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; galactic structure and dynamics of stellar systems; high-energy astrophysics and cosmology; and star and planet formation.

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.

Visit Department Website


Admission to the University

Minimum Requirements for Admission

The following minimum requirements apply to all graduate programs and will be verified by the Graduate Division:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;
  2. A grade point average of B or better (3.0);
  3. If the applicant has completed a basic degree from a country or political entity (e.g., Quebec) where English is not the official language, adequate proficiency in English to do graduate work, as evidenced by a TOEFL score of at least 90 on the iBT test, 570 on the paper-and-pencil test, or an IELTS Band score of at least 7 on a 9-point scale (note that individual programs may set higher levels for any of these); and
  4. Sufficient undergraduate training to do graduate work in the given field.

Applicants Who Already Hold a Graduate Degree

The Graduate Council views academic degrees not as vocational training certificates, but as evidence of broad training in research methods, independent study, and articulation of learning. Therefore, applicants who already have academic graduate degrees should be able to pursue new subject matter at an advanced level without the need to enroll in a related or similar graduate program.

Programs may consider students for an additional academic master’s or professional master’s degree only if the additional degree is in a distinctly different field.

Applicants admitted to a doctoral program that requires a master’s degree to be earned at Berkeley as a prerequisite (even though the applicant already has a master’s degree from another institution in the same or a closely allied field of study) will be permitted to undertake the second master’s degree, despite the overlap in field.

The Graduate Division will admit students for a second doctoral degree only if they meet the following guidelines:

  1. Applicants with doctoral degrees may be admitted for an additional doctoral degree only if that degree program is in a general area of knowledge distinctly different from the field in which they earned their original degree. For example, a physics PhD could be admitted to a doctoral degree program in music or history; however, a student with a doctoral degree in mathematics would not be permitted to add a PhD in statistics.
  2. Applicants who hold the PhD degree may be admitted to a professional doctorate or professional master’s degree program if there is no duplication of training involved.

Applicants may apply only to one single degree program or one concurrent degree program per admission cycle.

Required Documents for Applications

  1. Transcripts: Applicants may upload unofficial transcripts with your application for the departmental initial review. Unofficial transcripts must contain specific information including the name of the applicant, name of the school, all courses, grades, units, & degree conferral (if applicable). 
  2. Letters of recommendation: Applicants may request online letters of recommendation through the online application system. Hard copies of recommendation letters must be sent directly to the program, by the recommender, not the Graduate Admissions.
  3. Evidence of English language proficiency: All applicants who have completed a basic degree from a country or political entity in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This applies to institutions from Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Latin America, the Middle East, the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, most European countries, and Quebec (Canada). However, applicants who, at the time of application, have already completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better at a US university may submit an official transcript from the US university to fulfill this requirement. The following courses will not fulfill this requirement:

    • courses in English as a Second Language,

    • courses conducted in a language other than English,

    • courses that will be completed after the application is submitted, and

    • courses of a non-academic nature.

Applicants who have previously applied to Berkeley must also submit new test scores that meet the current minimum requirement from one of the standardized tests. Official TOEFL score reports must be sent directly from Educational Test Services (ETS). The institution code for Berkeley is 4833 for Graduate Organizations. Official IELTS score reports must be sent electronically from the testing center to University of California, Berkeley, Graduate Division, Sproul Hall, Rm 318 MC 5900, Berkeley, CA 94720. TOEFL and IELTS score reports are only valid for two years prior to beginning the graduate program at UC Berkeley. Note: score reports can not expire before the month of June.


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, applicants may need to submit scores of the General Record Examinations (GRE). A final decision on this will be made at a later date. If applicable, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) may be required too. Physics Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) are no longer accepted. 

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

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]
Recommended Courses
ASTRON 298Directed Group Study1-4
ASTRON 375Instruction Techniques in General Astronomy2-6

The 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.



Faculty and Instructors

* Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.


Steven Beckwith, Professor. Origins of life, cosmology, star formation, planet formation.
Research Profile

Joshua Bloom, Professor. Machine learning, gamma-ray bursts, supernovae, time-domain astronomy, data-driven discovery.
Research Profile

* Eugene Chiang, Professor. Planetary science, theoretical astrophysics, dynamics, planet formation, circumstellar disks.
Research Profile

Courtney Dressing, Professor. Searching for small, potentially habitable exoplanets orbiting nearby stars, characterizing planet host stars to improve stellar and planetary parameters, Investigating the dependence of planet occurrence on stellar and planetary properties.
Research Profile

* Alexei V. Filippenko, Professor. Supernovae, active galaxies, black holes, gamma-ray bursts, expansion of the universe.
Research Profile

Raymond Jeanloz, Professor. Planetary geophysics, high-pressure physics, national and international security, science-based policy.
Research Profile

