Astrophysics and Astronomy, MS

At the School of Earth and Space Exploration, students in the astrophysics and astronomy master’s degree are working with faculty and researchers to discover new planets, explore cosmology, build space-flight hardware and engineer instruments for telescopes and satellites.

Arizona State University is home to one of the world’s leading centers for observational and theoretical research in astronomy and astrophysics. Our research interests range from the Solar System to stars, to the Milky Way, to the most distant galaxies in the universe, and from computational astrophysics to fundamental questions of astrobiology.

Students in this program have access to a wide variety of telescopes and instruments through the Arizona telescope system, in-house high-performance computing and clean room space through the Laboratory for Astronomical and Space Instrumentation and the ASU Machine Shop, which has produced space-qualified hardware for Mars missions.

Our astrophysics and astronomy MS is one of the few programs in the U.S. to admit students directly to a standalone master’s degree, not requiring application to the PhD program. This two- to three-year degree prepares students for careers in scientific fields, such as scientific staff positions at government laboratories, teaching at the community college level and technical positions in industry. It also prepares students for further graduate study.

Graduate students in astrophysics and astronomy become part of our NASA- and NSF-funded space missions, studying the origins of the universe and the history of star formation. We are seeking to answer the most significant questions about how our universe began and how it continues to evolve.

50 Tenure/Tenure Track Faculty
40 Labs and Research Facilities
2-3 Years to Degree

Degree Overview

The MS program provides fundamental graduate training in astrophysics and astronomy. The research-based degree requires 30 credit hours, including a wide-range of elective offerings, and a written thesis with an oral defense. The ideal candidate will have an interest in stars and astrophysics, discovering planets in other solar systems, or cosmology.

How to apply

The majority of SESE’s admissions are for the fall semester. Spring admissions occur under special circumstances. Graduate admission to SESE consists of the following application dates for full consideration of funding and campus recruitment activities. Applications are encouraged before these dates. Applications received after these dates will still be considered, but generally at a lower priority for funding and visitation.

January 15 of the current year for fall admission
October 1 of the previous year for spring admission

To be eligible for admission to SESE’s graduate program applicants must:

  • have a bachelor’s degree
  • have at least a 3.0 GPA
  • demonstrate English proficiency via the TOEFL or IELTS, if necessary. More information regarding English proficiency and required scores can be found at

Most applicants will have a degree in an area related to the graduate degree they are seeking, although this is not a requirement. 

Click here to learn more about how to apply


The School of Earth and Space Exploration is committed to high-impact scientific discovery. Our astronomy and astrophysics faculty are leaders in their fields, offering unique research opportunities and access to world-class facilities.

— Patrick Young, Professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration


To earn the astrophysics and astronomy master’s degree, students must complete 30 hours at the graduate level, including a written thesis. Students must take two core courses, 20 hours of courses on stars and interstellar medium, galaxies and cosmology and astrophysics, and one elective course.

Requirements and electivesCredit hours
Core courses1
Electives or research3
Other requirements20
Culminating experience6
Total hours required30

Additional Curricular Information
For other requirement courses, substitutions may be made per department approval.

Courses and electives

The astrophysics and astronomy degree employs a research-based model and requires a written thesis. Students are able to customize their elective course and are required to submit a plan of study that details their selections after conferring with the supervisory committee. All students admitted to this program are also required to take two core courses, each earning 1 credit hour.

SES 502 Exploring SESE Research (1 credit hour)

Students can take any 500+ level course with GLG, SES, or AST prefixes. Students should work with their faculty advisor to select courses that work best for their program of study. A full list of electives is available here. Course offerings may vary by instructor availability. Students are encouraged to work with their advisor or refer to the class search for semester offerings.

AST 521 Stars and Interstellar Medium I (3 credit hours)
AST 522 Stars and Interstellar Medium II (3 credit hours)
AST 523 Stars and Interstellar Medium III (3 credit hours)
AST 531 Galaxies and Cosmology I (3 credit hours)
AST 532 Galaxies and Cosmology II (3 credit hours)
AST 533 Galaxies and Cosmology III (3 credit hours)
AST 591 Astrophysics Seminar (1 credit hour)
SES 501 SESE Colloquium (1 credit hour)

SES 599 Thesis (6 credit hours)

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