Steps Toward Grad School

If you decide that you want to go to grad school in physics, astronomy, or a closely related field, you may be required to take one or more of the Graduate Record Exams.
While physics graduates tend to do very well in the general GRE, the subject test in physics is difficult. It consists of 100 multiple choice questions which must be answered in 170 minutes. The Educational Testing service has posted one sample test (2.9 MB), and Prof. Gergely T. Zimanyi at UC Davis has posted the same (GR177) plus three more. You may wish to take the test twice. Take it for practice in April of the year before your senior year. You may have the score cancelled so it does not go on your record, if you do so at the end of the test. You will then be better prepared to take the test and have it count during your senior year.

In the fall of your senior year choose some departments — perhaps as many as 20 — to investigate. There are at least two ways to do this:
You can explore hundreds of graduate programs on the web. There is a worldwide list of physics and astronomy departments at PhysLink. Another rather complete source for the U.S. is Shortcuts to Departments of Physics, Engineering, and Mathematics provided by Waubonsee Community College. The American Institute of Physics provides a guide to graduate programs in physics and related fields. Note that you can leave some fields blank if you don’t want to specify the state or specialty.

There are many astronomy departments on the web. You can learn a lot about what departments are doing from the Annual Reports of Astronomical Observatories and Departments published in the Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society Unfortunately, these were discontinued in 2006.

There are sites providing information about and links to programs in medical physics and in biological physics. A number of optical science programs are on a list maintained by the Optical Society of America and the International Society for Optical Engineering, while the Acoustic Society of America lists programs in acoustics and sound. See the Mathematics Department Web for math programs.

The American Society for Engineering Education maintains information on engineering programs, including undergraduate programs. The Engineering Education Service Center maintains a list of colleges of engineering. The Computing Research Association lists departments of computer science and computer engineering.

The American Meteorological Society maintains a list of degree programs in the atmospheric, oceanic, hydrologic, and related sciences as well as an online booklet, careers in atmospheric research and applied meteorology. Also valuable is a list of oceanography sites.

Western Washington University provides a list of environment graduate programs.

Previous page Next page