# Astrophysics; Money matters ?

## Main Question or Discussion Point

Astrophysics; Money matters... ??

Hi,

A little intro to help you understand. I'm from India in 12th grade or A-Levels, and was applying to British Uni's for Undergrad studies. I was thinking either B.Sc Physics/Astrophysics (1st Priority) or Engineering preferably Aero

Just to get a clearer picture, do Engineers get significantly more money than Astrophysicist, i'm not overly worried about the pay-grade but I'd be spending something around £25k to £30k on my tution fees for both, so how long would it take for me to earn that kind of money?

Also, other than say NASA and CERN, etc who employs Astrophysicists ? What is there usual starting salaries and how do they compare to Engineers ? (I need to convince my father on this)

Does any Uni is UK have like a double degree/major so I could do both Aero and Astro ? (obviously, if it isnt too much work)

thanks

you'll find most astrophysicists end up going to grad school because most of them want to pursue research. If you are just looking for what pays better and more quickly than engineers get paid more and can be hired after undergraduate more likely.

Thanks for the reply; would love more opinions..

Also, a few questions

1) If I take a sandwhich year/ placement year do I still have to pay the entire year's tuition fees ?

2) What kind of job could I get after doing B.Sc Physics/Astrophysics ? P'haps after a few years I could do Ph.D and all that or is higher education necessary to get a job after doing physics ?? I mean engineering graduates don't have any problem in it, heck most dont even do Masters ?

thanks

Also, other than say NASA and CERN, etc who employs Astrophysicists ? What is there usual starting salaries and how do they compare to Engineers ? (I need to convince my father on this)
Ph.d. astrophysicists are very commonly employed by Wall Street. Starting salary for an associate is $100K +$50K bonus. Someone with 3-5 years of experience at VP level can make $200K-$300K. I personally know of people with physics Ph.D.'s that make close to $1M/year. 1) If I take a sandwhich year/ placement year do I still have to pay the entire year's tuition fees ? You must check this with the universities you are looking at, but I did a placement year and I had to pay half fees. I think it works the same way for international students, but as I said, only the universities can tell you for sure. 2) What kind of job could I get after doing B.Sc Physics/Astrophysics ? P'haps after a few years I could do Ph.D and all that or is higher education necessary to get a job after doing physics ?? I mean engineering graduates don't have any problem in it, heck most dont even do Masters ? You'll have a good skill set with a BSc degree in physics/astrophysics. If you wanted you could apply to almost all of the same jobs that you could get with an engineering degree, so I wouldn't worry about disparity in the wages if you're willing to have any job. You could apply for graduate programmes with companies that would train you to work as an electrical engineer designing/building satellites for instance. If you want to actually work in astrophysics, there aren't any easy options. Research is conducted almost exclusively in academia, which you'll need a PhD to get in to and even then, it is difficult to land a position. Ph.d. astrophysicists are very commonly employed by Wall Street. Starting salary for an associate is$100K + $50K bonus. Someone with 3-5 years of experience at VP level can make$200K-$300K. I personally know of people with physics Ph.D.'s that make close to$1M/year.
Thanks a lot for the info, just wondering i'm not entirely sure that in our Astrophysics courses we have anything to do with Finance or Accounts so how come Wall Street is a major employer ?

Wouldn't the work there be given to more suitably qualified accountants and managers ? why would they chose an Astrophysicist ?

You must check this with the universities you are looking at, but I did a placement year and I had to pay half fees. I think it works the same way for international students, but as I said, only the universities can tell you for sure.
Thanks, wondering whether the sandwich year was worth it ? I mean I could do the same job after graduating and then I wouldn't have to pay the half fees which would be like £5k ?

What is the benefit of working while in Uni rather than after graduating ?

You'll have a good skill set with a BSc degree in physics/astrophysics. If you wanted you could apply to almost all of the same jobs that you could get with an engineering degree, so I wouldn't worry about disparity in the wages if you're willing to have any job. You could apply for graduate programmes with companies that would train you to work as an electrical engineer designing/building satellites for instance.

If you want to actually work in astrophysics, there aren't any easy options. Research is conducted almost exclusively in academia, which you'll need a PhD to get in to and even then, it is difficult to land a position.
That is really helpful; doing B.Sc would let me do what I enjoy more and then I could still have an option of going into academia or industry is just awesome :D

Just wondering, so jobs in academia or in observatories or something more related to Astrophysics are only possible after a Ph.D while I could do "normal" similar to engineering jobs after B.Sc ? I guess I could always do a Ph.D when i'm ready for it :)

thanks everyone

Thanks, wondering whether the sandwich year was worth it ? I mean I could do the same job after graduating and then I wouldn't have to pay the half fees which would be like £5k ?

