Admissions Criteria and Process


Admission to Physics Ph.D. program at Duke University is based on a number of factors. These include recommendation letters, personal statement, research experience, course grades (especially those in physics courses), overall quality of applicant's undergraduate record, overlap of student research interests with Duke research areas and TOEFL scores (where applicable). When provided, GRE scores (general and subject) are considered as well. Duke Physics is actively committed to enhancing the representation underrepresented groups in all aspects of the department. Students from underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply to our Ph.D. program.

Physics Background

Applicants for admission are normally expected to have completed an undergraduate degree with a major in physics, or in a related field with a concentration in physics by the time they are admitted to the graduate program. Undergraduate courses in general physics, modern physics ( at the level of,  e.g., Bernstein, Fishbane and Gasiorowicz), mechanics (at the level of Marion and Thornton), electromagnetism (at the level of Griffiths), quantum mechanics (at the level of Griffiths)  and thermal physics (at the level of Schroeder) are assumed, in addition to appropriate mathematical training (i.e., linear algebra and differential equations). It is expected that the applicant's grade average in physics and mathematics will be at the B level or above. Students lacking one or more of the important undergraduate courses will typically be advised to remedy such gaps through self-study or by enrolling in the corresponding courses at Duke. If you have any questions about the background expected of an incoming graduate student, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).

Standardized Tests

For the 2022-23 application season, both general and subject GRE scores are optional. Not providing a score will not impact your application package negatively. The use of GRE scores in future years is currently being considered. While there are no acceptable minimum scores, matriculating students average 159 in verbal, about 166 in quantitative and 3.5 in writing. The GRE Physics is recommended but not required. Matriculating students typically receive a score of 700 or above. Students from non-English speaking countries are required to demonstrate proficiency in English via the TOEFL exam; the minimum acceptable score is 90 (internet-based test), or a minimum IELTS score of 7.0.

Field of Research Interest

In their statement of purpose, applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss the field of their research interests and mention the names of Physics Faculty under whose direction they wish to work. Applicants are also encouraged to contact faculty with whom they might work to learn more about research opportunities in the respective groups. Applicants who are undecided should clearly state this in their statements. The availability of positions and funding in different research groups may limit the number of students that can be admitted in a particular research area.


In order to receive full consideration, all application materials (including the letters of recommendation) should be received by December 13. Late applications may be submitted until January 1. For students who submit after the December 13 deadline, it may be helpful to notify the Physics Administrative Coordinator for Graduate Studies so that the committee can be made aware of the delay.

Review Process

A student is officially admitted to the program by the Dean of the Graduate School upon recommendation of the Department. Based on the decisions of the departmental Graduate Admissions Committee (GAC), the Director of Graduate Studies makes these recommendations to the Dean. The GAC is composed of about 6 (or more) Physics Faculty members representing the different research areas within the Department. In addition to reviewing the entire application carefully, the GAC also requests input from the entire Physics Faculty before making decisions. Applicants are encouraged to provide the names of one or more Physics Faculty with whom they might carry out graduate research as well as those with whom they have corresponded. The first round of admissions decisions is usually completed by mid-February.

Incomplete Applications

A complete application must include three letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions attended, GRE scores (when required), TOEFL scores (if applicable), Curriculum Vitae including a list of research publications (if any). If required materials are missing, the application is considered incomplete and is usually not processed further. However, the departmental Graduate Admissions Committee may at its discretion, consider exceptional applications with missing materials. Please follow the instructions given by the Graduate School Admissions Office.


Various statistical data relating to admission to the Duke Physics Ph.d. program over the past several years is available here.