About Astronomy — do you think this is pointless?

  • #1
The situation is, a lot ppl that studied Astronomy in universities did at last not get a job that very much relevant to their specialities, but, if not some but most of them, had to choose a career in relatively Mathematics oriented field, like market analysis.

The payscale is good, not much doubt can be put, but it really isn't the point is it? Anyone chose to study astronomy really wouldn't care how much they would be paid, but what they would do after graduation, however there are only very limited few institute and observatory that can grant them the opportunity to work in, so it would always be the "winner takes all", the best of the best can live their dreams while those who didn't quite got out of the shade will be flushed far away from their ideal.

Your thoughts?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
phyzguy
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How is it different from many other fields? Suppose you like to sing - would you expect people to pay you to sing no matter how good you are at it? No - in fact only the very, very best singers will be able to make a living at it. So if you like to sing but aren't good enough at it to make a living at it, what do you do? You get a job doing something else, and you join the church choir. Astronomy is the same way. If you are good enough at it to make a living doing it, great. If not, find another way to put bread on the table and do it as a hobby.

We should be thankful that our society is rich enough to pay anyone to do pure science. In the past, the only people who could afford to do it were people that were wealthy through other means.
 
  • #3
eri
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It's nice to say you don't care about how much you get paid, and if you're making 16k as a grad student in the middle of nowhere where rent is cheap it's easy to imagine, but then you find out the job you can get is in a major city where rent alone will cost you 20k a year, you're deep in credit card debt from all those conference trips that took forever to get reimbursed for, and you have to pay back your student loans - and now money actually does matter.

If you really love astronomy, go for it. I thought I did, even got the PhD and a postdoc in the field, but whether or not I'll still be in it in 5 years is still up in the air. I might eventually decide to take job security, not moving around as much, only working 40 hours a week, and a much higher salary over moving every few years to places I don't want to live where I'll be paid less than I'm making as a postdoc to work 80 hours a week.
 
  • #4
It's nice to say you don't care about how much you get paid, and if you're making 16k as a grad student in the middle of nowhere where rent is cheap it's easy to imagine, but then you find out the job you can get is in a major city where rent alone will cost you 20k a year, you're deep in credit card debt from all those conference trips that took forever to get reimbursed for, and you have to pay back your student loans - and now money actually does matter.
Wait a minute, 16k a year for a grad student? Are you kidding? No grads makes that little, you meant 16k a month.

If you really love astronomy, go for it. I thought I did, even got the PhD and a postdoc in the field, but whether or not I'll still be in it in 5 years is still up in the air. I might eventually decide to take job security, not moving around as much, only working 40 hours a week, and a much higher salary over moving every few years to places I don't want to live where I'll be paid less than I'm making as a postdoc to work 80 hours a week.
I'd say forget anything unpleasant about it, I mean c'mon, you made it that far, you are quite academically successful, and you have no idea how many ppl are dribbling for a life like yours. How many scientist ppl would remember eventually? Brian Greene, Edwin Hubble, Carl Sagan, Lee Smolin, Steven Weinberg, George Zweig... all in the websites for famous Jewish americans...:biggrin: and how many wallstreet analyst you can recall?
... None, there isn't even a page dedicated for them.

Just what kinda life it must be! You don't have to worry about mundane matters, all you need is working tirelessly in front computer screens processing seas of information on celestial bodies, appreciate the profound poetry and beauty of the universe... fly from places to places to meet best minds this once green and cool planet can give...observe into the space beyond the limit of any optical devices using most sophisticated mathematical tools...Why choose putting your feet back to the ground while you can live a life of dreams?
 
  • #5
How is it different from many other fields? Suppose you like to sing - would you expect people to pay you to sing no matter how good you are at it? No - in fact only the very, very best singers will be able to make a living at it. So if you like to sing but aren't good enough at it to make a living at it, what do you do? You get a job doing something else, and you join the church choir. Astronomy is the same way. If you are good enough at it to make a living doing it, great. If not, find another way to put bread on the table and do it as a hobby.

We should be thankful that our society is rich enough to pay anyone to do pure science. In the past, the only people who could afford to do it were people that were wealthy through other means.
Yes you got a point there... but I think it is particularly cruel for this field.
 
  • #6
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0
Wait a minute, 16k a year for a grad student? Are you kidding? No grads makes that little, you meant 16k a month.
No, that number is accurate. I just got accepted into graduate school this past semester, and one of my offers was $16k. You could pick up an additional $3k if you teach or do research over the summer. I ended up going somewhere else, but the pay isn't much more.
 
  • #7
Redbelly98
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Wait a minute, 16k a year for a grad student? Are you kidding? No grads makes that little, you meant 16k a month.
Grad students do not make much. In the 1990's I made about 12k (USA $) per year as a grad student, so 16k seems about right for these days.

It's very different than a college graduate working in a company, is that what you mean when you say "grad"?
 
