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Astronomy degree or not

by Pisces1987
Tags: astronomy, degree
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Pisces1987
#1
Mar5-12, 07:49 PM
P: 3
Hi guys,

I am wondering whether I would be taken seriously by the admissions committees if I were to apply for a B.S. degree in Physics-Astronomy (concentration) because I am in the social sciences, getting my M.A. in a social science field this May. I want to earn my Ph.D. in Astronomy eventually.

I am fascinted with Astronomy and would working in the field of Astronomy.

Do you think I would be looked at as not-serious for the big jump?

Thanks.
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chiro
#2
Mar5-12, 08:46 PM
P: 4,573
Hey Pisces1987 and welcome to the forums.

For a BS I don't think you have too much to worry about as long as you have gotten any prerequisites out the way like the math prerequisites which are often basic calculus.

Also if the US is like Australia, then the first year physics is not the same as high school in the way that a more solid foundation in mathematics (calculus) is used to motivate the concepts and the problem sets. It will no doubt be more work than if you hadn't done any physics in high school, but you can still do it because many people in the past have done the same thing.

If you were going to apply for a graduate course like a masters or PhD I would say your chances would be slim but since this is not the case, I don't think you have anything to worry about if you can afford to do so and have passed your other courses well in your other degrees which is no doubt the case.

So yeah make sure you have the prerequisites and also if they say that they 'recommend' you have studied something, I would study it in your own time and play the right amount of catchup.

Good luck!
Pisces1987
#3
Mar5-12, 10:45 PM
P: 3
Thank you chiro for the reply.

I will indeed pursue the Astronomy major for a B.S. degree up until the Ph.D.-level.

Best,

Pisces1987

eri
#4
Mar6-12, 11:34 AM
P: 979
Astronomy degree or not

Not many schools will consider admitting you for a second bachelors degree. Hopefully you're looking at large state schools, and can transfer in some of the credits you already have - or you could easily spend another 12 years in college before you earn a PhD in astronomy. But you shouldn't be planning to major in astronomy; that won't get you into a graduate program in astronomy. You need to major in physics. Astronomy classes are useful, but physics is necessary.
H2Bro
#5
Mar6-12, 02:27 PM
P: 173
Pisces1987,

I am in a similar situation as yourself, entering Astronomy + Physics with a background in the social sciences.

One thing I have found useful is thinking about the end-game scenario of attaining a phD in Astronomy. Having spent much time on these forums, it seems 95% of the people with Astronomy phD's don't practice in the field of astronomy, often they do computer programming in industry or fields unrelated to astronomy. So keep this in mind - as one frequent poster said in another thread, "If you don't have a phD in astrophysics you definitely wont get a job in Astrophysics. If you have a phD in astrophysics you almost definitely wont get a job in Astrophysics". What I've gleaned from these forums is to take a grain of salt with your degree - will you be satisfied with the knowledge gained from your education and comfortable with having your career not draw much on that knowledge? It is a possibility, so keep it in mind.

As for the BS degree, definitely shoot for the physics concentration as it will keep more options open down the road. Like eri said, a second bachelor's degree is often "frowned upon" but it isn't unheard of and I don't think its a career-killer unless you show more indecision down the road, i.e. trying to go back for a phd in social sciences after your physics BSc. Also, doing a physics specialization will let you fine-tune your field as you proceed - for example, perhaps you hear some horror stories of Astronomy phD's driving cabs in New York and decide to go switch into engineering. Hey, maybe you can be lead engineer on a large radio telescope array some day, or even design the equipment. From what I've learned on these forums Astronomy is by and large a grad school concentration, with physics as the prereq.

Also, congrats on your decision. Its a big step to undertake significant retooling of your academic skills, and I think its an investment with risks that dissuade many people.
H2Bro
#6
Mar6-12, 02:29 PM
P: 173
here is the thread with more information on Physics - Astronomy distinctions
http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=507582
Pisces1987
#7
Mar6-12, 09:24 PM
P: 3
Thank you both, eri and H2Bro!


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