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From Physics B.S. to Astrophysics/Astronomy Ph.D. Possible?

  1. May 7, 2013 #1
    Is it possible to go straight into an Astrophysics or Astronomy Ph.D. program after obtaining a B.S. in Physics (general), or would you have to more or less specialize at the undergrad level and/or shoot for a masters prior to the Ph.D. in order to make sure that you know "enough" about Astrophysics/Astronomy before moving into a Ph.D. Program? I hope all of that made sense. Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 7, 2013 #2
    In the US, this is how it is usually done. A BS in "regular" physics, then a PhD program for astro (or whatever other specialty).
  4. May 7, 2013 #3

    George Jones

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    And in Canada. Someone who was in my graduating year in Physics got a Ph.D. in Astronomy, and now is high up in Toronto's financial district.
  5. May 7, 2013 #4
    That's what I'm hoping. It just seems like you'd have to have quite a bit of knowledge at the undergrad level in whatever it is that you want to specialize in. For example, I can't imagine going into an Astronomy Ph.D. program with very little actual knowledge of astronomy.
  6. May 7, 2013 #5
    In my experience, many early astronomy majors vastly underestimate how much of astronomy deals with "regular" physics. Quantum, classical, E&M, Stat. Mech. - this is what astronomy is about.

    Note that you can take astronomy classes for your electives while pursuing a degree in "regular" physics.
  7. May 7, 2013 #6


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    Reaching for the stars, eh? :biggrin:
  8. May 7, 2013 #7
    The only problem is that my school (Indiana University South Bend) only offers like one 100 level astronomy course, one 300 level astronomy course, and an astrophysics course. I'm afraid that this won't be enough to prepare me. Hopefully it won't be a problem though.
  9. May 7, 2013 #8


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    You don't need any undergraduate work in astronomy. It would be nice if you had it, but it's not required. Also, some research experience in the field would be nice, but again, not required. The physics background is the most important part, and the ability to take a few graduate level physics courses.

    Also consider departments that combine the astronomy and physics departments. That way, your PhD is in physics even if you do your dissertation topic in astronomy, which in my personal experience makes you more employable than a PhD in astronomy. Employers assume a PhD in physics can do astronomy, but upon talking to them, they are discriminating if they think my PhD in astronomy and I want to do/teach physics.
  10. May 7, 2013 #9
    Thank you for the encouraging information!
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