy are found in the links above.

Check out the Physics and Astronomy Graduate Student Association.

Employment data may be found here:

If you cannot find the answers to your questions here, please do not hesitate to contact:

Note to International Applicants: Individual requests for application status cannot be answered. As support materials are received, they are matched with the respective on-line application.


Graduate Degree Program

All students admitted to graduate studies in Physics and Astronomy at Rice enter the Ph.D. program. The department also participates in the Professional Masters Program through its Space Studies option, the Applied Physics PhD Program, and the Master of Science Teaching programs.  The requirements for these degrees are summarized on their respective websites. 

To obtain a Ph.D. in the Physics and Astronomy Department at Rice, students complete certain course work, demonstrate their ability to engage in advanced research and demonstrate their knowledge of the discipline.  Each student must complete at least eight approved graduate courses, an oral Ph.D. candidacy exam, write and defend a research proposal, and complete the teaching practicum.  The degree is conferred upon successful public defense of a Ph.D. research thesis. Unlike many similar programs around the country, our graduate program offers a great deal of flexibility. Students may choose from a wide variety of research topics and take courses that are most suited to their interests, while still obtaining the fundamentals needed by any scientist in their chosen subdiscipline. Our graduate students become involved in research as soon as possible, always by the end of their first year in the program. There is no foreign language requirement, and no comprehensive written qualifying exam on coursework.



Note: Requirements are updated on occasion. Students may choose to follow the requirements given below or they may follow the requirements in place when they matriculated.

Please Note: The following summarizes the Ph.D. and M.S. degree requirements and Department policy regarding admission to candidacy for these degrees. These requirements are given here as a convenience for prospective and enrolled graduate students in our program. While we make every effort to keep the following current and accurate, this web page is not the official document that governs policy. The official Rice University advanced degree requirements are those described in the General Announcements. Thesis requirements are summarized in the Graduate Students area of the Rice pages. It is Rice policy that if requirements change while a student is enrolled, the student may choose to graduate under the rules in effect when they were admitted to the program, or under those in effect when the student graduates. Related documents of potential use to students are the course requirements for the Applied Physics Ph.D. and M.S. degrees and the listing of courses by area for the different groups within the Department.

Advice and Support for Graduate Students 

Further details on the program, especially on advising, is given in the Department's Graduate Student Handbook. The handbook is meant as a resource for P&A graduate students, providing a handy, concise guide to essential information about the graduate degree program, but it is only one source of information.  All faculty and staff serve as part of the support network for graduate students, but the ombudsman in particular is a good person to contact for confidential discussion and advice on a wide range of topics. 

For current students, faculty are specifically assigned as graduate student advisors to answer academic questions. We are available to guide you through the process. That being said, graduate students are adults, and there is a presumption that students will take responsibility and initiative these are certainly necessary for a successful doctoral degree! Please ask questions and keep on top of deadlines and requirements.