While you are pursuing your graduate studies in physics, you will be provided with a yearly stipend and with an opportunity for well paid teaching work. This is not a salary in the traditional sense, because the most valuable part of your graduate study is the training and experience you are receiving, not a financial income. Instead, the intent of the stipend is to allow you to focus on your research without the distraction of additional employment to pay for housing, tuition, etc. As such, the stipend amount increases yearly, ideally following the rising costs of living in Toronto.
The estimated support levels for physics graduate students in their first five years is summarized on this page. The university-wide paradigm of graduate funding are 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 cohort will receive a personalized email outlining the sources of your 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 (or a cognate Department such as Mathematics). Available Teaching Assistant positions are Tutor (tutorial), Demo (laboratory), Practical Leader (special activities in some undergraduate service courses), or Marker. Candidates normally apply each year via a personal online account created for them when they join the Department. The Coordinator offers them one or more 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. 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 provides 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 3 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.
Applying to these external scholarships are strongly encouraged (some departments make these mandatory). The funding level of the NSERC CGSD or Vanier scholarship is significantly higher than the guaranteed minimum. Note that 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 in Canadian academia, and will help boost your chance of getting your next position. In addition, all these applications require you to write a research statement targeted for non-experts, which is an excellent opportunity for you to think about the ‘big picture’ question. In order to provide help with the application, the Department of Physics offers “Grant Writing Workshop”, specifically targeting physics students. These workshops are held in early September and mid April to prepare for the NSERC Doctoral and OGS applications. Students can also take advantage of various writing support provided by Graduate Centre for Academic Communications (GCAC) .
Domestic funded cohort (usually first
|2-3 years||Mid September|
Domestic and international funded
|3 years||Early September|
|NSERC CGSM||Domestic MSc or DE1||1 year||Early December|
|OGS – International||Visa student*||1 year||Early March|
|OGS – Domestic||Domestic*||1 year||Early May|
Program Level Fellowship (PLF)
In their final year in the funded cohort, PhD students will be eligible for a Program Level Fellowship (PLF) to significantly reduce or eliminate their TA hours. The intent of the PLF is to allow students to finish up their thesis research and/or concentrate on the drafting of their final publications and thesis document. The amount varies from year to year, and may not be quite equivalent to a full 140-hour TA, so students may wish to take a 30h TA (which would also carry the Plan-A health care benefit described at the CUPE benefits page. ) Note that the amount of the PLF fluctuates from year to year, so please inquire at the graduate office for an estimate of its support level for the coming year, so that you can plan your reduced TA level accordingly.
Doctoral Completion Award (DCA)
The Doctoral Completion Award (DCA) program is intended to support full-time PhD students who are beyond the funded cohort and within the time-limit for their degree. At the Department of Physics this includes Ph.D. students in years 5 & 6 and direct entry Ph.D. students in years 6 & 7. The full value of the award for 2019-20 is $3,100 for both domestic and international students. The award will be paid to eligible students in two equal instalments: September and January. 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. January instalment will be applied to the student’s fees account first. The remaining balance, if any, will be remitted to the student. There is NO application process for this program.
DCA Eligibility requirements:
For each session the award is held, DCA recipients must be:
- registered as a full-time PhD;
- beyond the program’s funded cohort;
- within time limit for the degree (students on an approved program extension are ineligible); and
- in good standing in their graduate program and making satisfactory progress toward the completion of their degree requirements.
Conference Travel Grant
Most graduate students will attend conferences during the course of their PhD work, with their travel costs covered by their supervisors’ research grant. In addition, the Department of Physics runs a grant program that provides additional 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.
- Apply through the graduate office (grad@physics) with the following information: conference dates and location, and whether the presentation is oral or poster. Summer school attendance approved by the research supervisor is also eligible.
- There is a limited amount of funds each academic year, and the grant is distributed first come, first served. So apply early.
- The department tries to ensure that every Physics PhD student receives one travel award during their time at the University of Toronto, so preference will be given to senior PhD students who have not yet received this grant.
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: