Graduate Study at Columbia

Located in New York City, Columbia University offers a graduate program in astronomy and astrophysics designed to educate creative and independent scientists with a primary focus on the development of research skills. Our community includes faculty, researchers, and students in Astrophysics and Astronomy at Columbia, Barnard College, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and the American Museum of Natural History pursuing a wide range of theoretical, observational, and experimental research.

The graduate program for the Ph.D. is designed to foster the intellectual and professional development of our students. To this end, graduate students are fully integrated into our departmental activities.

Research Projects

The primary goal of the program is to cultivate the ability to perform independent academic research. Shortly after arrival on campus, incoming students choose a faculty-guided research project, and in the first two years work with two different faculty members in distinct areas of astronomy.

The culmination of the two years of preparation comes in the form of a dissertation proposal presented before a committee in the third year. The remaining part of the graduate student's career is devoted to completing a seminal work of original research.

Teaching and Outreach

Another important part of the Columbia Astronomy Department's graduate school education is the development of teaching skills. After a year of apprenticeship, graduate students in their second year may design and teach their own introductory astronomy lab for undergraduates.

Additionally, graduate students may choose to become involved with our outreach programs, or with education and exhibitions at the American Museum of Natural History.

Mitigating barriers to an application

While we require the Physics GRE as one part of our evaluation process, we have never applied a threshold score and encourage all who are interested in our program to apply. Furthermore, we recognize that the cost of taking the GRE, coupled with university application fees, can pose a significant financial burden for some applicants. For U.S. applicants eligible for the ETS waiver, or those who currently hold a Pell grant, the Astronomy Department will provide a reimbursement to cover up to the cost of one full exam for those students who pledge to apply to Columbia. If you are not eligible through these criteria but require financial assistance, you must write a brief letter describing your situation to the Chair. We would also like to emphasize that we accept self-reported Physics GRE scores, and do not require an official report from ETS (further reducing cost).

Furthermore, the Columbia Graduate School of Arts and Sciences supports a program offering waivers of its application fee if payment is a barrier to an application. For US students and permanent residents currently enrolled in an undergraduate program, see here. For others (international students, those not currently enrolled as a student, etc.), scroll to the bottom of that page and follow the Extenuating Circumstances Fee Waiver instructions.


We are proud to report that several of our recently graduated students have gone on to earn prestigious postdoctoral fellowships (including the Hubble, Sagan, Chandra, and Einstein Fellowships) and that many of our alumni hold permanent positions at top research institutions world-wide. [ Details » ]

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