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Programs Grad Program for Space Employment

  1. Apr 15, 2016 #1
    First off, forgive me if this question has been posted and answered prior.

    I'm a non-traditional physics student and should complete my BS degree in December of this year; I have a previous BA in English, for whatever that's worth (the market says it's not worth much). I'm looking to attend graduate school and would love to eventually secure employ in something having to do with space physics; I love space and so I initially thought astrophysics, but I'm worried about employability with a PhD in that discipline. I'm trying to find out which other graduate degrees lend themselves to the study and practise of physics in space environments but which also have job prospects. I enjoy teaching so I'm not opposed to academia, but neither am I opposed to private sector work (in fact, I would prefer it).

    In case it's at all relevant, I've enjoyed the following fields the most during my undergraduate tenure thus far: Classical Mechanics, E&M, and Relativity (a lot of Relativity was self study as there wasn't much covered in undergraduate, but we did go over Special in Modern and General a very little bit). I'm not married to any of these fields, but they definitely piqued my interest and left me wanting to look into them more. Also, I've loved all of my Math classes thus far (the standard Calculus, DiffEQ, and Linear Algebra stuff as well as Discrete Math).

    Thanks for reading, and thanks for any advise you may have to offer. I've been researching this on and off for a bit and keep coming up empty; I've been so busy working and attending classes that the possible reality of grad school kind of snuck up on me, and now I find myself in a bit of a crunch!
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 16, 2016 #2


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    Aerospace Engineering is likely to be far and away the most employable PhD with space applications. The US has plenty of good programs, as does the UK (you don't say where you're from). Solar physics is another possibility. A good industry job in the former arena will be tough; the latter nonexistent - it would have to be a National Lab or NASA. Academic positions, well, you know the story there.
  4. Apr 16, 2016 #3
    Sorry; didn't include any location information. I'm in Colorado Springs, CO, USA. It sounds like you're saying even with the most employable PhD in space systems (an engineering degree and not a physics degree) that I would still be hard pressed to find a job. Are jobs working with space systems really that difficult to find with the proper training? I was under the (perhaps mistaken) impression that there would be a good chance of being employed working with something to do with space (be it NASA, Boeing, Lockheed, Space X, other DoDs, government, etc.) if I were to have the right credentials and such.

    I'm very keen to work with some sort of space system, be it space exploration, satellite technology, or what have you. I'm also wanting to stay in a physics field and not necessarily convert over to engineering. That said, I'm also very enthusiastic about my family eating regular meals and having something over their heads when it rains, so I'm willing to branch out if necessary. I had considered Astrodynamics as I really like Classical Mechanics, but I'm open to exploring anything right now while I attempt to pin down the most advantageous graduate program to enter.

    Neglecting my preferences, what's the most employable graduate program for physics in your opinion? If it helps, I'm fairly open to moving almost anywhere opportunity can be found. I have what my ideal job arena would be, but we don't always get to have the ideal so I'm more than willing to see what else is out there.
  5. Apr 17, 2016 #4


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    The US has a very small active space program, so jobs in that area are very scarce. Good jobs are always tough to come by, especially those where you are able to use your education and even more so for those where you can use your physics education. You probably would have better luck with the DoD than NASA, but that's outside of my realm of experience. Being able to move around is a big plus, being able to move around and be flexible about the kind of work you're willing to do, better. However, PhDs do get jobs and the way that is best done is to continuously build up your network.

    I would not take the approach of choosing a subfield of physics based on its likelihood of yielding a job. To make it through a program requires a sustained period of sacrifice, and that is very hard to do if you are not really devoted to the topic at hand.
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