# About Astronomy — do you think this is pointless?

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.
I should mention that being a graduate student (which is the context of the original $16K figure) is not full-time employment. Typically, you are a full-time student with an additional part-time TA or RA position. Where I went, the graduate student stipend was technically payment for 20 hours per week of teaching or research. The rest of your time was considered as part of your schooling (whether you're spending that extra time attending classes and doing homework or just doing more research). If you add in a tuition waiver and health insurance, and divide by the 20 hours that you're technically being paid for, you are nowhere near running afoul of minimum wage laws. Of course at the end of the day you're putting in more hours than a full-time job and taking home only a small amount of money, so perhaps it's not an important distinction. It's certainly different than other graduate degrees, however, where you acquire a large amount of debt instead of actually taking home a net amount. Oh, and getting a physics PhD does not guarantee a 6-figure salary. I would say it's not even likely. I'm pretty sure you can be a full professor at a top university and make less than that. I should point out that$16K/month is something that people with physics Ph.D.'s routinely make on Wall Street.
I wouldn't call that a representative group of people with Phd's.

In fact, I'd say that's something of a unique group. The majority of people will never reach this figure and I'd say that although you can aim for this, it isn't a realistic wage for the majority.

Redbelly98
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Another example from cold, hard reality:

When I was in grad school, in physics, I had a few friends who were astronomy grad students. After 2 years, it was time for the Ph.D. qualifier exam. I forget the exact number, but a surprising number of the astronomy students were not passed on their exam. It might have been 1 out of 6 or 8 that were passed. Contrast this with the physics department, where more like 2/3 to 3/4 of us made it through the qualifier exam. I wondered at first why the astronomy department routinely admitted way more students than they knew would pass the qualifier exam, and believe the simple reason was they needed most of those students for a couple of years to do TA work.

Bottom line: there really are a scarcity of jobs in astronomy, so you'd better be really really smart, passionate, and hard-working in that subject if you're going to make a career in it.

I wouldn't call that a representative group of people with Phd's.
There's too much diversity within the group to talk about anything being representative, but there are enough astrophysics Ph.D.'s that are working on Wall Street so you can't ignore them.

In fact, I'd say that's something of a unique group. The majority of people will never reach this figure and I'd say that although you can aim for this, it isn't a realistic wage for the majority.
Judging from personal experience, I think it's much, much more realistic for an astrophysics Ph.D. to expect to make $15K/month than it is to expect to get a tenured faculty position at a major research university. Another example from cold, hard reality: When I was in grad school, in physics, I had a few friends who were astronomy grad students. After 2 years, it was time for the Ph.D. qualifier exam. I forget the exact number, but a surprising number of the astronomy students were not passed on their exam. It might have been 1 out of 6 or 8 that were passed. Contrast this with the physics department, where more like 2/3 to 3/4 of us made it through the qualifier exam. I wondered at first why the astronomy department routinely admitted way more students than they knew would pass the qualifier exam, and believe the simple reason was they needed most of those students for a couple of years to do TA work. Bottom line: there really are a scarcity of jobs in astronomy, so you'd better be really really smart, passionate, and hard-working in that subject if you're going to make a career in it. This contrasts with my experience, and I'm not sure you can say that just because your school was the way it was, that it's an effect for the whole discipline. If anything all you're saying is that your school had trouble attracting quality astronomy students. PhD level and actual career paths are different too - that's why there are far more PhD students (in ~all) discplines than there are researching academics. Astronomy is a strange thing, because to study astronomy you pretty much need to become an academic - this doesn't say anything about studying it at PhD level, however. Getting a PhD in something technical like astronomy opens up many, many career possibilities - in an industrial setting, exactly the same ones that will be open to physics PhD graduates. So, I would say that aiming for a PhD in astronomy isn't unreasonable, but expecting to get a career directly related to it probably is - but then the same can be said for many fields in physics. There's too much diversity within the group to talk about anything being representative, but there are enough astrophysics Ph.D.'s that are working on Wall Street so you can't ignore them. There will be a mean earning for the group as a whole and I find it hard to believe it would come close to$15k per month (or $16k as per the OP). Judging from personal experience, I think it's much, much more realistic for an astrophysics Ph.D. to expect to make$15K/month than it is to expect to get a tenured faculty position at a major research university.
Which of the above two options they are more likely to get is irrelevant. It is which of all possible options for someone with a Phd that matters (we broadened it slightly by looking at graduates in general).

