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Physics Astrophysics/Astronomy majors, 0% Unemployment Rate

  1. Oct 27, 2012 #1
    I've read in numerous places that astrophysics/astronomy majors have a 0% unemployment rate e.g.

    http://graphicsweb.wsj.com/documents/NILF1111/#term= [Broken]



    According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics astronomers earn a mean wage of $101,630 and physicists earn $112,090. (Substantially higher than the impression given by these forums)


    These statistics go against everything I read on these forums.

    So either there's plenty of jobs in astrophysics/astronomy or astrophysics/astronomy majors are moving out the field.

    What are your thoughts on this?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 27, 2012 #2
    It's utter BS. There is always some unemployment in every field. Frictional, seasonal and cyclical unemployment are present in every occupation. Structural unemployment is present in many occupations.

    Also, these articles define unemployment as "looking for work but not being able to find it". It means that many astrophysics majors either gave up looking for jobs, or ended up working outside physics.

    Unemployment itself is a vague term, especially when you see it on articles.
    And BLS statistics is also vague in its definition of "astrophysicist". Does it count professors teaching in community colleges? They don't make $101,000.

    Be super careful when reading economic data, and watch for misleading terms.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  4. Oct 27, 2012 #3


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    There are several mitigating factors to consider.

    (1) Physics is a major that usually ends up with a low unemployment rate compared to other university majors. This does not mean that it's zero. This means that students who graduate with physics degrees who fill out employment status surveys tend to have a job (be it working as a physicst or as a vacuum cleaner sales associate) more frequently than graduates from other fields.

    (2) The definition of "physicist" varies. If your definition is limited to, for example, tenured professors then the mean salary makes sense. Throw in professional physicists like medical physicists and geophysicists and the mean salary climbs. Throw in post-docs and it drops. Throw in those working in IT because they couldn't get a job "doing physics" and it drops some more.

    (3) People who are generally happy with their job and financial situation usually don't spend time on internet forums talking about how wonderful their life is.
  5. Oct 27, 2012 #4
    "It means that many astrophysics majors either gave up looking for jobs, or ended up working outside physics."

    This came to my mind also. Its not that they are moving out of the field, most never even get into the field to begin with. If you cant get a job as an astrophysicist you get a job doing anything you can to pay the bills.

    The quote from the astro BS holder in your second link is laughable. Its naive and lacks perspective.
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