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High Schooler confused for future career

  1. May 22, 2015 #1
    First off I would like to thank you for your time for clicking on this thread and reading it. Thank you!

    To begin, i'm a 17 year old in High School in 11th grade in Northern New Jersey. To give a little background in my schooling life, just like pretty much everyone else I did great in all early school years. I'm not sure why but when I entered 6th grade my grades went from 90s from the years before to 80s and 70s. Yes they are good but it's what happens the following years. From grades 7-9 I just gave up in school and got Fs and Ds. The middle of my sophomore year I realized that I need to do straighten up and start doing my best and get the best possible grades. I also realized what I wanted to go to college for. Well, not exactly but I realized that I love science. More specifically, I love everything about space and time and how it works. So I brought my grades up to all 70s compared to all 60s at the end of the school year. Which to me, for having failing/border-line grades for 3-4 years straight is an improvement. But enough about that, Now i'm a junior currently taking Geometry CP for my math and Principles of Chemistry and Physics CP for my science. As of this year I improved my grades by a large margin, I have 90s and 80s for all my classes. Next year I'm taking Physics CP and Algebra 2 CP. Is taking algebra 2 as a senior and wanting to pursue a career in some sort of physics or astronomy science really bad? I've been trying my hardest to do my best in school but I'm already too far into High School to be taking more advanced classes. But this hasn't stopped me from trying to obtain my goal. So basically I guess I really want to know is it too late to wanting to pursue a career in astronomy, physics, or cosmology academically seeing as I am entering my senior year of High School? Also I know this question probably already has been asked and be can found somewhere on the internet but as a astronomer or astrophysicist or cosmologist does every job require any sort of skills in computers? Also how often are you using those skills? Are there jobs where the use of computer skills isn't needed as much as another? This might sound selfish in a way but I don't want to be constantly writing code I would rather be using a program rather than writing one. So basically in a crude way I want to study the universe, analyze data, write theories, and then prove or disprove it by using a program. Is there jobs that I can do such? I know there is a whole range of jobs and ways of doing things a field but this is basically my desire. I have no other desire for any other field of science or anything thing else. So thank you for your time!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 22, 2015 #2
    In your case, it might be worth going to a local community college for a while. Try to get your math knowledge to a decent level. Only then is it really worth applying to universities. It would be stupid to go to an expensive university to study things like trigonometry, a local community college is much cheaper and does the job as well. Alternatively, you might want to self study this, but then you won't get credit for it.

    Programming is a big part of science nowadays. You really can't get around it. Sure, some people will code less than other people. But knowing how to program is really a tool worth knowing.
  4. May 22, 2015 #3
    I probably should have added that going to community college for a while is what I planned on doing after high school not only because it's cheaper but knowing my position and trying to apply to a university after high school probably won't go over too well.
  5. May 22, 2015 #4
    I would consider taking summer courses in math and perhaps also in science (chemistry or physics). Or if you don't take formal summer classes, take significant time this summer to review and practice math (algebra, geometry, algebra 2, trigonometry, imaginary numbers, functional analysis, average rates of changes of functions, estimating areas under the curves of functions, etc., etc.).

    While you are at it, I would also encourage you to consider finding a part time job this summer - or preferably an apprenticeship - that would enable you to learn something useful. You can find a part time job working at a fast food place or at a store in the mall, and there is nothing wrong with that. (My first job was at Dunkin' Donuts, and I also worked for about a year at Papa Gino's). But I wish when I was younger, I would have found a part time job working at an mechanic's garage, or at a place where I could learn and do some welding. If you know any electricians, plumbers, HVAC guys, etc., maybe you can ask them to apprentice you this summer. Or even doing work as under a carpenter, or finding a gig where you can learn to operate machine tools, etc. If you get this kind of "hands on" experience while taking time in the summer to really hone your math and science knowledge, then (1) you will be better prepared to pursue a future technical degree, and (2) you will be more likely to be accepted into a program to pursue a technical degree.

    Something else to consider are engineering technology degrees. These degrees tend to be more hands on and less theoretical, but you learn some really practical things. I'm not saying to give up on an advanced degree in science, math, or engineering, but you should know that if you don't get a science or engineering degree, there is the option for engineering technology degrees.

    Incidentally, check out Doc Physics' YouTube channel when you get a chance. He is perhaps the best lecturer on physics that I have ever heard. Just go to YouTube and search for Doc Physics.

    Whatever you do, I would encourage you to do it all to the best of your ability as an act of worship to God. God bless you.
  6. May 26, 2015 #5
    To excel in STEM fields, you not only need to know how to read and write well, you need a very solid background in mathematics. Speaking from personal experience, the majority of math courses I had in high school and college were awful. The subject was treated as some sort of academic hazing ritual for students.

    Conversely, there are those who can study this stuff, regurgitate appropriate answers, and have absolutely no clue what they're doing. If you are interested in science or engineering, you really need to understand the math, not just pass it.

    That said, as an engineer, I don't use calculus every day on the job. In fact, my mentors years ago told me that if I was using more than a plain, non-programmable scientific calculator to get an answer, STOP! Something is wrong. Someone before me has approached a problem like this and solved it. I need to find that example and their approximations. Then I can at least know that I'm in the right order of magnitude. In my entire career so far, spanning nearly 30 years, I've actually derived an equation only two or three times.

    So why learn this stuff? Because it is central to EVERYTHING. You don't have to be able to derive the mathematics behind a Fourier Transform to use a spectrum analyzer. But you do need to understand what those spikes on the display come from.

    Finally, there is a tendency by many to treat degrees and certifications as some sort of merit badge. It is not. It is a ticket of entry to learn more. As a private pilot, I have flown with many other pilots. Some exhibited incredible experience and proficiency, even though they only had basic certifications. I'd fly with them any day. Others had certificates so long that they needed additional documents to accompany their pilot license. They were certified for everything from parachute packing, hot air ballooning, twin engine airplanes for both land and sea, and so on and so forth. However, their judgement was so poor that I wouldn't get in to either side of the cockpit with them, even in the best of weather.

    Another point: school is not the goal. It is a ticket of entry. To wit: What do you call someone who graduated dead last in Medical School? Doctor! In fact fifty percent of all graduates come from the bottom half of the class. For most, the goal is to study and pass the education system. Then you get a job. To keep that job and to grow, you will need to learn on your own. Your schooling and your classes are not ideal. You will need to develop your own self-study methods and frameworks to cope. If that's the only thing you bring with you to work from your college experience, then it was a success.
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