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Ph.D. Degree Requirements

All UC San Diego Astronomy Ph.D. recipients must complete the following requirements:

  • Course requirements: Students are required to complete and pass ten (10) graduate courses (38 units total), including seven (7) Core courses (including 2 units of PHYA 500: Teaching Instruction) and three (3) Elective courses. In addition, students must complete two (2) quarters (8 units) of PHYA 296 (Second Year Independent Research) prior to their Qualification Exam. Any course with a letter grade must receive a B- or higher to be considered satisfactory for course requirement. If a grade lower than B- is received the Graduate Advisory committee will review each case for potential recommendations. These course requirements must be completed by the end of the second year, unless an approved exception is made by the Astronomy Graduate Degree Program. For more details, see Courses.
  • Qualifying exam: Students are required to complete a research-based written report and oral qualifying exam before the end of their second year. Both the written report and oral presentation will focus on novel research completed by the student, advised by a faculty member as part of the PHYA 296: Second-Year Independent Research course requirement.  For more details, see Qualification Exam

  • Candidacy examQualified students are required to submit a written thesis proposal and conduct an oral presentation with their Dissertation Committee before the end of their third year. Students whose proposal is approved will be designated Ph.D. Candidates. For more details, see Advance to Candidacy.
  • Dissertation and defense: Ph.D. degree recipients must complete a written dissertation and oral presentation, to be approved by the candidate's Dissertation Committee. The normative time for completion of the dissertation is by the end of the fifth year, with a formal limit of the end of the seventh year. For more details, see Defense Requirements.

  • Teaching requirement: All Ph.D. students will be required to be a full-time (20 hour/week) Teaching Assistant (TA) for at least one (1) quarter, following completion of two (2) units of PHYA 500.
  • GPA requirement: In adherence with UC San Diego requirements, a cumulative GPA of 3.0 will be required for Advancement to Candidacy.

For more information on the timeline for completing these requirements, see Timeline.


Terminal Master's Degree 

Students who do not complete the requirements for a Ph.D. degree, or choose to leave the program without a Ph.D. degree, may be eligible for a terminal Master's Degree in Astronomy provided that the requirements above are met. Recommendation and planning for a Terminal Master's degree is made by either the Qualifying Review Committee or Dissertation Committee, depending on the student's stage of progression. This recommendation will be reviewed by the Graduate Advisory Committee and final approval made by the Vice Chair for Graduate Studies.