Paul Kalas, Adjunct Professor. Planets, astronomy, Telescopes, Science Ethics.
Research Profile

Daniel Kasen, Associate Professor. Theoretical and computational astrophysics.
Research Profile

Richard I. Klein, Adjunct Professor. Astronomy, star formation, interstellar medium, coupled radiation-gas dynamical flows, supernova shockwaves, hydrodynamic collisions, high-energy astrophysics, photon bubble oscillations, hydro dynamics.
Research Profile

Jessica Lu, Associate Professor. Adaptive optics, Astrometry, Black holes, Galactic Centers, Optical/infrared instrumentation, Resolved Stellar Populations, Star and Cluster Formation, The Stellar Initial Mass Function.
Research Profile

Wenbin Lu, Assistant Professor. High-energy astrophysics, compact objects, black holes, time-domain astronomy, gravitational wave sources, fast radio bursts, plasma physics, hydrodynamics.

Chung-Pei Ma, Professor. Astrophysics, dark matter, cosmology, formation and evolution of galaxies, cosmic microwave background radiation.
Research Profile

Raffaella Margutti, Associate Professor. Electromagnetic counterparts to gravitational-wave sources, compact-object mergers, stellar explosions, massive stellar eruptions.

Burkhard Militzer, Associate Professor. Saturn, structure and evolution of Jupiter, and extrasolar giant planets.
Research Profile

Aaron Parsons, Associate Professor. Radio astronomy instrumentation; cosmic reionization; digital signal processing; experimental cosmology; formation and evolution of large-scale cosmic structure (baryon acoustic oscillations and dark energy).
Research Profile

Uros Seljak, Professor. Theoretical, computational and data analysis in astrophysics and cosmology.
Research Profile

Daniel R. Weisz, Associate Professor. Near-field cosmology, galaxies, resolved stellar populations, stellar evolution, star formation, the stellar initial mass function.
Research Profile

Martin White, Professor. Cosmology, formation of structure in the universe, dark energy, expansion of the universe, cosmic microwave background, quasars, redshift surveys.
Research Profile


Gaspard Duchene, Lecturer. Star and planet formation, stellar multiplicity, protoplanetary disks, debris disks, high-angular resolution techniques, radiative transfer modeling in circumstellar disks.
Research Profile

Emeritus Faculty

Jonathan Arons, Professor Emeritus. Astrophysics, compact astrophysical objects, Neutron Stars, ionized plasmas, cosmic rays, magnetized accretion disks, black holes pulsars, magnetic fields, planets.
Research Profile

Gibor Basri, Professor Emeritus. Astronomy, low mass stars, brown dwarfs, star formation, T Tauri stars, stellar magnetic activity, starspots.
Research Profile

Leo Blitz, Professor Emeritus. Astronomy, formation of galaxies, evolution of galaxies, conversion of interstellar gases, milky way, dark matter, dwarf galaxies, interstellar medium, high velocity clouds, hydrogen atom.
Research Profile

C. Stuart Bowyer, Professor Emeritus. Space astrophysics.
Research Profile

Marc Davis, Professor Emeritus. Astronomy, physical cosmology, large scale velocity fields, structure formation in the universe, maps of galactic dust.
Research Profile

Imke De Pater, Professor Emeritus. Radio, planetary science, infrared, observations.
Research Profile

Reinhard Genzel, Professor Emeritus. Physics, existence and formation of black holes in galactic nuclei, the nature of the power source, the evolution of (ultra)luminous infrared galaxies, gas dynamics, the fueling of active galactic nuclei, the properties evolution of starburst galaxies.
Research Profile

James R. Graham, Professor Emeritus. Adaptive optics, infrared instrumentation, large telescopes.
Research Profile

Carl E. Heiles, Professor Emeritus. Astronomy, interstellar medium, itsmorphology, supernovas, interstellar magnetic fields, Eridanus superbubble, interstellar gases.
Research Profile

Christopher F. Mckee, Professor Emeritus. Astrophysics, interstellar medium, formation of stars, astrophysical fluid dynamics, computational astrophysics, astrophysical blast waves, supernova remnants, interstellar shocks.
Research Profile

William J. (Jack) Welch, Professor Emeritus. Formation of stars, dark dust clouds, Michelson interferometer array, and Allen telescope array.
Research Profile

Contact Information

Department of Astronomy

501 Campbell Hall

Phone: 510-642-5275

Fax: 510-642-3411

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Joshua Bloom

501 Campbell Hall

Graduate Student Affairs Officer

Yasasha Ridel

501D Campbell Hall

Department Manager

Maria Kies

501E Campbell Hall

Phone: 510-643-5040

Back to Top