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Astronomy or planetary science?

  1. Apr 1, 2012 #1
    My main interest in physics is b/c of astronomy. I'm doing physics undergrad as a stepping stone to grad school astronomy/astrophysics. However upon introspection I notice that my main interest in space lies in the solar system and exoplanets and the potential for life. Is astronomy then the right choice, or is it too broad given that all sorts of space objects are studied? Would planetary science serve me better?

    Interests aside, my main secondary concern is in the quantitative nature of the two fields. In case academia doesn't work out, I hear that the highly quantitative nature of astronomy/astrophysics makes you skilled to work in other disciplines that value intense math and reasoning (e.g. finance etc). How much less quantitative is grad-level planetary science, if it is? Do planetary scientists have the skills and knowledge to take the fruits of their labor elsewhere if academia doesn't work out for them? Or are they stuck in academia like, say, a liberal arts PhD? Or maybe somewhere in between those two extremes? Thanks
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 1, 2012 #2
    I know this is a very old thread, but figured I'd put in my 2 cents.

    I'm an undergrad myself, and will start applying to grad schools come falls. My interest is in Planetary Science. Basically right now I'm a Phys and Geo double major and enjoyed Astrophysics but am more interested in finding out what objects are made of and what their surfaces are like. Most of the programs I'm looking for lists planetary science under their geology department and involves chemistry, rocks, atomospheres, formation, etc.
    Its sounds like you are interested in Astrobiology, which I don't have experience in, but as you look at grad schools, look for people who are doing research that interests you and that will tell you what is more honed to your interests.

    Also, as for careers, again, I'm not an expert, but it would depend on what area you concentrated on within Planetary science. If you are looking at bio type stuff, no idea what it offered there. But either way you should graduate with a solid background in math, problem solving, data analysis, and some programming. That background should qualify you for jobs outside the realm of academia, if you keep your mind open about how you apply them. You may want to check out the DPS (Division of Planetary Science) of AAS (American Astronomical Society) website: dps.aas.org to look at options as well as AAS website: aas.org Both websites include job postings from both academia and industry. That way you can see what stuff is a better fit. :)
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