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Astronomy vs Medicine HELP!!!!!!!

  1. Dec 19, 2015 #1
    Hello all! I am currently a freshman (just finished my first semester) and I need to choose a career path. I have had a burning love and passion for Astronomy/Astrophysics from a very young age but I hear that the job market for Astro Ph.D's is complete and utter **** (pardon my French). I grew up in an upper middle class family my father is an executive in the financial sector and has provided a wonderful childhood and I would love to do nothing more than do the same for my children but the average pay for an Astronomer is $109,000 according to the BLS, although this is nothing to scoff at it's not nearly as much as I would like to be making to provide my kids with a better childhood than I had. I also have a minor interest in medicine and everyone around me is saying to go into medicine because the job market and pay is much better and I have serioulsy considered this so much so that I tried to convince myself that I like medicine more than Astronomy this worked for a few weeks but now I cant pretend anymore. Should I just go for it in Astronomy and hope to get a job in the field or should I stick with Medicine. If anyone has information on job prospects for the next 10-15 years for Astronomers feel free to comment any and all replies are welcome. Thanks in advance!

    - College Student and Lover of Science
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 19, 2015 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    If a salary higher than 85% of what Americans make is insufficient, and you don't want to go into medicine, you're in a bit of a pickle, I'm afraid. Especially as that value is "not nearly as much" as you want. That leaves positions like "CEO", which usually is not entry level.
  4. Dec 20, 2015 #3


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    There are a few things to point out here.

    First, at this point you are making a choice about your education. And although that will be related to your career, it is not the single determinant of your career path. If you were to study physics as an undergraduate and take the prerequisite courses for medical school,when you graduate you would be in a position to apply to either medical school or graduate school for astronomy. Even then your career path won't be laid in stone, but by then you'll have a much better idea of what either direction will look like for you.

    Second, simply looking up the salary of a given profession is likely going to leave you a little disappointed. For an astronomer, that $109k comes with some strings. It's not a starting salary. Remember you'll have to go through graduate school, earning barely enough money to pay for tuition, food and rent, then you'll move into a series of post-doctoral positions once you graduate, and the salary for these is generally in the $40-60k ball park. Most people are well into their thirties by the time they become competitive for the more permanent academic jobs. And the odds of getting these are low - probably on the order of one in ten for those who successfully graduate with a PhD. It may even be worse if you are limiting your options to astronomy because unlike other branches of physics, there aren't that many direct industrial applications for astronomy.

    Third, if your primary goal is to provide the quality of life for your family that you experienced growing up it's also important to keep in mind that both of the options you are currently considering require a substantial time commitment. I don't mean just in terms of education. As a post-doc or as a medical resident you'll put in long hours away from your family. So that leaves you with a tricky balancing act to perform, because money is one thing, but it's also important (perhaps a lot more so) to spend quality time with your family.
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