9 December 2019

New Data on 1st-Year Graduate Students in Physics & Astronomy in the US

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) Statistical Research Center (SRC) has just published a report entitled "First-Year Graduate Students in Physics and Astronomy: Characteristics and Background." Prepared by Patrick Mulvey, Anne Marie Porter, and Starr Nicholson, it presents results from the SRC's 2014-15 and 2015-16 graduate student surveys and annual enrollment and degrees surveys.


The number of first-year students enrolled in US physics graduate programs has remained relatively stable in recent years and was around 3,200 students in the 2018-19 academic year. There were 241 first-year graduate students enrolled in US graduate astronomy programs in the 2018-19 academic year. Most first-year graduate students held an undergraduate degree in physics or astronomy and felt well or adequately prepared for their graduate studies. The majority of first-year students were funded with teaching assistantships and received full tuition waivers. Their long-term employment goals varied considerably by both a student’s highest anticipated physics degree and citizenship status.


This report examines the demographics, educational background, financial support, teaching assistant experience, and career goals of first-year graduate students enrolled in physics and astronomy departments in the US. For this report, we define first-year graduate students as individuals who have spent fewer than two years within a department and includes students who may have transferred or previously earned a graduate degree at a different institution. This report frequently compares first-year graduate students enrolled in departments that offer a doctorate (referred to as PhD departments) with students enrolled in departments that offer a master’s as their highest graduate-level degree (referred to as master’s degree–only departments).

Preparedness of 1st-Year Graduate Students


The data presented in this report are drawn from two sources. Data on the number of physics and astronomy students enrolling in US graduate programs come from the annual American Institute of Physics (AIP) departmental Enrollments and Degrees survey and includes enrollment data through the 2018-19 academic year. Data concerning student background and educational experiences come from AIP surveys of first-year physics and astronomy graduate students. First-year students were surveyed in two consecutive academic years, 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Read the Full Report

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