University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The Department of Astronomy offers a graduate program aimed at the PhD degree in astrophysics. Entering students need not have majored in astronomy, although some background in astronomy is desirable. A strong background in physics, however, is essential.

Research is a major part of the PhD program, and the department offers opportunities in a wide variety of fields, including theoretical and observational astrophysics; infrared, optical, and radio astronomy; time-domain astronomy; high-energy astrophysics and cosmology; discovery and analysis of exoplanets; star formation and stellar evolution.

The department has established six years as the normative time to degree. Normative time is the elapsed calendar time in years that under normal circumstances will be needed to complete all requirements for the PhD, assuming a student who enters without deficiencies, who is engaged in full-time uninterrupted study, and who is making desirable progress toward the degree.

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Admission to the University

Applying for Graduate Admission

Thank you for considering UC Berkeley for graduate study! UC Berkeley offers more than 120 graduate programs representing the breadth and depth of interdisciplinary scholarship. The Graduate Division hosts a complete list of graduate academic programs, departments, degrees offered, and application deadlines can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Prospective students must submit an online application to be considered for admission, in addition to any supplemental materials specific to the program for which they are applying. The online application and steps to take to apply can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Admission Requirements

The minimum graduate admission requirements are:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;

  2. A satisfactory scholastic average, usually a minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 (B) on a 4.0 scale; and

  3. Enough undergraduate training to do graduate work in your chosen field.

For a list of requirements to complete your graduate application, please see the Graduate Division’s Admissions Requirements page. It is also important to check with the program or department of interest, as they may have additional requirements specific to their program of study and degree. Department contact information can be found here.

Where to apply?

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page.

Admission to the Program

In addition to the application, transcripts of undergraduate work and letters of recommendation are required. The GRE is no longer required nor accepted. If applicable, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) may be required too. 

Detailed information concerning admission, financial aid, and degree requirements may be found on the department's website

If you have further questions on admission to our program, you can send e-mail to

Doctoral Degree Requirements

The requirements for the Astrophysics PhD degree as follows:
  1. Required Courses
    1. ASTRON 290A and 290B (a seminar)
    2. A total of 6 graduate (or equivalent) courses, 3 of which are from the Astronomy Department
  2. Teaching
  3. Examinations (Preliminary and Qualifying)
  4. Thesis (signed by committee)
  5. University Registration


Core Courses
Introduction to Current Research [2] 1
Introduction to Current Research [1] 1
A total of six graduate or equivalent courses, three of which must be from the Astronomy Department. It is strongly recommended that these be drawn from the following basic courses:
Radiation Processes in Astronomy [4]
Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics [4]
Astrophysical Techniques [3]
Numerical Techniques in Astronomy [3]
Radiation Processes in Astronomy [4]
Stellar Dynamics and Galactic Structure [3]
Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology [3]
Solar System Astrophysics [3] *
Stellar Structure and Evolution [3]
High Energy Astrophysics [3]
Computational Methods in Theoretical Astrophysics [3]
Astronomy Data Science Laboratory [4]
Recommended Courses
ASTRON 298Directed Group Study1-4
MPS 375Professional Preparation: Supervised Teaching in Math and the Physical Sciences2

When available, this Introduction to Current Research seminar is required of all students in their first year. This consists of weekly lectures by different faculty members and research staff, and introduces the student to current research being carried out in the department and nearby labs. (This course is not a preliminary exam topic.)


 These courses are offered based on interest.


All candidates for the Ph.D. in Astrophysics must acquire two semesters of teaching experience during their graduate career.

It is desirable that this requirement be satisfied early in the graduate career, but it may be delayed for those international students who have not acquired adequate command of English, or other reasons, at the discretion of the Chairperson. The requirement may be waived for transfer students who have acquired similar teaching experience elsewhere.


All candidates must pass two oral examinations administered by the faculty. The preliminary examination should be completed by the end of the second academic year of study and focuses on basic competency in three subfields selected by the student. The qualifying examination should be completed by the end of the fourth academic year of study and is composed of a review of a thesis topic and an examination of a student’s competency in his or her research subfield. Students entering with a Master’s Degree or its equivalent may have the preliminary examination requirement waived subject to the discretion of the Chair.


The thesis is an original piece of research carried out by the candidate under the supervision of a thesis advisor and two other faculty members (one of whom must be from another discipline). The Graduate Division has published guidelinesfor dissertations and theses.

University Registration

Registration is required of all students making any use of University facilities, including access to faculty. A student is required to be registered, or pay the filing fee, whichever is applicable for the semester in which the degree is conferred. To be eligible for filing fee status the student must have been continuously registered since entering (allowing for one year of approved withdrawal), and registered in the term immediately preceding the one in which the Filing Fee is requested. You must register each semester before the end of the third week of classes.

Master's Degree

Students are normally not admitted for the master’s degree only, but may find it worthwhile to add to their record en route to the PhD. Once these requirements have been fulfilled, the student should see the student affairs officer to obtain an Application for Candidacy for the master’s degree.

In order to earn the master's, students are required to pass the preliminary exam and must complete 24 units of upper division and graduate courses, including 12 units of “non-research” (lecture) courses.



Contact Information

Department of Astronomy

501 Campbell Hall

Phone: 510-642-5275

Fax: 510-642-3411

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Department Chair

Jessica Lu

501 Campbell Hall

Graduate Student Affairs Officer

Yasasha Ridel

501D Campbell Hall

Department Manager

Maria Kies

501E Campbell Hall

Phone: 510-643-5040

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