Students entering the Master’s and Doctor’s programs in Astronomy are expected to have a sound background in undergraduate physics. Previous training in astronomy is helpful but not required.
The candidate for a Master’s degree generally takes a normal course load during the first year. The second year is devoted principally to either research directed toward a thesis or advanced course work. The requirements for the M.S. degree follow the guidelines of the Graduate School. A total of 30 graduate credits are required. Of the 30 credits, no more than 10 may be thesis or independent study. For an M.S. based on course work only, 21 credits must be in astronomy or closely related physics courses, at least 12 of which must be in 600-800 level astronomy courses. At least 2 of the astronomy core courses must be taken (Astronomy 650, 643, 741 and 748). Other courses outside of Astronomy may sometimes be counted, with the permission of the Department.
Currently the Department of Astronomy only accepts candidates for the Ph.D. program, and the master's degree is obtained enroute to the Ph.D. degree.
Each university in the Unites States of America sets its own admission standards so there isn't the same criteria for all the students and the university can decide which applicants meet those standards. The fee for each application is between $35 to $100.
After the selections of the universities you want to attend, the best of all would be to contact each university for an application form and more admission information for the international students. Moreover, for a graduate or postgraduate program it's necessary to verify the admission requirements. Some programs require that you send your application directly to their department.
Admissions decisions are based on students's academic record and different test scores, such as TOEFL, the SAT or ACT (for undergraduate programs) and GRE or GMAT (for graduate programs). Admission decision is based on your academic results and motivation.
The University does not award student funding of any kind unless this is explicitly stated in writing by the graduate department to which the applicant has applied. Assistance in the form of a teaching or research assistantship is becoming increasingly limited. Tuition scholarships and fellowships are few and are not usually awarded during the first year of attendance, before the student has an academic performance record at the University itself. All applicants should plan on being self-financed, without recourse to part-time employment at the University, at least through the first academic year, unless they have specifically been offered some form of assistance by the department. Recommendations from the student's academic program play an important part in determining who will be awarded these waivers of tuition, and competition for the tuition scholarships is great. Those incoming graduate students who have not received any other type of financial assistance and who are interested in applying for a tuition waiver should contact their department directly. Applicants should be aware that the competition for new student tuition waivers is intense. Very few waivers are granted to new students and the few that are granted, are based only on departmental recommendations.
The University offers a number of teaching and research assistantships in the instructional and research programs of various departments. Stipends vary greatly from as little as $5,000 for a half assistantship to $16,000 for a full assistantship for the calendar year. International applicants who are awarded assistantships, and who have no supplemental means of support, must make sure that the assistantship is adequate to meet their minimum financial needs, refer to Estimate of Expenses. Graduate assistants are not required to pay tuition charges provided their stipend is $5,000 or higher ($ 2,500 is the minimum for a one semester waiver of tuition and most fees). Assistantships are awarded for a maximum of one academic year at a time. A graduate assistantship is not a scholarship, and a full assistantship requires a work contribution by the student averaging 20 hours per week, and Federal and State income taxes will be withheld from earnings.
A number of research assistantships, with no teaching duties, are available to qualified graduate students in various departments. Funds are provided by either private industry, the U.S. Government (especially in agriculture, engineering, and the sciences), or by the University itself.
Many departments offer teaching assistantships to qualified, enrolled graduate students. International applicants are eligible for these assistantships. Since teaching assistantships involve instruction, all incoming students who have been awarded a teaching assistantship and whose native language is not English must demonstrate oral English proficiency, either by passing the Test of Spoken English administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) before their arrival on campus at their own expense or by passing the SPEAK test upon arrival at no cost to the student. In order to pass the TSE or SPEAK test, students must score 50 or above.
These Fellowships are awarded to graduate students on a very competitive basis and are intended to help superior students pursue graduate study without a work requirement and obtain a degree in the minimum possible time. They are normally awarded only after a graduate student has completed two semesters at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. A University Fellowship is for only one year. A tuition waiver accompanies a University Fellowship, and no service is required.