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Physics Astrophysics as an career

  1. Mar 21, 2004 #1
    Hi, im currently a second year BSc student in South Africa doing physics,chem and math. Ive always been interested in space and im considering going into astrophysics as an career option. I'm just unsure whether there is a demand for astrophysicists around and what the future of astrophysics looks like at the moment. So could anyone perhaps help point me in the right direction?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 21, 2004 #2
    Go the Military and Corporations

    If you want to work on the cutting-edge of your field, join the military, or a private corporation working on satellites etc.!
    I wouldn't bother with educational institutions and universities, as a career, (the curriculum is too closed for expanding hidden potentials...).

    Note, that the above options are fine for researchers who don't mind accepting current dogma, and for those who don't mind "towing the line".
  4. Mar 21, 2004 #3


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    Welcome to Physics Forums Nietsnie!

    If you love the science and are very good at it, there's nothing more rewarding than a research career, whether in academia or a public or private institutions. However, it will not likely be very rewarding financially, compared with what you may be able to make in private industry (not necessarily in astrophysics).

    The trick is to work out what sort of demand there will be once you've finished your Ph.D.
  5. Jun 15, 2004 #4
    I am also interested in astrophysics. I will be a college freshman in SC, where I am currently a physics major. I took intro 2 years ago as well as classes in chem, modern, astro, & an independent study. I would like to be an astrophysicist, but I probably lack the intelligence to do so. I was at the very bottom of my class, (i never made much over 85) although in my defense I went to a state funded high school for students gifted in math/science. All the students in the upper phy classes were in math classes 3 levels higher than me, courtesy of previous education. They were also entirely male. Due to dorm separation, I was excluded from all of the study sessions as well as being on my own as far as homework. Meaning the teacher had to teach me a lot of the math to be able to do the hwk. I dont know if this is something I could actually do, although I really like the field.

    I wanted to ask a couple of personal experience questions to any astrophysicists out there.
    1. How capitalistic/competitive is this field? I dont want to enter into a dog eat dog environment where you have to safeguard ideas.
    2. What made you decide to join this field?
    3. What is a typical day like?
    4. Is this field more empirical or theoretical?

    I was also wondering where I could find textbooks that might be useful. I had been looking for an internship or something for the summer where I could get an idea of what an actual career would be like, but I couldn't find one for this summer.
  6. Jun 16, 2004 #5
    Answers (related to my experience as an Astronomer/Astrophysicist);

    (1) Not very competitive at all, as a “normal” Astronomer/Astrophysicist.
    However, it is VERY competitive in the military/private corporations.
    You DO have to safeguard your ideas/theories though. Don’t doubt that the corporations/military will “put you over a barrel”, if you come up with something revolutionary. They will.

    (2) Watching a Total Solar Eclipse in 1977. I fell in love with the “daytime stars”. Satellite tracking and UFO sightings, just quenched my thirst for knowledge and understanding more… That’s what got me into Astronomy.
    What got me into Astrophysics (and high-energy particle physics) was mucking around with my mate’s Backyard “Underground” Particle Accelerator (which he somehow built from scratch – a bloody genius).

    (3) I do my astrophysics in the day (theory), astronomy/satellite tracking at night.
    Each day spent in the field is wonderful.

    (4) The field is mostly theoretical (astrophysics). Astronomy is much more hands on – especially if you have access to a good telescope.

    For career information 9in America), try sites like this;

    For job vacancies – “New Scientist” magazine sometimes has some good positions offered. Also,

    Please note, however, that this is just my personal experience. It is unusual in some respects, as I am “not employed by any official agency”. I am (now) a renegade Astronomer/Astrophysicist…

    Maybe somebody else can post their experiences.
  7. Jun 16, 2004 #6
    The "He" Profession...

    Oh yeh, it is (unfortunately) a very “backward” field, in respect of females being employed. This is evidenced in the above link;

    “The successful candidate…. . He is expected to develop new ideas on technical approaches…”

    Most employers just “assume” that the applicants will be male (as per your experience). However, don’t let that faze you!
    It IS the best job in the world!
    Also, I know many females (mostly Russian/Ukrainian) who are much brighter than the males I come across. I find female Astrophysicists to be much more open-minded to new theory…
  8. Jun 25, 2004 #7


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    I wouldn't mind a job working as a professional celestial mechanic. As long as I could keep on raising my goats and apple trees.

    Jerry Abbott
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