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Astrophysics going on to Aerospace Engineering

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hi all!
I am currently doing my undergrad in Astronomy and Astrophysics and minoring in Computational Mathematics.
I am starting to think about grad school and facing a dilemma:
I would like to eventually receive a PhD in Astrophysics, but in the future I would possibly like to apply my astrophysical knowledge and degree towards a career in the aerospace industry (astrodynamics?). Because of that I am thinking of pursuing an MS in Aerospace Engineering. However, I am having this weird feeling of doubt that this is a sensible path to take.
I do not mind/genuinely enjoy higher education and learning, so taking extra time before getting a PhD does not scare me. However, I do not know what makes more sense - doing a grad in Aerospace and then seeing if I would like to do a PhD in Astrophysics, or skipping the whole Aerospace concept (provided Astrophysics is sufficient enough to end up doing what I want to do)? Can anybody share their experience in similar ug+g combinations? I would appreciate any thoughts on this.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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The astrophysics career choice is fraught with peril as very few actually get jobs in the field at least that's how I remember it. Further, you won't necessarily have the skills to go after Aerospace engineering jobs either.

Check these jobs out to see what you can expect to go after:

https://www.indeed.com/q-Astrophysics-jobs.html

I think you may have to go for the MS Aerospace degree to have a better chance at a career in the field. Employers tend to choose candidates based on their major. If they want an engineer then they pick an engineer not necessarily a physicist whose taken some courses in engineering. This is not always the case but most of the time its true for any given job as they know what they are looking for.

Later you can augment it with Astrophysics although that will be a longer path as you will likely have to take more courses specific to the Astrophysics and your time at university will be quite a bit longer.

You have to do some long-term thinking and consider:
- what if I get tired of grad school?
- or what if i want to get married? ...

then time comes into play which will cause you to rethink your plans.

Remember doing a PhD requires 4+ years of commitment whereas doing an MS requires 2+ years. Doing both could well be 6+ years and counting.
 
  • #3
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I am having this weird feeling of doubt that this is a sensible path to take.
Why is that weird. Given the low degree of overlap, it seems normal to me.
 
  • #4
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If you know you want to do aerospace, then maybe you should do that. There is a lot of fluid mechanics and stuff that they don't really teach to physics majors anymore but that aerospace jobs expect you to know. I could maybe see working on magnetohydrodynamics or some advanced kind of fluid mechanics that astrophysics people do, and then parlaying that into an aerospace job, maybe doing CFD or something, but at a bare minimum you need to talk to some aerospace companies and recruiters and see what they are looking for. Go to career fairs.
 
  • #5
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It seems that if you are interested in astrodynamics, a astrophysics PhD does not bring as much to the table as a aerospace engineering PhD or even a Aerospace Engineering masters degree. I can say this because I work with many aerospace engineering graduates including an AE- PhD, who is a good friend I have known for 20 years, and my background is (space) physics (PhD).

The only (bad) reason I can think of to chose getting a physics graduate degree over a engineering graduate degree in order to go into the field of astrodynamics is to avoid some necessary AE courses. I can see how many prospective engineers dread the fluid mechanics, or thermodynamics in the aerospace program. However, the hope that you might learn something in PhD research astrophysics and cosmology that astrodynamicists might not know that is relevant to their field is most likely misguided.
t
A physics PhD candidate generally works in an area, which their thesis advisor has money to investigate. A astrophysics thesis advisor usually is not investigating research along the same lines as an astrodynamicist.
 

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