Astrophysics, PhD

At the School of Earth and Space Exploration, students in the astrophysics PhD degree program are working with faculty and researchers to discover new planets, trace the evolution of stars and galaxies, explore the origin and development of the universe, build space-flight hardware, and design instruments for telescopes and satellites.

Arizona State University is home to one of the world’s leading centers for observational and theoretical research in 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.

Graduate students in astrophysics work with faculty who are leaders in observational and theoretical research and become part of our NASA- and NSF-funded space missions, studying topics such as how stars are born and die, how galaxies interact and evolve, and how the universe changed as it developed from its beginnings.

In bringing together the brightest minds in astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, and planetary sciences, we are seeking to answer the most significant questions about our universe.

50 Tenure/Tenure Track Faculty
40 Labs and Research Facilities
4-5 Years to Degree

Degree Overview

The PhD program in astrophysics is designed to develop creative scholarship and prepare students for professional careers in astrophysics, astronomy, or related fields. The degree requires 84 credit hours, a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus, and a dissertation.

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. We ask important questions with deep consequences as we explore the great unknowns of our Earth, our solar system, and the universe beyond.

- Lindy Elkins Tanton, Director


To earn the astrophysics PhD degree, students must complete 84 credit hours at the graduate level, a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus, and a dissertation. Students must take one core course, 19 credit hours of courses on stars and interstellar medium, galaxies and cosmology, and astrophysics, one credit hour of colloquium, 51 credit hours in elective courses or research, and 12 credit hours of culminating experience (dissertation).

Requirements and electivesCredit hours
Core courses1
Electives or research51
Other requirements20
Culminating experience12
Total hours required84

Additional Curriculum Information
When approved by the student's supervisory committee and the Graduate College, this program allows 30 credit hours from a previously awarded master's degree in a related field to be used for this degree.

Courses and electives

The astrophysics PhD degree uses a research-based model and requires a written thesis and an oral defense after completion of a comprehensive examination. A minimum of 84 credit hours is required for the degree. Students submit a plan of study that details their elective course selections after conferring with the supervisory committee. All students admitted to this program are also required to take one core course and one colloquium course, 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 799 Dissertation (12 credit hours)