While pursuing your graduate studies in physics, you will be provided with a yearly stipend and with an opportunity for well paid teaching work. This stipend is not a "salary" in the traditional sense, because the most valuable parts of your graduate studies are the training and experience you are receiving, not the financial income. Instead, the intent of a stipend is to allow you to focus on your research without the distraction of additional employment to pay for housing, tuition, etc. The stipend amount increases yearly; the amounts listed on this page apply for the current academic year only.
The estimated support levels for physics graduate students in their first five years is summarized on this page. The university-wide paradigm of graduate-student funding is described at this Faculty of Arts & Science page, although support levels vary from department to department. The bottom line is that after paying tuition, you are guaranteed a basic amount for five years of graduate studies. One month before the term begins, each registered graduate student in this guaranteed-funding cohort will receive a personalized email outlining the sources of their financial package.
During their pursuit of an MSc or PhD degree, most graduate students work as Teaching Assistants in an undergraduate or graduate course offered by the Department of Physics. Available Teaching Assistant positions are Tutor (tutorial), Demonstrator (laboratory), Practical Leader (special activities in some undergraduate service courses), or Marker. On some infrequent occasions, students teach in adjacent departments, such as Mathematics. Students are guaranteed a certain number of teaching hours according to their funding package. Students with competitive scholarships, such as OGS on NSERC, may teach fewer hours, although they are not required to. Students in their fifth year may choose not to teach as they have additional funding through the Program Level Fellowship (PLF), although they are permitted to. First year students typically teach the first year Physics Practicals (PHY131-132 or PHY151-152), although they have more freedom in subsequent appointments. Students apply each year online. While it can't be guaranteed, it's likely that students who apply for their previous position will get it. Students seeking an alternate appointment are offered positions based on qualifications of the applicant, suitability for the position, preferences expressed in their online TA account, as well as the needs of the Department. Students are also guaranteed the maximum number of hours they taught in their first two years of their PhD (excluding a possible MSc year). This means that some students teach slightly more than the minimum listed in their funding package. These guarantees and employment conditions are governed by the Collective Agreement between the Teaching Assistants’ Union (CUPE 3902 Unit 1) and the University of Toronto.
Teaching Assistantships offer financial support as well as development of communication and interpersonal skills that will serve well in almost any future career. The Department places great importance on the quality of its undergraduate teaching. Many of its faculty have received university-wide teaching awards, and several have received provincial and national acknowledgement for their contributions to higher education. The teaching contributions of its graduate students have been a vital component in maintaining this excellent reputation, and each year several of our best TAs receive a Van Kranendonk Teaching Award. Introductory training sessions are offered to starting TAs, and faculty instructors provide ongoing direction throughout the year in each course.
Physics graduate students are expected to apply for any external graduate scholarships for which they are eligible. These are NSERC scholarships – Doctoral (Vanier, PGSD, or CGSD), and Master (CGSM) – and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS). The Vanier scholarship requires additional materials and the departmental deadline is earlier than the other two doctoral scholarships. Doctoral scholarships are typically for three years that can be held while you are in the funded-cohort (first five years in the MSc or PhD program). You can apply to the CGSM either as an undergraduate or 1st year MSc student. First-year student in the Direct-Entry PhD program is also eligible for the CGSM. The OGS is also open to international students, but will be adjudicated separately from domestic applicants. The following table shows a summary of useful information for these scholarships. Details will be announced throughout the year using the student mailing list.
- NSERC Doctoral Scholarship: mid-September deadline, domestic students only
- NSERC Vanier: early September deadline, both domestic and international students
- NSERC Master's (for domestic students in MSc or in 1st year of DE-PhD): December 1st deadline
- OGS (any year): late March deadline (for international students) or early May deadline (for CC/PR)
Applying to these external scholarships are strongly encouraged. The OGS can be held while you are outside the funded cohort, meaning that you have financial security even after the guaranteed funding period is over. In addition, these scholarships are usually considered as clear marks of excellence. All these applications require you to write a proposal targeted for non-experts, which is an excellent opportunity for you to think about the ‘big picture’ of your research. In order to provide help with the application, the Department of Physics offers grant-writing workshops. These workshops are held in early September and mid April to prepare for the NSERC and OGS competitions, respectively. Students can also take advantage of various writing support provided by Graduate Centre for Academic Communications (GCAC) .
Program Level Fellowship (PLF)
In their final year in the funded cohort, PhD students will receive a Program Level Fellowship (PLF), whose value is $5,000. This support level allows students to reduce their TA commitment for the year, in order to finish up their thesis research and/or concentrate on the drafting of their final publications and thesis document. The amount is not be quite equivalent to a full 140-hour TA, so students may wish to take a 30- or 40-hour TA (which would also carry the Plan-A health care benefit described at the CUPE benefits page).
Doctoral Completion Award (DCA)
The Doctoral Completion Award (DCA) program is intended to support full-time PhD students who are in the first two years beyond the funded cohort. The full value of the award for 2023/24 is $4,400. The award will be paid to eligible students in two equal instalments, September and January. The September DCA instalment will be remitted to the student and will not be applied to the student’s fees account, unless the student has arrears. The January instalment will be applied to the student’s fees account first. The remaining balance, if any, will be remitted to the student.