  • #8
Grad students do not make much. In the 1990's I made about 12k (USA $) per year as a grad student, so 16k seems about right for these days.

It's very different than a college graduate working in a company, is that what you mean when you say "grad"?
Yea, sorry about the misunderstanding. I mean postgrad, but this one doesn't mean anything much different but you get the point, ... oh well.
 
  • #9
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Grad, post grad, it doesn't really matter. None of these people are going to walk into a $200,000 per year job. 16k/month is the most unrealistic figure I've heard put out there.
 
  • #10
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Grad, post grad, it doesn't really matter. None of these people are going to walk into a $200,000 per year job. 16k/month is the most unrealistic figure I've heard put out there.
Lol, I reacted the same way about the $16k/month... not even a full professor.
 
  • #11
Now I'm completely lost folks, just what do you mean by 16k is unreal? It's too much or too little?

I think it is fair to say after you graduate from grad school, you are almost destined to get a six figure pay job, right?
 
  • #12
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Now I'm completely lost folks, just what do you mean by 16k is unreal? It's too much or too little?

I think it is fair to say after you graduate from grad school, you are almost destined to get a six figure pay job, right?
There is a chance that you are just joking now, but assuming you're not...

I suggest that you investigate on the salaries of physicists, there are some good websites out there. 16k/month is out of the question for academic physicists, at least normal positions. 16k/YEAR is a very reasonable stipend for a physics grad student.
Getting a physics Ph.D. is VERY different from say an MBA. Your statement about being almost destined to get a six figure pay job after grad school is VERY wrong. Your statement would only sound a little vague if you graduated from Yale's business grad school, but your statement is simply ridiculous if you're referring to physics grad schools (any school and any subfield). Again, I recommend that you look up some numbers.
 
  • #13
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Now I'm completely lost folks, just what do you mean by 16k is unreal? It's too much or too little?
16k per month is not going to happen. Per year, certainly.
I think it is fair to say after you graduate from grad school, you are almost destined to get a six figure pay job, right?
No, no you're not. As per dsanz, unless you leave a very prestigious school and walk into a very, very good job you aren't going to get anywhere near that.

Reality check required. I don't know where you get your figures from, but you're not even close to what you are likely to get paid.

A graduate, depending on degree is looking at anything from $15,000 to $60,000 per year. But you'd be lucky to get that $60k straight out of school.
 
  • #14
Thank you dsanz and jarednjames, I think I'll be more realistic then.

Now it really sounds like a tough choice to go for an education in natural science — not only you would not get the chance to do what you desired, but also would less likely to make a dandy income.

1.5K a year is just... it's just wrong. You might even make more working at a diner.
 
  • #15
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1.5K a year is just... it's just wrong. You might even make more working at a diner.
Where are you getting your figures from?

$1.5K a year = $1500 per year. That is also an unrealistic figure for someone working full time.

You realise k = 1000 so you multiply the figure ahead of the k (1.5 in this case) by 1000?
(e.g. 16k = 16*1000 = 16000)

EDIT: Do you mean per month? 1.5k per month is an average starting salary for most I'd say. As a graduate aerospace engineer I will earn around $2000 per month.
 
  • #16
George Jones
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Where are you getting your figures from?

$1.5K a year = $1500 per year. That is also an unrealistic figure for someone working full time.

Well ...
A graduate, depending on degree is looking at anything from $15,000 to $60,000 per year. But you'd be lucky to get that $60k straight out of school.
 
  • #17
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Well ...
Mr Jones, how does what I wrote translate to what he wrote?

$1.5K per year is not "$15,000 to $60,000 per year". I even bolded "per year".
 
  • #18
George Jones
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Mr Jones, how does what I wrote translate to what he wrote?

$1.5K per year is not "$15,000 to $60,000 per year". I even bolded "per year".
Alex_Sanders will have to speak for himself, but he might have meant that $15K is very low. It does seem low to me. New Brunswick, Canada (where I live) has a legislated minimum wage of $9 per hour, regardless of education. This minimum wage is slated to rise to $10 per hour in less than a year. Consequently, anyone who has full-time, steady employment should make at least $20,000 per year, and university graduates could hope for a higher minimum annual wage.
 
  • #19
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Alex_Sanders will have to speak for himself, but he might have meant that $15K is very low. It does seem low to me. New Brunswick, Canada (where I live) has a legislated minimum wage of $9 per hour, regardless of education. This minimum wage is slated to rise to $10 per hour in less than a year. Consequently, anyone who has full-time, steady employment should make at least $20,000 per year, and university graduates could hope for a higher minimum annual wage.
What he meant and what he said are two different things. Given his previous posts, I don't know if this is an error or not.

I also noted the error he may have made in my post.

I also said depending on degree, some degrees really are "a dime a dozen" and having them doesn't really mean anything so far as pay goes.

I will admit my answers are based on UK salaries and they really can be between the figures I quoted. But it does come down to the degree.
 
