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Degree in Astronomy

  1. Aug 24, 2008 #1
    Hi guys,

    I'm doing a BSc degree but have yet to choose my major. I'm considering majoring in Astronomy and Astrophysics. What are the job prospects for an B.Sc in Astronomy grad?
    Will Physics be a safer choice for a major?
    Any opinions would be valued :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 24, 2008 #2
    I was wondering the same thing last year. In the end I decided on Physics as I kept changing my mind and the Physics is the broader of the two.
  4. Aug 24, 2008 #3


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    Going with a more general route will keep more doors open for you. Is it possible to look at the astro courses and figure out which ones you really want to take, and then tailor a general physics program so that you end up taking them?

    Don't take the astro course just because it sounds more impressive at dinner parties. You can pursue astronomy at a graduate level with a general physics undergraduate degree.
  5. Aug 24, 2008 #4


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    There aren't many job opportunities for someone with a BS in Astronomy or Astrophysics. You could teach high school, work at a museum or observatory, or as a research assistant, but those last few jobs are few and far-between. Most people who want to work in astronomy go on for a PhD. If you're just planning to stop with the BS, physics would give you more opportunities, and engineering even more so.
  6. Aug 24, 2008 #5
    There aren't many jobs in Astronomy.

    Assuming your scientific background is solid (i.e. you've been taking all those physics courses they recommend you take to the point that you're almost a double major) then you have roughly the same prospects as someone who majored in Physics but isn't working in Physics. Your major is not your career (usually).
  7. Aug 24, 2008 #6
    My suggestion: major in physics. Take one or two astronomy courses for fun if you'd like, but get a very solid grounding in physics first. I am an astrophysics grad student, and I never took a single astronomy course as an undergrad. Sure, it was a bit annoying taking my first graduate level class in astronomy when I didn't know anything about supernova remnants or accretion disks. But I was well-prepared for the first year grad courses in quantum mechanics, E&M, nuclear/particle physics, etc., and I was fairly well-prepared for the PhD qualifier (well...I get the results next week, so maybe I shouldn't speak too soon). The grad students I know with pure astronomy backgrounds tend to have more trouble with the first year of grad school. If you're planning to be a professional astronomer, it's probably a better idea to do your undergrad degree in physics and just take a few astronomy courses on the side. All the astronomy professors I know in my department tell me that they have much less trouble with people who come in with physics degrees than they do with the astronomy folks. It's possible to pick up the necessary astronomy knowledge on the side. But quantum mechanics isn't something you can learn in your spare time outside a classroom (unless you happen to be a genius).

    However, maybe you're interested in quitting with a bachelor's degree. I would still suggest physics or perhaps even physics and engineering. Be warned: with just a physics BS your job prospects aren't all that great. But they're even worse if you have an astronomy degree. At least with a physics degree you can get a job at an engineering firm, in software development, or even as an analyst. With an astronomy degree I'm not really sure what you can do except graduate school. Don't get me wrong, I love astronomy. I wouldn't be majoring in astrophysics if I didn't. But no matter your career path, physics is a far better bet than astronomy at the undergraduate level.
  8. Aug 25, 2008 #7
    Righty, thanks guys :). I'll go with Physics then and do the Astro courses that I'm interested in as electives.
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