What is the benefit of working while in Uni rather than after graduating ?
It was very useful for me, but I do see your point about money. To be honest, I didn't think about that at all, I just saw it as an opportunity to broaden my education.

My placement taught me programming which isn't very widely practised at this university, it looks good on my CV, it gave me a year without academic commitments to really work out what I wanted to do after university, and the company actually offered me a job so if I did want to go straight into work after university I could have done - would have started off on about £18,000 too, which isn't terrible.

Thanks
Scott

Thanks a lot for the info, just wondering i'm not entirely sure that in our Astrophysics courses we have anything to do with Finance or Accounts so how come Wall Street is a major employer ?
Imagine a particle bouncing around as it leaves a star. You write an equation that describes the behavior of said particles. Now imagine that those particles are actually stock prices. Same equations. The magic google keyword is "Black-Scholes equation."

Wouldn't the work there be given to more suitably qualified accountants and managers ? why would they chose an Astrophysicist ?
Because most accountants and managers haven't spent several years modelling radiation flow on supercomputers, and don't find that work particularly interesting. Your typical investment bank has *billions* of dollars of transactions that have to be processed, and there is this massive supercomputer in the back room that needs babysitting.

If you wanted you could apply to almost all of the same jobs that you could get with an engineering degree, so I wouldn't worry about disparity in the wages if you're willing to have any job.
Why would a recruiter hire an Astrophysicist over an Engineer for an engineering position?

Imagine a particle bouncing around as it leaves a star. You write an equation that describes the behavior of said particles. Now imagine that those particles are actually stock prices. Same equations. The magic google keyword is "Black-Scholes equation."

Because most accountants and managers haven't spent several years modelling radiation flow on supercomputers, and don't find that work particularly interesting. Your typical investment bank has *billions* of dollars of transactions that have to be processed, and there is this massive supercomputer in the back room that needs babysitting.
Why not somebody who has done Mathematics, hell, why not somebody who has done Computer Science at post-graduate level?

They hire those types of people as well.

Why would a recruiter hire an Astrophysicist over an Engineer for an engineering position?
Because in some situations they astrophysicist has more relevant experience

Why not somebody who has done Mathematics, hell, why not somebody who has done Computer Science at post-graduate level?
They do that do. However, someone who has done mathematics or computer science may or may not have done supercomputer programming.

Also it's a matter of numbers. You have maybe a few hundred Ph.D.'s going on the job market each year. So if you happen to need five Ph.D.'s, then you've got yourself a major recruiting challenge. Your typical investment bank has a staff of several hundred Ph.D.'s., and there are probably more physics Ph.D.'s working for Goldman-Sachs than there are in most physics departments.

The other thing is that a lot of finance work is "warm body" work. I.e. you warm bodies to do the work, and there are few enough Ph.D.'s so that you get whatever you can.

One irony and paradox is that physics Ph.D.'s get paid a lot because physics Ph.D.'s aren't motivated by money. If you have a room full of MBA's and put some money on the table, then you are going to get flooded with people. Ph.D.'s are different. You can put a ton of money on the table, and people won't take it, so that someone that does take the money is going to get a lot of it.

One curious thing about the guy I know that makes $1 million/year is that he would have taken a faculty position of someone offered it to him. They do that do. However, someone who has done mathematics or computer science may or may not have done supercomputer programming. Also it's a matter of numbers. You have maybe a few hundred Ph.D.'s going on the job market each year. So if you happen to need five Ph.D.'s, then you've got yourself a major recruiting challenge. Your typical investment bank has a staff of several hundred Ph.D.'s., and there are probably more physics Ph.D.'s working for Goldman-Sachs than there are in most physics departments. The other thing is that a lot of finance work is "warm body" work. I.e. you warm bodies to do the work, and there are few enough Ph.D.'s so that you get whatever you can. One irony and paradox is that physics Ph.D.'s get paid a lot because physics Ph.D.'s aren't motivated by money. If you have a room full of MBA's and put some money on the table, then you are going to get flooded with people. Ph.D.'s are different. You can put a ton of money on the table, and people won't take it, so that someone that does take the money is going to get a lot of it. One curious thing about the guy I know that makes$1 million/year is that he would have taken a faculty position of someone offered it to him.
True that may be the case but is not more probable that out of Ph.D's who have a working knowledge of supercomputer programming, more of them are Computer Science guys, rather than physicists?

