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Aerospace or Astrophysics

  1. Sep 14, 2011 #1
    My current issue is that I am starting to believe I made a slightly wrong choice in my degree. But then again, it's hard to say. I love everything about space and so getting a degree in it has been my dream. I really want to be one of the people that help move our society toward space travel. I figured the best way to do this was to become an aerospace engineer. I assumed that not only did they build spacecraft, they discovered new ways to travel and would solve issues such as a better energy source. Now I'm not sure if that is true. However, I enrolled to the University of Alabama for a BS in aerospace engineering. But now that I have done a lot of research, I am extremely interested in astrophysics. I always was, but the main reason I did not pursue a degree was because I was afraid the only jobs out there for astrophysics was being a professor and doing research, mainly because alot of it is theories and cannot be applied. However now that I think about it, wouldn't the astrophysicist be the only to help develop ways for better space travel, while the aerospace engineer just then incorporates it into a design?

    I have always been bad at actually designing things, but I figured I could get better and become an engineer. However if being an astrophysicist had real, applicable jobs besides being a professor, and could actually lead me toward helping discover news ways to travel space, I would switch over. I don't think it's too late to switch, it's only the first semester and most of it is core classes anyways.

    So, if anyone with information about this could help, I just need a few questions answered before I make my decision:

    1. Which job (aerospace or astrophysicists) would focus more on solving issues with space travel, such as better energy resources, discovering new ways to fly, etc.

    2. Would an astrophysicist have available jobs without a Ph.D and would these jobs be other things than a professor? I don't mind researching, in fact that is what I would want to do to help discover things, but I would rather research/help a company than just be a professor. I hate teaching.

    3. Would an astrophysicist make good money? Compared to an aerospace engineer, which would make more?

    4. Lastly, how do I get a degree in astrophysics? My current university only offers a BS in Physics, so would I have to go into graduate school to specialize in astrophysics?

    I am well capable of going to grad school, please don't let costs of college factor into this. I was going to get my masters in aerospace anyways. I just want to know which (aerospace or astrophysicist) would fit my dream to bring humanity closer to space travel more. But at the same time, I want to make sure I can get a great job with a great pay. I don't want to spend years studying and stressing to learn stuff beyond what the average person can just to make less than $100k a year.

    Sorry about the long post, but this is a very important issue, it's no longer high school, this is my career now and my life. I want to make the right decision before it's too late. Also, if I just got a minor in physics, could I still then go on to get a masters in astrophysics? That way I could do both aero and physics and see which I actually like more before grad school. The only physics course i've ever taken was high school physics. I didn't really like it, though I don't like anything hard, but when we talked about space I was extremely into it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2011 #2


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    1. You should stick with aerospace engineering.

    2. There are very few jobs in astrophysics if you don't have a PhD, and all the PhD jobs are research jobs, many of them teaching. However, those jobs are still hard to get, so if you don't like teaching you don't have many options left.

    3. No, aerospace engineers with a bachelors can make twice as much as an astrophysicist with a PhD. I know this from personal experience - mine and that of most other PhDs in astronomy/physics that I know who didn't go work for the government.

    4. Yes, you'd need to go get a PhD in astronomy or physics. You'd do that somewhere else anyway; you don't stay at the same school for all degrees.
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