To apply for DCA domestic students must submit OSOTF financial needs assessment https://www.sgs.utoronto.ca/financial-need-assessment-online/. The assessment will be used for reporting purposes only which means that students will be eligible to receive DCA funds even if the assessment shows the students are not OSOTF eligible.
Eligibility requirements: For each session the award is held, DCA recipients must be
- registered as a full-time PhD student;
- beyond the program’s funded cohort, but within time limit for the degree (students on an approved program extension are ineligible); and
- in good standing in their graduate program. Being in good standing requires a doctoral supervisory committee meeting within the last 12 months.
Conference Travel Grants
There are three travel grant programs accessible to students, in order to supplement support normally provided by research grants.
The Department of Physics runs a conference travel grant program that provides funds for doctoral students traveling to participate in scholarly conferences. All doctoral students are eligible for an award up to $1,000 for conference travel. Payment of this award will be done via ACORN and preferably prior to departure for the trip. The procedures is as follows:
- Apply through the graduate office (grad@physics) with the following information: conference dates and location, title of proposed talk/poster presentation and a list of projected expenses (e.g.: travel, accommodations, conference fees, and other miscellaneous expenses relevant to the purpose of the trip). Summer school attendance approved by the research supervisor is also eligible.
- There is a limited amount of funds each academic year, and the allotment is distributed `first come, first served.' Apply early!
- The department tries to ensure that every Physics PhD student receives one travel award during their graduate studies, so preference will be given to senior PhD students who have not yet received this grant.
- Graduate students who are traveling abroad must complete the Safety Abroad requirements prior to departure. The graduate unit must receive a proof of completion of the Safety Aboard before payment is made.
- During the trip, keep your receipts, most notably proof of airfare, hotel and conference fees. After the trip, students are required to submit a short report (maximum one page) detailing their travel, along with their reimbursement request. The primary purpose of this report is to establish that the trip/conference was taken in accordance with the original proposal. The report is not intended to serve as a detailed financial account.
- If, for any reason, the proposed trip is cancelled after a Graduate Program Travel and yet travel-grant payment is made, the funds should be returned to the unit (less any non-refundable expenses incurred by the student).
The School of Graduate Studies (SGS) runs, in parallel, a Conference Grant that is separate from the departmental one. More information is posted at:
In addition, UofT Graduate Students’ Union has a travel bursary program. Details are posted at:
Finally, note that many conferences now offer financial support for caregivers. For instance, the APS offers meeting caregiver grants: "Small grants of up to $500 are available to APS meeting participants who incur extra expenses for caregiving during the meeting. Grants are available to attendees who attend in-person meetings and virtual meetings."
Parental Leave and Childcare
Graduate students with families, or planning families during their studies, are encouraged to contact the UofT Family Care Office at https://familycare.utoronto.ca/. They offer help in planning how to make life more manageable, guidance to financial resources, etc.
Students are eligible for a paid leave of absence from TA duties as part of their CUPE 3902 collective agreement; they may also qualify for a parental leave grant when taking their student leave. The Family Care Office provides information for students on how to navigate this, fill out the correct form to ask for a TA and a student leave, etc.
The Family Care Office has a small number of Kids & Company (daycare) emergency vouchers for students per year, and also provides information on childcare subsidies by their municipalities which can cover up to 100% of their daycare fees.
Many conferences now offer financial support for caregivers. For instance, the APS offers meeting caregiver grants: "Small grants of up to $500 are available to APS meeting participants who incur extra expenses for caregiving during the meeting. Grants are available to attendees who attend in-person meetings and virtual meetings."
Finally, for financial emergencies of any kind, students should reach out to SGS Financial Aid & Advising.
Bursaries and Financial Aid
Grants and bursaries offered by the UofT School of Graduate Studies are listed at https://www.sgs.utoronto.ca/awards-category/financial-assistance/.
The SGS has an emergency grant program that aims to provide support to registered full-time graduate students who, during the course of their program, experience an unforeseen, financial emergency which impacts their ability to continue. The grant cannot serve as a general source of funding or make up for a shortage in funding necessary to pursue graduate studies. It provides short-term financial relief to students in an immediate crisis caused by an unforeseen situation and/or unexpected expenses. Additional information is available at https://www.sgs.utoronto.ca/awards/sgs-emergency-grant
There is also an emergency loan which alleviates temporary cash flow problems for students who are expecting the release of funds in the near future (i.e., 30 to 120 days) from employment (UofT internal), a major award instalment, teaching assistantship, or research assistantship payment. The application requests "documentation verifying the availability of funds expected to repay the loan", for which your Funding Letter (received in August) will suffice. More information and the application form are available at https://www.sgs.utoronto.ca/awards/sgs-emergency-loan
CUPE3902 runs several financial assistance programs. Visit cupe3902.org or contact your CUPE stewards for more information. Want to know who your stewards are? Log on to the CUPE3902 site using the "member portal" button. The names of the Physics stewards appear on the login landing page, and can also be found using the "My Profile" dropdown menu at the top which has a "My stewards" option.