PhD program

The PhD program is designed to provide students with a broad experimental, observational, and/or theoretical foundation for successful careers as scientists. They become prepared for careers in teaching, research, and work in industry. Study includes formal course work, participation in teaching, and attending colloquia and seminars. The PhD degree requires the design and completion of an original research project. The results of the research must be presented in a written dissertation and defended in an oral examination.

The rate of progress of individual students depends on many factors, including previous preparation, how well the subject matter is mastered, the field of specialization, the type of financial support, and the rate at which a research project progresses. The MS degree typically is completed in slightly more than one calendar year. Although some students have completed the PhD in just four years, most students require more than four years. The average time to receive a degree, based on recent PhD graduates in the department over the past five years, was 6.1 years.


View departmental policies on expected progress towards degree.


The requirements for the Master of Science (MS) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees as described supersede all previous versions. University requirements are described in detail in the University of Pittsburgh Graduate and Professional Bulletin which is available under Bulletins/Courses

The graduate degrees offered by the Department of Physics and Astronomy are PhD in Physics.

Normal Progression Beyond the Comprehensive Examination

The majority of the students admitted to our PhD program now satisfy all of the requirements for passing the Comprehensive Examination by the end of their first year.  All of them must do so by the end of their second year.  The Appendix describes in detail the benchmarks that our PhD students must achieve after passing the Comprehensive Examination, and the time scale they are expected to adhere to in order to make satisfactory progress towards the completion of their degree objective.

Individual Development Plan

The Individual Development Plan (IDP) helps students be intentional about setting goals and planning for a career while in graduate school. It also supports students in assessing individual skill sets relative to career goals and documenting progress in acquiring both the depth of research and breadth of other skills sought by employers.