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One employment option for Physics majors is graduate school. You can attend graduate school in Physics or any one of a number of subfields in Physics. You can attend graduate school in other disciplines too. Many of our majors have gone on to study Physics in graduate school. Some of our recent grads have found themselves at excellent schools such as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Washington University, University of Chicago and Michigan State University. Other graduates have gone on to study different topics such as meteorology and geology.

It is never too late to start planning for graduate school. Good grades are important to make yourself a promising candidate. Undergraduate research with a faculty member is also something that should be a part of your package. Presentations at a regional or national meeting are always a good thing and a publication in a journal is a great way to set yourself apart from the competition. Leadership roles, professional societies, honorary societies, and academic awards are all good things to strive for during your undergraduate career.

You must take the Graduate Record Exam or GRE and include the scores as a part of your application.

Finally you must apply to graduate schools. This process will be somewhat similar to the process of applying to college from high school. Just like colleges and universities differ, not all graduate schools are the same. Some are large, some are small, some have many areas of specialty while some have only one or two available.

The quality of education that you receive in graduate school depends strongly on the faculty there. And choosing your graduate advisor will be the most important decision of your entire graduate career. You will want to take many issues into consideration as you decide upon a graduate school. The grad school shopper might be able to help you decide. You can also get a hard copy of a Comparison of Graduate Programs in Physics and Astronomy from the SPS Advisor.

Financial Support

Most graduate schools offer teaching assistantships (TA) or research assistantships (RA) to students. The TA and RA pays for tuition and living expenses. Typically, graduate schools offer a TA or an RA only to students that have been accepted for admissions. A TA or an RA comes with some responsibility, usually about 20 hours per week is expected. Teaching in a lab or problem session is common for a TA while an RA often begins the research that will eventually become their thesis topic.

A third type of funding for graduate school is the fellowship which usually comes with no teaching or research responsibilities. Some graduate schools offer fellowships to select students. There are national organizations that also offer fellowships and those can be used anywhere. You will need to apply for fellowships and the following links will start you on that process:

National Science Foundation Fellowships
John and Fannie Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship
National Physical Science Consortium Fellowship (women and minorities only)