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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign(UIUC) Course/Program Name
Application closes on
National :15 Jan 
International :15 Jan 

PhD Astronomy

 Course Level
Full Time

5 Years
 Start month

 Tuition fee

26502 USD
12266 USD

Application fee

International 90 USD
National 70 USD
Department of Astronomy
Scores accepted
IELTS (min)6.5
TOEFL-IBT (min)104
TOEFL-PBT (min)607
GRE (avg)330
GMAT (avg)659

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About this course

Future astronomers, who will carry the current astronomical revolution into the next century, require a solid foundation in Astronomy, Astrophysics, and related areas.  A major goal of the graduate program is to offer a stimulating environment in which the student's own creativity and enthusiasm for Astronomy can develop fully.

The Astronomy Department at Illinois, in collaboration with the Physics Department, offers graduate students in astronomy and astrophysics strong training in a wide range of areas related to science and engineering. Students also have ready access to observing and computing facilities for their dissertation research, and are guided by distinguished faculty.

In the past two decades, astronomy has undergone a technological transformation. Ground-based astronomy has benefitted enormously from the development of modern solid-state detector arrays and large radio and optical/infrared telescopes. Satellites have opened previously inaccessible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum to observation. University of Illinois Astronomy students and faculty make active use of leading-edge space-based and ground-based facilities (such as CARMA) in their research.

Astrophysical theory can now treat, with considerable rigor, phenomena ranging from stellar and planetary formation, through mechanisms that may power energetic galaxies and galaxy formation, to conditions during the earliest moments in the evolution of the cosmic fireball. High-speed computers, particularly new generations of supercomputers and parallel processors such as those atNCSA, play a major role in much of this scientific activity. Future research astronomers, who will carry this revolution into the 21st century, will need a strong grounding in physical theory and in the interpretation of modern astronomical data. The University of Illinois Astronomy Department provides this training to all its graduate students.

The Department of Astronomy offers graduate programs leading to the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. The goal of the graduate program in astronomy is to provide broadly based training in modern astrophysics and astronomy for a small and carefully selected student body. Individually designed programs involving close contact with faculty members are encouraged, and an understanding of fundamental principles and techniques and their applications to research problems of current interest is emphasized. Students are expected to acquire a solid knowledge of modern physics as well as of general astronomy. A major objective is to maintain an exciting intellectual environment in which students can develop their scientific creativity and their enthusiasm for astronomy.

Check further details on University website

Eligibility Criteria

Minimum requirements for admisson

  • All applicants whose native language is not English are required to submit the results of the TOEFL or IELTS as evidence of English proficiency.
  • Official scores are required to be submitted directly from TOEFL/ETS or IELTS (please see instructions below for Submitting Official Scores regarding our institution code and program number).
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores must be less than two years old from the first day of class at the proposed term of entry in order to be valid.
  • Important, please note: Individual academic programs may require a higher score, or evidence of spoken English language proficiency; contact your proposed program of study office for the minimum TOEFL, TSE, or IELTS requirement for admission.

Test information and instructions for requesting official scores
TOEFL (Test of english as a foreign language)
Website: www.toefl.org

TOEFL Services at Educational Testing Service (ETS):

Requesting Official Scores: Applicants who have already taken the TOEFL should request the Educational Testing Service send scores to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign using our institution code number 1836.

IELTS (International english language testing system)
IELTS is jointly owned by University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (Cambridge ESOL), British Council and IDP Education Australia: IELTS Australia.

Website: www.ielts.org

Requesting Official Scores: Applicants who have already taken the IELTS should upload their score report forms directly to the online application.


 Graduate applicants may be exempt from providing a TOEFL or IELTS score if one of the following criteria is met:Completion of at least two years of post-secondary full-time study, as defined by the home institution, in a country where English is the primary language and at an institution where English is the primary medium of instruction, within five years of the proposed term of initial enrollment at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Completion of a graduate degree in a country where English is the primary language and at an institution where English is the primary language of instruction, within five years of the proposed term of initial enrollment.

Check further details on University website

Course Modules

PH.D. Degree program
The Ph.D. degree is for students who wish to pursue a career in academic research in astronomy or related fields.  Candidates for the Ph.D. degree undertake research programs that explore new horizons in astronomy, astrophysics, astrochemistry, and cosmology.  A master's degree is not required for admission to the Ph.D. program. Average completion time is ~6 years for students entering with a bachelor’s degree. 

Degree requirements
The Graduate College requires 96 hours of coursework for the PhD, including research units in ASTR 590 and ASTR 599. Most astronomy students having half-time assistantships take 8 hours per semester plus 4 to 8 hours in the summer, so the total credit requirement may be fulfilled in approximately 4-5 years.