I can see your point and chances are, if I one day, have a choice between a faculty position and that kind of job, I would probably have gone for the faculty position. Then again, it's the "me of now" speaking and that "me" doesn't know much about the mechanics of these jobs. Right now, I'm more concerned with being more practical among other things - I feel erm, what's the word for it (?) ...inadequate in my physics class. Not only am I behind on the work, I also can't seem to think about the right things when designing experiments. I guess different people are more apt at other things.

At any rate, useful info/insight on here. ;)

It was very useful for me, but I do see your point about money. To be honest, I didn't think about that at all, I just saw it as an opportunity to broaden my education.

My placement taught me programming which isn't very widely practised at this university, it looks good on my CV, it gave me a year without academic commitments to really work out what I wanted to do after university, and the company actually offered me a job so if I did want to go straight into work after university I could have done - would have started off on about £18,000 too, which isn't terrible.

Thanks
Scott
So is placement year, like training for a job like internship or do you have like a "proper" job ? How often do students get paid during this year; i understand it all depends on who is recruiting and what you are interested in and everything but just a basic idea of the ratio paid to volunteers is like 1:2 or .. ?

samd

Simfish
Gold Member

Also, other than say NASA and CERN, etc who employs Astrophysicists ? What is there usual starting salaries and how do they compare to Engineers ? (I need to convince my father on this)
Does NASA really employ that many astrophysicists? Most of its employees are engineers.

So is placement year, like training for a job like internship or do you have like a "proper" job ? How often do students get paid during this year; i understand it all depends on who is recruiting and what you are interested in and everything but just a basic idea of the ratio paid to volunteers is like 1:2 or .. ?

samd
Hmm, to me it always felt more like the actual job. I'd be set real programming tasks to do for a program that was actually used in 3 or 4 of the company's sites and they proposed to start selling licences to outside organisations. So it was real work, like I would have actually done if I was a full employee there instead of a placement student.

I couldn't possibly comment on the 1:2 ratio, but I personally would never have applied for a placement that didn't pay, for two reasons: 1) There are so many that do pay it would seem pointless, 2) I couldn't possibly have afforded to live for the year without an income.
I'm pretty sure my university expects that all of their students on industrial placements will be paid.

Thanks
Scott

Hi,

A little intro to help you understand. I'm from India in 12th grade or A-Levels, and was applying to British Uni's for Undergrad studies. I was thinking either B.Sc Physics/Astrophysics (1st Priority) or Engineering preferably Aero

Just to get a clearer picture, do Engineers get significantly more money than Astrophysicist, i'm not overly worried about the pay-grade but I'd be spending something around £25k to £30k on my tution fees for both, so how long would it take for me to earn that kind of money?

Also, other than say NASA and CERN, etc who employs Astrophysicists ? What is there usual starting salaries and how do they compare to Engineers ? (I need to convince my father on this)

Does any Uni is UK have like a double degree/major so I could do both Aero and Astro ? (obviously, if it isnt too much work)

thanks
Who gets the most money depends on who works where. If you are solely interested in money then the two highest paying fields are investment banking and law (if it's a magic circle firm). For a job with one of these firms the degree you study is completely irrelevant: by far the most important factor is the university you study at. It's typically easier to get into engineering than physics so engineering is a safer bet. You can get into some of the "target" universities with fairly low grades for engineering, like Warwick and UCL, whereas some of the universities that are ****-hot for engineering, like Loughborough and Bath and Southampton, ask for higher grades but the name branding of those universities is not strong enough to compete with the elite ones.

I believe that Durham has one of the best astrophysics departments in Europe, so if you are interested in astrophysics check it out. For aeronautical engineering, then Southampton's degree has a lot of space stuff in it, which would also be of interest to you. Although, again, neither of these universities have a strong enough brand name to get you into the highest paying, most competitive jobs in investment banking, so don't go studying at one of these institutions "for the money" as you'll most likely be disappointed when graduates from lower quality departments are the target universities get higher paying (and probably more stressful) jobs than you.

Now you may be wondering why I haven't really mentioned anything more specific to physics and engineering, and that's primarily because there isn't a whole lot of relevant stuff for them to do in Britain. We primarily do financial services, and that's where the majority of graduates from numerate degrees end up*. For an aero-engineer then there are some opportunities in defence companies, though, and from what I've been told by friends doing these degrees, an aero-degree is mandatory. The pay is fairly comfortable - you won't starve, you'll probably be able to run your own car, and maybe own your own property before you're 30 if you're lucky. But it's not usually as good as in banking. The only real money for engineers who want to remain in engineering is in oil & gas, and we don't really hire either aero-engineers or astrophysicists.

Also, do a four year MSci or MEng rather than a three year BSc or BEng.

