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Schools Advice on a College Degree?

  • Thread starter janeway
  • Start date
Hi, I am new to the Physics Forums and I would just like to take this time to say thank you for the opportunity to present my questions to you. I would like to thank everyone in advance for any help you are able to provide me, I appreciate it!

I am still finishing up my highschool career, but it is time to start looking at colleges and majors...

I love astronomy, but my only fear is that if I major in astronomy I won't be able to find a job. What is your opinion on this?

Also, is the job market for an Astrophysics major any higher? What kind of carrers would follow an Astronomy/Astrophysics major?

Once again thank you for any help that you are able to provide me! :)
If you want a job *doing* astronomy, you'll need a Ph.D. Otherwise, an astrophysics bachelor's degree can prepare you for computer work, or any job that relies heavily on math. The degree will also show that you've demonstrated good problem-solving and critical thinking skills, which is useful in many lines of work.

You could also get a teaching certificate and be a high school science teacher.


There isn't a lot you can do without a PhD in the field, and even if you have one there aren't many jobs. With a bachelors, you could teach at a high school (in some states), or work as a data analyst or research assistant at a national lab or observatory (there aren't many of those jobs) or get a job in another field (that would be easier). Masters give you the option of teaching community college. But to do research, you need the PhD.


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I'm going to suggest a different approach. If you knew for a certainty you couldn't get a job in astronomy/astrophysics, what would be your second choice? What other subjects do you enjoy, or careers seem interesting to you?

A large percentage of students change their major while in college, and it's rare for high school students to really know enough about a subject to make a good choice about what their major will be so soon. So, when choosing a college, consider one that offers both your first and second choice of major and take some introductory courses in both your first year. Don't worry about making a firm commitment to a major until you've completed your freshman year. If you have the option or requirement to take additional courses outside your major, fit some of those into your freshman year too. This gives you a little taste of a variety of subjects and will allow you to make a better choice about majors.

Once you make sure you've found schools that at least have a decent program in your first or second options, I really think it's far more important to consider schools that make you feel right. Visit the campuses. Do you like the way it looks? Do you like the town around it? Do you like the housing options? Do you meet students there who you would like to have as friends and classmates? Are there extracurricular activities that interest you? What about the social scene? Too serious, too many parties, too many students leave campus every weekend to go home, etc.? These are things that are important to choosing a place you're going to want to live for the next 4 years.

My further suggestion is do the standard campus visits and looking at everything you can find out about the school online, and do the applications to the ideal schools, reach schools and safety schools that everyone should do. When the acceptances come in and you've narrowed the list considerably, if at all possible, try to arrange an extended weekend stay with current freshmen at as many of those schools as you can (no parents tagging along).

I did that when I got my acceptances, and my last choice safety school moved up to my top choice school I attended and am so very glad I chose. I liked the housing choices, I liked the students I met, I got to experience some of the leadership training opportunities, and the diversity of students, and how everyone seemed welcome and accepted, and that students worked together to succeed rather than being competitive and backstabbing. Interestingly enough, one of my close high school friends also spent the same weekend at the college (it was her idea to do this and we thought it would be better to go together) and it went from being her first choice to be checked off her list of schools. She hated the experience. It wasn't at all the type of environment she envisioned for college.

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