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. Students 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.


To demonstrate English proficiency, international applicants may take: the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the Duolingo English Test, Pearson Test of English (Academic), or Cambridge CPE or CAE. Official test results must be sent directly to the University of New Mexico. (The ETS school code for the University of New Mexico is 4845.)  The test must have been taken within the last 2 years.  You can enter your score on your application as a part of the graduate committee review and if the department makes you an offer of admission and you accept, then UNM International Admissions will require ETS to submit the official scoring document in order to be admitted to UNM.  UNM International Admissions will automatically reject an applicant a score not meeting the minimum score requirement.

English Language Requirements regarding minimal scores, exceptions, and conditional admission can be found at the Global Education Office site

Detailed Admission Criteria: Domestic Applicants / International Applicants


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.

REGARDING TRANSFERRING GRADUATE CREDITS:  Once a student is accepted in our program, on petition of the student, we will evaluate if any previous graduate level classes taken at other institutions will satisfy any of our course requirements. The student must have earned a grade of "B" or better in the courses for which transfer credit hours are requested. Courses taken on a Pass/Fail basis and/or courses taken as extension credit at other universities are not accepted for graduate credit at the University of New Mexico.  The number of transfer and/or applied (including non-degree) credit hours used toward a program may not exceed fifty percent of the required coursework for the degree. 

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 are not 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.

The Fall 2021 application fee is as follows: $60 / domestic students -- $70 / international students


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 then awarded is Physics (MS or PhD) with a concentration in Astrophysics. 


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.