Guide to Preparing Students for Graduate School in Physics and Related Fields

Version 1. October 24, 2022

This section provides recommendations for how physics programs can educate their undergraduate students about and prepare them for a variety of graduate programs, including doctoral programs and master’s programs in physics or related STEM fields. While this section focuses on STEM, much of the guidance in this section may also be relevant for preparing students for graduate school in other fields. The sections on High School Physics Teacher Preparation and Career Preparation provide more detailed and specific guidance on preparing students for teaching careers and other careers. See the section on Dual-Degree Programs for information about creating, maintaining, and recruiting students into dual-degree programs, e.g., 4+1 or 3+2 programs, that are hosted at your institution or in partnership with another institution.


Many physics students pursue graduate studies, yet preparation for graduate school often falls into the “hidden curriculum” that programs assume students already know or will pick up on their own. Making graduate school preparation an explicit part of your curriculum can help ensure that all your students have the same access to opportunities as those students who have learned about graduate school elsewhere, and as students in other programs that already prepare their students for graduate school. Deliberately preparing students for graduate school in a variety of fields can support equity by enhancing the potential for students, particularly those from

, to attend, persist at, and succeed in graduate school. The practices in this section can help your department improve recruiting and retention in both undergraduate and graduate programs. Improved graduate outcomes can also help your institution recruit students, meet accreditation requirements, and strengthen alumni connections.

Effective Practices

  1. Support students in the admissions process

  2. Help students develop skills for success in graduate school

  3. Support all your students in developing a sense of belonging and identity as potential graduate students

Programmatic Assessments

The Cycle of Reflection and Action

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 1738311, 1747563, and 1821372. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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