Required Courses- Required Hours-Entering With Approved M.A./M.S. DEGREE- Required Hours-Entering With Approved B.A./B.S. Degree

Formal Coursework:
• ASTR 501, ASTR 502 81 8
• Additional formal coursework (excluding thesis research, non-thesis research, and independent study credit hours, e.g., ASTR 599, ASTR 590) 0 24
• Of the additional coursework, the minimum number of hours in the unit (excluding thesis research, non-thesis research, and independent study credit hours) N/A 8
• Of the additional coursework, the minimum number of 500-level hours (excluding thesis research, non-thesis research, and independent study credit hours) N/A 8 (4 in the unit)
• Based on Proficiency Exam results, students may be required to complete ASTR 404, 405, 406, and/or 414 during their first year. A maximum of 8 hours of these courses may be applied to the degree. 8 max 8 max
Research/Project/Independent Study Hours (e.g., ASTR 590; min/max applied toward degree): 4 min / 24 max 4 min / 32 max
Thesis Hours Required: (e.g., ASTR 599; min/max applied toward degree): 32 min / 52 max 32 min / 60 max
Total Hours 64 96
Other Requirements:
• Minimum GPA 3.0 3.0
• Masters Degree Required Before Admission to PhD? N/A No
• Proficiency in Advanced Undergraduate Astronomy (see below) Yes Yes
• Qualifying Exam Required No No
• Preliminary Exam Required Yes Yes
• Final Exam/Dissertation Defense Required Yes Yes
• Dissertation Deposit Required Yes Yes

Demonstrated Proficiency in Advanced Undergraduate Astronomy (ASTR 404, 405, 406, and 414) 

Students must show proficiency in the four courses by one of the following options:

  • Pass the appropriate section of the proficiency exam (four sections aligned to the four courses), which is offered at the start of every Fall semester.  A student can petition to take the exam once more the following year.  The decision on petition approval by the graduate advisor will depend on the student’s background and proficiency plan.
  • Pass the course with a B grade or better.
  • Students who have had an equivalent course at other institutions (B grade or better) may petition for those courses to count as proficiency.

Under normal circumstances, students are expected to pass all sections of the exam or pass the appropriate course (or equivalent) before the start of the 3rd semester of graduate study.
First Summer Research Project (4 hours)

During the first summer in residence, each student will enroll in ASTR 590 (Independent Study) and will complete a research project with an Astronomy Department faculty member.  A paper reporting the results is required, which must be prepared in scientific journal style and approved by the faculty member.
Preliminary Examination 

Ph.D. Preliminary Examination consists of a written preliminary paper on the Ph.D. research topic and an oral examination. It must be passed by the end of the third year of study.
Dissertation/Final Examination

Completion of an original research project culminating in a dissertation publishable in whole or in part is required. The final examination is a defense of the doctoral dissertation. The Graduate College does require that all doctoral candidates be registered for the entire academic term during which they take the final examination, regardless of when the thesis will be deposited or when the degree will be conferred.

Students must satisfy all general University residence requirements. In addition, students must satisfy all Graduate College requirements. Students should pay particular attention to the Graduate College policies on the composition of preliminary and final examination committees.

Check further details on University website

How to Apply

Admission to the astronomy graduate program requires an outstanding record of accomplishment and clear evidence of considerable academic promise, as judged by test scores, resume (or c.v.), letters of recommendation, personal statement, and strong intellectual achievements. 

A bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in astronomy, physics, chemistry, mathematics, or another related technical field from an accredited college or university in the U.S. or an approved institution of higher learning abroad is required for admission.  Course preparation in intermediate and advanced undergraduate physics and astronomy are essential.  Students are expected to make up deficiencies during the first graduate year.

Admission decisions are normally made once a year in the spring.  Applications for admission and financial assistance must be received by January 15.  In rare circumstances, applicants may be admitted for the spring semester, in addition to the customary fall semester admissions.

Admission requirements-

  • Deadline: January 15
  • Education: Bachelor's degree in physical science or engineering, official transcripts from undergraduate institution are required
  • Minimum Grade-Point Average: 3.0 (A = 4.0)
  • Required Tests: to be considered for admission, all applicants must take:Graduate Record Examination General Test
  • Graduate Record Examination Subject Test in Physics
  • Letters of Recommendation: Three Required
  • Personal Statement

Additional Requirements for International Applicants:

  • Minimum Admission Requirements by Country
  • Transcripts
  • English Proficiency Requirement for Admission
  • Evidence of Financial Resources
  • Visa Information

Contact addresses
Address correspondence to:

Chairman, Graduate Admissions Committee
Department of Astronomy
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
103 Astronomy Building
1002 W. Green Street
Urbana, Illinois 61801

Check further details on University website

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