It is safe to say that a wage of $16K per month is highly unlikely for a graduate (or Phd etc in any subject). When looking at all graduates, people earning that figure really is a small and unique group. Just looking at this site for astrophysicist salaries (I know it's not perfect, but it gives some ball park figures): http://www.schoolsintheusa.com/careerprofiles_details.cfm?carid=350 Entry Level Salary:$30,220
Average Salary: $60,200 Maximum Salary:$92,430

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There will be a mean earning for the group as a whole and I find it hard to believe it would come close to $15k per month (or$16k as per the OP).
The mean is likely to be quite high. The median is a more useful statistical measure, but even then the median is not that useful.

It is safe to say that a wage of $16K per month is highly unlikely for a graduate (or Phd etc in any subject). That's plain wrong. If you have a physics Ph.D. and you want to make$180K total comp, it's likely that you will be able to. Starting salary for a Ph.D. quant on Wall Street is $120K, and with three to five years of experience, total comp will exceed$200K. I don't know of anyone that has *tried* out for one of the positions that has been unable to make $200K after three years. Now money isn't everything, and lots of people hate the lifestyle, but that's a personal choice. Just looking at this site for astrophysicist salaries (I know it's not perfect, but it gives some ball park figures): http://www.schoolsintheusa.com/careerprofiles_details.cfm?carid=350 Wrong job title. Look for quantitative analyst. I'll tell you what, you provide me with a source that says the chances of a graduate getting 16k/month is likely, and I'll let it go. So far, all you've done is repeat the same job position over and over. The majority of graduates do not end up on wall street and don't make anywhere near that figure. The majority of graduates don't earn fantastic sums of money straight out of school. Some websites showing average salary for a Phd: US - http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Doctorate_(PhD)/Salary UK - http://www.itjobswatch.co.uk/jobs/uk/phd.do http://www.ehow.com/about_6626574_average-starting-salary-ph_d_.html I'm not denying there are jobs you can go into that pay exceptional amounts, but for the majority that just simply isn't the case. I'll tell you what, you provide me with a source that says the chances of a graduate getting 16k/month is likely, and I'll let it go. I'm the source. I have a Ph.D. in astrophysics. I work as a quant in a major financial institution. I can tell you what the experiences is of the people I know with astrophysics Ph.D.'s. You might argue that I'm biased. My sample is statistically invalid, and of course, you really have no way of completely verifying that what I'm saying is true (although if you contact me by PM, I'll give names, dates, and numbers). These are all valid points, but it's still useful information since it's first hand, and you can cross-examine me. The majority of graduates do not end up on wall street and don't make anywhere near that figure. In my personal experience, about 15% or so of astrophysics Ph.D.'s actually do end up in Wall Street. What's more significant is that everyone that I know of that has *tried* to get a job on Wall Street has gotten one and ended up making about$180K after three years. (Also note that $180K in NYC-dollars is less than you might think.) The majority of graduates don't earn fantastic sums of money straight out of school. That's because astrophysics Ph.D.'s are particularly sought after by Wall Street, and most astrophysics Ph.D.'s end up doing post-docs right after they get their Ph.D. One other thing is that$180K on Wall Street is considered a rather low salary. One might argue that this is a sign that society is totally screwed up, and that may be the case.

I'm not denying there are jobs you can go into that pay exceptional amounts, but for the majority that just simply isn't the case.
And I'm saying that this is because most astrophysics Ph.D.'s don't really want to get paid $180K/year. The jobs are there. The US graduates about 200 astrophysics Ph.D.'s each year, and if you subtract the number of people that want to do other things, you have maybe 50 or so entering the market. Your average investment bank employs several dozen physics Ph.D.'s. Last edited: OK, twofish. I'm not going to argue further, I've made my points. So to conclude: I don't deny your wall street claims. You are still stuck with one Phd subject and one job type, not referring to "the majority" or "all" as per the discussion. The OP's claim was "no grads makes that little, you meant 16k a month." which is clearly BS. Your claim doesn't have much bearing on this as it is only indicative of a very small minority of overall graduates (although damn I wish I was one of them). The OP was asking about astronomy originally (which became "all graduates") and I'm not certain that is astrophysics anyway. On the basis of the above, I wouldn't consider a salary of$16k per month a realistic figure for a graduate, especially in astronomy.