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How employable is astrophysics with a CS minor?

  1. Jan 24, 2015 #1
    I'm considering getting a major in astrophysics and a minor in computer science. First of all, would an astrophysics major preclude me from studying, say, particle particle physics, in graduate school? I want to take a couple astro classes and my parents think astrophysics sounds "smarter" than physics... Not important but still their opinion counts!
    I think a CS minor would be helpful since astrophysics is basically all simulations, data mining, working with image data, etc.

    Would this be employable or am I dreaming? I either want to major in astrophysics w/ cs minor or double major in physics and math. Which one is better for grad school?
    If I don't go to grad school, which one is more employable? I would love to be working in data science if I don't go into science research or work as a quant in finance... Would this combination be impressive enough to land a job without a finance degree? Am I better off majoring in math?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 24, 2015 #2
    Astrophysics is a research subject, isn't it?
  4. Jan 24, 2015 #3
    At my school, astrophysics is an interdisciplinary major...
  5. Jan 24, 2015 #4
    Well, since you won't say it, astrophysics is a research specialization. There's no astrophysics positions in private industries.
    Also, it isn't interdisciplinary. I guess you mean it is a mix of different physics subjects. Or is your major really a joint effort by the physics department and the chemistry department? That would be very odd.

    Anyway, where I live, CS and quant finance have their own MSc and PhD and they are very different from physics. A person with a background in quant finance isn't going to win the Nobel prize in physics. If you want to do quantitative finance or CS, don't get a physics degree.

    It really seems as people believe that if you get sick of your relatively low-paying job in physics academics, when that passion for science is gone, you can just go into finance and bank in a lot of money.

    Yeah, Wall Street hired some math PhD students way back, as using mathematical models in finance was an innovation. Now, that is no longer true. Kids grew up with the image of quantitative finance, CS and mathematical models being the new Jordan Belfort on Wall Street. And guess what, in the mean time Wall Street busted and now they ae heading for another implosion.
    Not to mention that people that gravitate to finance are completely different to people that gravitate towards science. It takes a special person to work in finance, and I don't mean that in a good way. It isn't just that it is a business and that money needs to be made. The mentality of some of those people towards business and career is completely psychotic; in the literal sense of the word(and this is documented).

    Yeah, if you get a really good education, a lot of unexpected opportunities may come up. But wtf is up with all this CS and quant finance stuff popping up all the time? You want to be a really good programmer? Don't get a physics degree. Yeah, many physics researchers require coding ability. But guess what, when they need some really good code, who do they hire? They hire some non-PhD MSc CS guy that has been producing excellent code that last 5 years They don't hire some guy that has been doin math equations and has been going through research data for the last 5 years.
    Learning to program is a supporting skill in your PhD. It isn't some backup lifeline where you can get a job as an application developer, when all else fails.

    You are in a physics programme, you better go to grad school or you don't have a terminal degree. What can you do with a BSc in physics? Where I live, such a programme doesn't even exist because no company has any need for a person like that. If you want to stop after a BSc then get an engineering degree. Here, the closest thing is a BSc physics lab technician. And I doubt the average BSc physics programme prepares you to be a good lab technician.
    And you are getting an astrophysics major because your parents think 'astrophysics' sounds smarter than 'particle physics'? What do they know? Come on, man. You want people to think with you but you can't think for yourself.

    Majoring in math? Is that really more employable nowadays? It may be. I guess you will at least be better suited at data analysis or quant finance becuase going into that direction with such a degree at least makes some sense.
    But, if you want to work in finance, do a finance degree. Don't they have math and CS based finance programmes where you live? It can' be your average Joe's economics BSc programme.
    Data science? That's a CS subject if you ask me. The time where no one knows how to do any math except the physics and math students is long long gone.

    Not to mention getting a job in finance through physics or math makes no sense at all if you don't already live in NY, London, Frankfort, HK, etc.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2015
  6. Jan 24, 2015 #5
    Astrophysics is not any smarter than physics. Never choose a subject based on how cool the name sounds.

    A CS minor is better than nothing, but I have a PhD in math with a CS minor, and it's really hard to get anyone to take me seriously for programming jobs (or any job, for that matter). They always ask whether I have experience. So, what you probably have to do is do a little bit more than a minor--do open source projects, practice programming interview questions, get internships before graduating, and do a lot of networking. If you haven't done all that stuff, it's an uphill battle. You'd think a whole minor is a lot, but it's not really enough to make you employable. For some quant jobs, it's okay not to be great at programming because it's more of a math job. Quantitative finance is super-competitive and there's no telling what it will be like several years down the road, so it's questionable to count on it. Plus, it's better to study for that specifically if that's what you want to end up doing. There are a few other types of jobs where programming is part of the work, but it's not the main thing--generally, that's all the minor tends to be good for.

    Not particularly, unless you are a job-search demi-god or follow up it with something else, like a masters in something more marketable, or maybe a second major.

    Data analysis sounds more like statistics. I am not sure math is any better than physics for finance--maybe if you do a lot of probability and financial math, but you can take a few of those courses as a physics major, too. You probably need a PhD or masters or MFE, anyway.

    If avoiding job search BS is a high priority for you, you might want to go with something like a major in statisics with computer science minor and then masters in computer science or something sort of like that. That would be the best thing for data science. If you are a certain kind of person who is excellent at networking, comes off very well in job interviews, willing to put in extra effort to prepare for the job search, and doesn't mind digging for some obscure employer willing to hire you, physics or math might be okay. If you are socially awkward and/or don't like BSing your way into a job you are more marginally qualified for, I wouldn't recommend it.
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