*Of the ones that find employment. If your university's brand name isn't prestigious enough to get you into banking or finance and you can't land a job in an industry specific to your degree then it's either teaching or Tescos.

you'll find most astrophysicists end up going to grad school because most of them want to pursue research. If you are just looking for what pays better and more quickly than engineers get paid more and can be hired after undergraduate more likely.
This is the American system!

In the UK you choose to do a BSc/MSc course after A levels and (usually after MSc!) do a PhD. You may get hired after BSc/MSc, perhaps in a satellite engineering company?

Leicester, for you, is worth looking at as it is strong in both astrophysics and space science, so you can hesitate for a few more years about specialising in space science/technology or astrophysics:

Physics with Space Science and Technology BSc/MPhys
http://www.le.ac.uk/ugprospectus/courses/physics_astronomy/space.html

Leicester has a large immigrant population from the Indian sub-continent, so the culture clash should not be too great. I remember great Indian restaurants as a highlight of my time there, and some great spice & Pakora shops...

It's becoming more and more preferable for undergraduates to study the new four year "undergraduate masters" courses rather than just a BSc. These new courses, the somewhat contradictory named "undergraduate masters" ones, were created primarily to address the deficit in knowledge and skills between a three year English/Welsh BSc and the four year European ones.

Leicester might well be excellent for astrophysics or space science/technology. But I don't know what the chances are in finding employment in the something related to space are. It's always good to have a backup plan and I don't think a physics degree from Leicester will give the best options in the widest range of fields. A quick look on Unistats under the "Employment Prospects" tab backs up what I'm saying.

When it comes to graduate employment, the quality of the department or university in a particular area is pretty irrelevant. Most people are unaware of what university is good for what. And even if everyone knew, then it'd still be irrelevant, because you don't need to be a good astrophysicist to be a good office drone. Apart from a few exceptions such as vocational courses like medicine etc., applicants should choose a university firstly by its general prestige, and then by other factors such as whether they like the university, the location, the actual quality of education they will receive, and how nice the department is.

I did the opposite of what I am advising so I may seem a little hypocritical. In hindsight I'd have probably went to a more prestigious university (I had offers) but the people giving advice at schools were primarily teachers, and I'm wondering how much the saying "those who can't do, teach" really applied to them. Certainly, from what I've been told by graduates who are now in the world of work, the name branding of the university matters and awful lot more than what the teachers said. If my first plan doesn't work (and I'm trying extremely hard to make sure it does) then I don't really have a back up. Whereas if I went to the more "prestigious" university then there's a lot more careers I could have an easier time getting into outside of engineering. Now obviously the system is a load of crap but you can't prejudice and snobbery so you've got to play it to your advantage whenever possible. Especially if you are interested in making money.

don't hold anything back now... just let it all out!

Who gets the most money depends on who works where. If you are solely interested in money then the two highest paying fields are investment banking and law (if it's a magic circle firm).
And astrophysics happens to be one path into investment banking.

For a job with one of these firms the degree you study is completely irrelevant
Not true at all. For the work that I do, we pretty much require some sort of hard core math/engineering/science degree, preferably a Ph.D. Also there are other parts of the firm that do different things, and so the requirements are different.

by far the most important factor is the university you study at.
Sort of, but there are some universities that no one has heard of that have very good placements, and some big name universities that have horrible placement. If you want to figure out what universities are good for career placement, the best people to talk to are alumni, since they aren't going to make more money if you decide to go to the university.

Although, again, neither of these universities have a strong enough brand name to get you into the highest paying, most competitive jobs in investment banking
Ummmmm.... How do you know this? I have the advantage that I actually have worked in investment banking.

The only real money for engineers who want to remain in engineering is in oil & gas, and we don't really hire either aero-engineers or astrophysicists.
Who is "we"? My first job after I got an astrophysics Ph.D. was in a major oil and gas company.

Also, I'm talking about the US market and things might be different in the UK. But you can move....... One thing that is nice about the US is that you have lots of people that ended up here because they didn't have the "pedigree" to make it in their original country.

Ph.d. astrophysicists are very commonly employed by Wall Street. Starting salary for an associate is $100K +$50K bonus. Someone with 3-5 years of experience at VP level can make $200K-$300K. I personally know of people with physics Ph.D.'s that make close to \$1M/year.
Wow must be pretty competitive. They say Wall Street are criminal friends.

Wow must be pretty competitive.
It's not particularly hard for an astrophysics Ph.D. to get a job as a quant.

They say Wall Street are criminal friends.
Maybe. I don't think so, but I'm not unbiased here.

But if they throw money at physics Ph.D.'s when no one else is willing to, they can't be all bad.