Skip to main content

Ph.D. in Physics Admissions

Our physics Ph.D. program trains students who want to push forward the boundaries of knowledge about the universe to become leaders in discovery. Our students build a strong foundation of technical expertise through coursework, hone their communication skills through professional development opportunities, and strengthen their critical thinking by conducting original research with one of our world-class research teams. These teams specialize in theoretical, computational, and experimental approaches to a wide range of topics: cosmology and general relativity; high-energy particle physics; relativistic heavy ion collisions and high-energy nuclear physics; nuclear structure and dynamics; biological physics; and the physics of materials, optics, and quantum systems. We offer a friendly, welcoming, and inclusive environment where students are treated as colleagues.

The physics Ph.D. program is ideally suited for students who would like to pursue a career in research and development–whether that is in academia, industry, national labs and government agencies, or among the ever-growing opportunities in tech startups. Most alumni first take on a postdoctoral research post after graduation; however, a wide range of career paths is possible, with recent graduates finding positions in investment banking, software engineering, business analytics, and consulting.

We are looking for motivated students who have a passion for original research and want to shape the future of physics. Graduate admissions are highly selective, but we are committed to attracting the widest possible range of talents.

Students receive:

  • A five-year package of support with a full tuition waiver
  • Health insurance coverage
  • Competitive stipends (currently $36,500 per year)
  • A paid-for visit to campus before accepting our offer (domestic students only). Vanderbilt is located in the midtown section of Nashville, Tennessee–one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. A visit is certainly the best way to experience Nashville’s vitality, our department’s welcoming spirit, and learn about our faculty’s state-of-the-art research programs

We hope you’ll consider joining us for the next step on your educational journey.

Applying to the Program

Applications for fall 2024 open on August 1, 2024 and must be submitted through the Graduate School Application Portal. The application deadline is January 15.

Strong applications to the physics Ph.D. program include:

  • The student’s academic record from prior institutions
  • A statement of purpose that details the student’s interests in graduate school and beyond
  • Three or more reference letters that provide insight into an applicant’s prior experience, motivation for graduate school, and aptitude for research.

GRE scores are not required. For questions about the Ph.D. program or the application process, please contact our Program Coordinator, Don Pickert.

Application checklist

  • Start your admissions application online.
  • Compose and submit a statement of purpose (1000-2000 words). We want to know about your motivations and your research interests.
  • Request three letters of recommendation. Do this early to give your recommenders plenty of time to send in their letters.
  • Order official transcripts of grades from all institutions that you have attended.
  • Do not submit GRE scores (General nor Subject). They are not required and will not be considered.
  • If you are an international student, submit your TOEFL score (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTS or Duolingo score. Note that Vanderbilt requires a minimum TOEFL score of 570 on the paper-based test or 88 on the computer-based test, 6.5 on IELTS or 120 on Duolingo.
    The TOEFL/IELTS/Duolingo requirement may be waived for those international applicants who have a degree from an English-speaking institution.
    If you’ve received an undergraduate degree from a college or university where English is the primary language of instruction, and if you’ve studied in residence at that institution for at least 3 years, you’re exempt from the English language test requirement and are not required to submit a language test score. You should provide us with a letter from your college or university stating that and add that to your application file.
  • If you meet the Graduate School’s eligibility criteria, apply for an application fee waiver*.
  • Finalize and submit your entire application by January 15, 2025.

*Note that a small number of additional waivers will be granted at the discretion of the department based on recruitment priorities and extenuating circumstances. You may request an application fee waiver directly from the department only after you have submitted your application and confirmed that a fee is due (i.e., that you are not eligible for a waiver from the Graduate School). To request a fee waiver, please email the Director of Graduate Studies for Physics, Alfredo Gurrola.


Financial Aid                        Plan Your Ph.D.                          Apply Now