The Astronomy Ph.D. Program

The goal of the UW-Madison Astronomy Graduate Program is to prepare capable and creative astronomers for careers in research and education. The granting of a Ph.D. degree indicates that the recipient has a mastery of the knowledge and techniques of modern astrophysics. In addition, the recipient is expected to be familiar with problems that are at the frontiers of astrophysical research.

More generally, and most importantly, a successful Ph.D. is proof that a person can identify an interesting problem, set about solving it, in the process acquiring the necessary skills and tools, and to make a significant contribution to a field in a largely self-directed and self-motivated way, under the general guidance of a Ph.D. advisor. This is the skill that sets Ph.D. students apart.

If you accept the challenges of a Ph.D., you will find a welcoming and inspiring work environment at the UW-Madison Astronomy Department that will allow you to achieve these goals.

Why UW?

The University of Wisconsin–Madison awarded the second highest number of Ph.D.s overall and the most life sciences Ph.D.s of any U.S. university in 2016, according to the Survey of Earned Doctorates, a national project that collects annual data on doctoral graduates. The UW–Madison Graduate School conferred 823 doctoral degrees in 2016. The year before, the UW ranked third, with 836 recipients.

“The high number of Ph.D. degrees awarded is a result of multiple factors,” says William Karpus, dean of the Graduate School. “First, UW–Madison has breadth and depth in terms of graduate programs. Second, the outstanding UW–Madison faculty-driven research enterprise is an attraction for top graduate students from across the world. Finally, the combination of graduate student tenacity and faculty mentoring plays a significant role in the creative process necessary to bring research projects to fruition.”

Ph.D. recipients from UW–Madison go on to pursue a variety of career opportunities across education, government, nonprofits and the private sector.

In the Graduate School’s exit survey, over 70 percent of UW–Madison doctoral students report securing employment by the time they complete their degree, surpassing the national average of 62 percent. Nearly 90 percent of students employed at the time of graduation also report gaining a position in the field of their doctoral training.

Of UW–Madison doctoral students who reported post-graduation employment, 23.9 percent said they had a tenure-track faculty position and 15.3 percent reported a faculty non-tenure-track position. In some disciplines, students work as postdoctoral researchers before securing tenure-track appointments. About 40 percent of UW–Madison graduates take postdoc positions after graduation.

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