Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions regarding the UNM Physics and Astronomy Department graduate application process.

NOTE:  You must have an undergraduate degree in physics or its related field to enter the M.S. or the Ph.D. programs in Physics. Your undergraduate curriculum must have included upper-division courses in statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, and classical mechanics.


There is a minimum score for TOEFL of 79 and 6.5 for IELTS but no minimum scores set for general and Physics GRE.  You must have earned a minimum of a 3.0 GPA  (on a U.S. 4.0 scale) or comparable grade point average in upper-division (junior and senior level) work and in any graduate work already completed. The Graduate Admissions Committee evaluates applications on the basis of combined grades, GRE's, letters of recommendation, and statement of intent.  We try to select students who seem to be a good fit with our program; therefore, we are unable to state the likelihood of being admitted based on emails submitted with your scores, grades and/or CV.

Detailed Admission Criteria: Domestic Applicants / International Applicants



The committee will not review your application unless both the general GRE and Physics subject GRE score are listed on the application (plus the TOEFL or IELTS if you are an international applicant).  Your scores must have been taken within the last two years. You can enter your scores on your application for the committee to review and make a decision of whether to offer admission. If the department makes you an offer of admission and you accept, the GRE scores and TOEFL or IELTS must be sent from ETS electronically to UNM Admissions using institution code 4845 (no department code is necessary).  There is a minimum score for TOEFL of 79 and 6.5 for IELTS but no minimum scores set for GRE.  UNM Admissions will automatically reject an applicant with a TOEFL or IELTS score not meeting the minimum. English Language Requirements regarding minimal scores, exceptions, and conditional admission can be found at the Global Education Office site.


You are to upload transcripts in the application for the Physics graduate committee to review. If you submit an official electronic transcript that your institution sent directly to you, rather than to UNM Admissions, you will be required to have them send the original electronic transcript to Admissions if you accept the committee's offer of admission. If you are sending a foreign language transcript, you must submit it in both the original language form and in English and it must be verified by your university registrar, if you accept the committee's offer of admission.  If you are unable to send your one original degree, you may take it to your university registrar to copy; have them sign the copy, verifying that it is a copy of the original.  Admissions will accept the copy of the original with the registrar's signature.  UNM does not have a preference of agencies that translate but you must make sure that the translations are stamped by the university registrar and not just stamped by the translator.  Both native language and English transcripts must be stamped or verified by the university registrar.

ORIGINALS: Admissions office sends an automatic response letter to all applicants requesting official transcripts and scores; despite the fact that a new electronic application system was put in place enabling applicants to submit transcripts/required materials/scores within the application so that the department graduate committees can review applications sooner without having to wait for required materials to be submitted.  Unfortunately, this incurs undue confusion for the applicant who is receiving 2 different responses from Admissions and from the individual department.   For this particular department, the unofficial documents are fine for the committee to review and make their decision of admittance to the graduate program. 

You will not be required to submit original scores and transcripts unless you receive an offer of admission and accept it. 


The department accepts applicants for admission beginning in the Spring semester. 

  • If you are seeking an assistantship or you are an international applicant, the deadline for applications is August 1st. 
  • If you are a U.S. applicant, and are not requesting an assistantship, the deadline is October 1st.


The University's graduate application fee may be waived for domestic applicants who are affiliated with the certain programs or in limited cases of financial hardship. Check the Office of Graduate Studies for information on the Fee Waiver Request. International students must pay the application fee.


Ultimate decisions regarding admission offers and financial aid (in the form of Teaching/Research Assistantships) are made by the department's Graduate Selection Committees.  Depending upon budgetary restrictions, we provide TAs for up to two years pending continued satisfactory performance of teaching/grading duties.  After the first two years, students typically find employment as Research Assistants (RAs) with one of our faculty. What is expected in the TA letter?  A short statement of interest in an assistantship including any previous experience you may have in the classroom or labs regarding teaching or grading.


Applying for a PhD directly is best since those accepted into the PhD program usually receive up to 2 years of a teaching assistantship.  Usually, entering graduate students seeking a MS are not awarded an assistantship.


The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers a graduate degree, either MS or PhD, in Physics.  However, you can take a concentration of Astronomy courses and complete your dissertation or thesis in the field of Astronomy.  The degree is still in Physics and you must complete the required core Physics courses.  If you score below 800 on the Physics GRE, you must pass the preliminary exams at the appropriate level for a MS or PhD, regardless of your concentration.


Applicants who are not admitted should not assume that they are "less competitive" in any absolute sense.  The Graduate Admissions Committee evaluates the students on the basis of their grades, GRE's, letters of recommendation, and statement of intent.  We try to select students who seem to be a good fit with our program.  We do not provide statistics on average tests scores of applicants, the number of applicants, or the number of acceptances or declines.
Students who are rejected will not be reconsidered for admission for a period of 2 years by the Physics Department graduate committee unless further education or research experience has been obtained within that timeframe.