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Schools Astrophysics at University

  1. May 22, 2012 #1
    Hello, i live in the UK and am wondering what courses i have to take at university to become and astrophysicist. I realise that its advisable to do a PhD/Doctorate at some point but do i have to do a full bachelors and masters degree individually or can i just do a masters?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 22, 2012 #2
    Are you doing your A-Levels now or are you already in a university course? Which subjects are you taking?

    The *typical* path is to take maths, physics and another subject at A2, followed by a Bachelor's (these days: undergrad Master's, such as the MSci or MPhys) in physics and after that a doctorate.
  4. May 22, 2012 #3

    To be a professional astrophysicist you will need a PhD in a field of astrophysics, but in order to get into a PhD you can do a much more general degree, and have examples of your interest in astrophysics (i.e. through doing a summer placement whilst at Uni, taking elective classes etc.,).

    Now when I say much more general degree, I am really meaning: Physics or Maths, both of which are suitable for going into astrophysics PhD programs. Depending on the Uni you are looking at, it is possible that you may be able to do combinations (i.e. 50/50 degree splits), such as Physics and Maths, Physics and Astronomy, Maths and Astronomy etc., so it's up to you really.

    If i'm honest though, I wouldn't necessarily take a straight Astrophysics degree. It's important to do what interests you, of course, and thats the most important consideration but also bear in mind that if three years down the line you're fed up with astro then you might have been better off with a more general Physics or Physics & Astro degree that allows you both specialise in astro for PhD, or to do something else.
  5. May 22, 2012 #4
    Thanks for the replies you two, i am about to start my A levels and am doing Physics, Chemistry, Maths and History at AS and i'm dropping history at A2. I am debating between a postgrad degree in physics with astrophysics or physics and particle physics at the moment.
  6. May 23, 2012 #5
    Worry about getting into undergraduate physics before worrying about what post graduate courses to do.

    Also, your subjects may not be the most conductive to making your university application as competitive as possible. If your school offers further maths and you are not taking it but hoping for entry into a numerical based course, universities may either reject you outright or give you a much higher offer.
  7. May 23, 2012 #6
    Hey - no bother (feel free to pm if you have any specific questions about the whole uni physics experience in the UK - i just finished so know a thing or two).

    Now, this may be an unpopular comment (and maybe controversial knowing some people on this forum haha) but: I'd be inclined to go for the astro option. The particle physics would certainly be interesting and you would learn a lot about detector design which has applications across a range of fields, but I think particle physics is almost too popular these days ha! Everyone and their granny is a particle physicist (which isn't a bad thing - just it gets very crowded i'd imagine). Of course, that being said, you wouldn't have to become a particle physicist after doing that degree, and tbh it may be more useful 'real-world' knowledge to have (assuming they go in depth to detector design).

    (No offense to those who are particle inclined out there of course!, just my thought)
  8. May 23, 2012 #7
    Just a suggestion, even if you're not applying to UCL, if you have any questions regarding astrophysics you could get your physics department to arrange a trip to the UCL observatory in Greenwich, like mine did, or get Dr Francisco Diego (can't link to his page but you can google the UCL website) to come and lecture you on astrophysics at your school, he's very welcoming of questions about undergraduate study and the subject itself, and he may be able to answer any questions you have/provide you with some resources. And if you go to the observatory you get to see where all the undergraduates work, and a talk on his research

    Also, have you applied for IOP 16-19 student membership? You get access to a forum with other A-level physics students, and some other benefits
  9. May 23, 2012 #8
    thanks laprenti, i didnt know about the IOP 16-19, ill be sure to sign up, plus i have tried to set up trips etc before but im the only one at my school who is really interested in it :/ As for the A levels which i have chosen, physics and maths are fundamental ,of course, and i want to do history as it helps me to get a break and not turn into a scientific zombie, plus universities always like an essay based A level, however i did want to do chemistry as i thought it was important, but does anyone think that further maths would be more useful than chemistry?
  10. May 23, 2012 #9
    Welcome, enjoy your 'I'm a physicist' green IOP card. For Edexcel at least, you'll probably have to go on a trip/hear a lecture as part of your AS coursework
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