Essential Information for Applicants to the Physics PhD Program

Thank you for your interest in the physics PhD program at UMass Amherst!

Program overview. The objective of our program is to prepare you for a career pursuing original research in physics. In collaboration with the Office of Professional Development, we provide the tools you need to succeed in academia, the private sector, or government laboratories.

The first three semesters in our program are typically spent taking core courses to establish competency in the foundational material of our field (classical and quantum mechanics, statistical physics and electrodynamics).

However, the primary focus of the program is on original research supervised by one or more faculty members. Research opportunities available in the department are very broad, and include experimental and theoretical condensed matter and soft matter physics, nanoscience, nuclear physics, experimental and theoretical high energy physics, biophysics, gravitational physics and a variety of collaborative research programs with several departments on campus, including Polymer Science. More about these efforts can be found on our Research web pages.

Importance of contacting faculty. As an applicant, you are encouraged and advised to contact one or more faculty with whom you might want to work. This will both ensure a good match between our program and your own interests, and may also work to your advantage as we review applications. Send an email to the identified faculty to request an appointment to discuss research, and identify yourself as a applicant to the program.  Appointments can be via zoom, phone, or in person if you are already in the area. More tips at

In your personal statement, please include at least (1) your motivation for studying for a physics PhD; (2) your research interests; and (3) a paragraph connecting your interests to specific research programs in our department. Please include the names of any faculty you contacted regarding research.

More information about applying can be found on the Graduate School’s webpages, particularly this . More information about applying to the physics program can be found on the Information for Prospective Students page. Our information is also included in our American Institute of Physics and Astronomy listing.

Financial Compensation. The anticipated total compensation package for a first year (non-resident of Massachusetts) doctoral student is in excess of $50,000. In 2022-2023 this includes a teaching assistant stipend of $25,034 (20 hours/week for 38 weeks), a tuition waiver, 95% exemption of the individual health insurance fee costs (90% for the family plan), and dental, vision, wellness and childcare benefits. You will remain responsible for other mandatory fees, the cost of which is approximately $1110.50 per semester, plus a one-time only graduate entering fee of approximately $507.00 which is due the first semester. For up-to-date information regarding fees, please see

In addition, many students receive summer salary through Research Assistantships (RA's); a few summer Teaching Assistant (TA) positions are also available. A summer RA pays up to an estimated $9882 and a summer TA stipend pays between $1,300 and $3,000. If you negotiate RA support for the entire summer with a research group, you can receive a stipend up to $34,916 for the first year.

Through a combination of RAs, TAs, and fellowships, students in good standing are typically supported from matriculation to graduation. In recent years, all students in good standing have been fully funded.

Standardized Tests. GRE exams are waived for fall 2024 applicants.  This includes both general and Physics exams. International applicants must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or equivalent as specified on the graduate school webpage located here:

An application fee of $85 is required before an application may be processed.

Living in Amherst. Amherst is a typical New England college town with a wide range of cultural activities (music, art, dance) enriched by the 5-Colleges in the valley (Amherst College, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, and UMass). UMass is a large and busy campus, with about 25,000 undergraduates and 7500 graduate students. The surrounding Pioneer Valley is quite rural, with wooded hills, rivers and lakes, and an abundance of hiking, biking and ski trails. As rural as we are, we are within a few hours of major metropolitan areas of Boston and New York and all that they have to offer. A free bus system connects the University with the town and with the four first-rate undergraduate liberal arts colleges in the local area. The programs of these colleges enrich the many cultural offerings available.

Deadlines. To ensure priority treatment and enhance the opportunities for being admitted with a fellowship or first year summer RA support, we recommend that you send us all your application materials, including three letters of recommendation, by December 15th.  Applications will continue to be accepted until January 15th.

We welcome any inquiries about our program or about life at UMass. Should you require additional information about the program, please feel free to contact the Graduate Program Director, Lori Goldner ( or the Graduate Admissions Chair, Scott Hertel (  For help with the application process, please contact our Graduate Program Manager, Katie Bryant.