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Astronomy and Physics?

  1. Oct 25, 2007 #1
    I am a highschool student right now (11th grade) and I am really interested in studying Astronomy and Physics. I asked my Astrophysics teacher if NASA has Astronomy jobs, and I believe he said that it would lean more into Physics or "Astrophysics" And he said that they look for people with Doctorate degrees. I'm like...Oh dear. :P But I am scared that I wont be able to get some sort of job at NASA that I really want or at Kitt Peak or get into college! :cry: Any advice?? Do you know of Colleges that teach that stuff??
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 25, 2007 #2

    Hi ScienceGurl,

    In modern society, a professional astronomer is the same thing as an astrophysics. The field uses physics to describe astronomical events. NASA does hire some civil servants as astronomers/astrophysicists, but mostly they employ contractors through universities and science-related institutes. A scientist who wants to receive funding from NASA will usually apply for a grant under a specific project. According to the talk I heard on Tuesday by the NASA Astrophysics Division Chief, NASA's astrophysics budget is around 9% of its total budget, and that is expected to remain consistent for the next few years.

    In the United States, there are over 100 colleges/universities that grant astronomy or astrophysics degrees. Much more common are colleges that grant physics degrees but also conduct research and offer classes in astronomy/astrophysics. Check out the websites for any college you're interested in to see if their program matches your interest. You have lots of choices!

    A doctoral degree is a common requirement for most astronomy/astrophysics positions. There are jobs out there in the astro field that do not require a Ph.D. Since you're still in high school, I would recommend you wait until you have some college experience before deciding if you want to pursue an advanced degree.

    This webpage may help you get an idea of what an astronomer/astrophysicist does: http://www.astromiror.org/research.html#astro . Most of those interviewed work for or with NASA, and all of them are female.

    Good luck! And don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it!


    Edited to fix a typo.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2007
  4. Oct 25, 2007 #3
    At my school, an astronomy degree is basically a physics degree but with like 5 or so astronomy classes added in. It's pretty standard for people to double major in astronomy and physics. I was going to do it... but I couldn't stand the professor... he ruined my love for astronomy. :(

    So if this is something you are interested in, you should see if the universities you are applying to have something similar.
  5. Oct 25, 2007 #4
    good advice laura
  6. Oct 25, 2007 #5
    ref- http://www.nasa.gov/about/career/index.html
  7. Oct 26, 2007 #6
    Kind of on a tangent: to be an astronaut, you need to be in good physical shape too, right?
  8. Oct 26, 2007 #7
    Yes indeed. I am not planning on becoming an astronaut, plus I'm reaaallly not in shape for it. Plus I think I would be to scared :P But I still want to work at NASA anyways. Thanks you guys for all your advice and suggestions. :)
  9. Oct 26, 2007 #8


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    An astronomy degree isn't a requirement for an astronomy PhD.
    Astronomy ugrad degrees are basically physics with a few extras. If your dept has a telescope the practicals are interesting but don't really match what you will be doing on a profesional 10m telescope.
    I did ugrad astronomy+physics but was the only person in my grad school that did - most were physics/maths.

    Even if you don't stay in astronomy you learn the same physics as everyone else and are very employable.
    I have worked for biotech companies doing protein imaging = bright dots on a dark background = using the same software I developed for astronomy.
    Then doing AI database mining = equaivalent to the data sets size I used to generate from an IR camera.

    If you do radio astronomy there are lots of jobs in radar/radio - at one point it seemed that everyone in the military radar business had done PhDs in my dept.
  10. Oct 26, 2007 #9


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    This is very true. My undergrad degree is in maths, and I'm studying for a PhD in astronomy (well, it's really cosmology, but astronomy is the broad title). I also know another person who studied maths undergrad and is now doing a PhD in observational astronomy!
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