  • #20
George Jones
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Where I live, less than one-third of the population gets a university degree of any kind, so I don't think that 'some degrees really are "a dime a dozen"', and $15k is impossible for a high school drop-out who has full-time steady employment.

In the UK, do you think that $60k is as far into the (high) tail of the distribution as $15k is into the (low) tail of the distribution of starting annual salary for university graduates?
 
  • #21
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Where I live, less than one-third of the population gets a university degree of any kind, so I don't think that 'some degrees really are "a dime a dozen"', and $15k is impossible for a high school drop-out who has full-time steady employment.
$15K may be impossible where you live, but it isn't in the UK. I'm just giving answers based on this. I have no idea where the OP is and I don't recall it being specialised to a certain country. Especially given the original $16K per month figure.
In the UK, do you think that $60k is as far into the (high) tail of the distribution as $15k is into the (low) tail of the distribution of starting annual salary for university graduates?
I know a number of people who have left university and are now working for around the $15k mark.
I simply gave some rough figures for leaving salaries (that I have observed). However, the average is around the £20,000 area.
 
  • #22
George Jones
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Especially given the original $16K per month figure.
Yes, Alex needs a reality check

The situation is, a lot ppl that studied Astronomy in universities did at last not get a job that very much relevant to their specialities, but, if not some but most of them, had to choose a career in relatively Mathematics oriented field, like market analysis.

The payscale is good, not much doubt can be put, but it really isn't the point is it? Anyone chose to study astronomy really wouldn't care how much they would be paid, but what they would do after graduation, however there are only very limited few institute and observatory that can grant them the opportunity to work in, so it would always be the "winner takes all", the best of the best can live their dreams while those who didn't quite got out of the shade will be flushed far away from their ideal.

Your thoughts?
From another thread:
Life isn't so simple, and there are no guarantees.

I tell high school students that if they have real passion and ability for a subject, be it physics, math, history or philosophy, then they should study it at university with peers who have the same passion, and with experts in the field guiding them. Sometimes students major in something marketable with the intention of studying their passion, either formally or informally, after graduation. I tell them that even with the best of intentions, this usually won't happen. Picking up a spouse, car payments, mortgage payments, and kids make life too hectic for it to happen. I tell these students that marketable subjects like business and computer programming should be considered seriously as options, though, since everyone has to earn a living. I also say that it might turn out that what they think is their passion isn't really their passion. There are no guarantees.

The above advice is meant for a minority of students. Students who can't decide what they're interested in, or who are interested in a number of areas, might be better suited studying something marketable.

Finally, students that study physics often end up working in jobs that are not related to physics, but they usually end doing OK for themselves. And they had the chance to experience their passion for at least four years.

Is this such a bad thing?
 
  • #23
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The situation is, a lot ppl that studied Astronomy in universities did at last not get a job that very much relevant to their specialities, but, if not some but most of them, had to choose a career in relatively Mathematics oriented field, like market analysis.
Quantitative finance (which is not market analysis) is very relevant to astrophysics. Look at universe, figure out some complicated equations that try to explain said universe, put on massive supercomputer, see how you did, go back to step one.

More or less the same thing.

Anyone chose to study astronomy really wouldn't care how much they would be paid, but what they would do after graduation, however there are only very limited few institute and observatory that can grant them the opportunity to work in, so it would always be the "winner takes all", the best of the best can live their dreams while those who didn't quite got out of the shade will be flushed far away from their ideal.
We live in an imperfect world, and no one ever gets exactly what they want (and it would really boring if you did). The question isn't whether you get what you want (and you never do), but what you do with the card that you manage to get.
 
  • #24
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I suggest that you investigate on the salaries of physicists, there are some good websites out there. 16k/month is out of the question for academic physicists, at least normal positions.
I should point out that $16K/month is something that people with physics Ph.D.'s routinely make on Wall Street.
 
  • #25
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I'd say forget anything unpleasant about it, I mean c'mon, you made it that far, you are quite academically successful, and you have no idea how many ppl are dribbling for a life like yours.
Things are always greener on the other side. One thing about careers is that different people want different things. Heaven for me is hell for you and vice versa. Personally, I *hate* being successful. No mountains to climb = total boredom.

Just what kinda life it must be! You don't have to worry about mundane matters
Just because you are a scientist doesn't mean that you don't have to worry about things like car payments, day care, and medical bills.

all you need is working tirelessly in front computer screens processing seas of information on celestial bodies, appreciate the profound poetry and beauty of the universe...
Poetry and beauty involves pain and agony, and reducing data or debugging code is a rather painful and agonizing process. Also more often than not, you look at your data, and you see just nothing useful.

observe into the space beyond the limit of any optical devices using most sophisticated mathematical tools...Why choose putting your feet back to the ground while you can live a life of dreams?
You talk as if we really had much of a choice in the matter. There are the code hard numbers, you have X Ph.D.'s and X/2 post-docs available and then X/5 faculty positions available. Someone is going to be left standing when the music stops.
 

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