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How hard is it to get a job in astrophysics?

  1. Jun 14, 2018 #1
    im trying to become an award winning physicist (I know, im ready for the grind, im 15 and ready to start) how hard is it to first get a job in this area right out of college after a phd? any way to make 70-80k and go up to make 6-figure salaries in research for the government or in a lab? again im only 15 and im not sure how the real world works. how hard is it to get a job in actual astrophysics? thank you in advance
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 14, 2018 #2
    Much better odds to get a teaching job at a lower tier college, make 40-60k, and do your research on the side.

    Tenure track, research oriented faculty positions at R1 institutions have a much higher supply of new PhDs than new jobs to be filled. Same for gov labs. The supply and demand for teaching faculty at lower tier colleges and universities is much more favorable. Of course, the pay is lower, the prestige is lower, and you gotta spend a lot more time teaching.
  4. Jun 14, 2018 #3


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    It's still not very favorable, at least for tenure-track positions. At the small private liberal-arts college where I taught, whenever we had to fill one of our tenure-track physics positions, we got something like 50 to 100 applications.
  5. Jun 14, 2018 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    I agree. I was on many hiring committees at the Seattle-area community college where I taught. When a math teaching position was announced, we would routinely get 100-150 applicants. It's much easier to get part-time employment, but if classes get cut, part-timers are the first to go, and there is no guarantee that you'll get classes in a given quarter/semester. Not to mention that the pay is not very high.

    I am currently teaching part-time at a different CC. I do it because I enjoy what I'm doing, certainly not for the pay.
  6. Jun 14, 2018 #5
    At the schools where I have taught, we averaged about 40 applications, but only about 10 of those were PhDs.

    PhDs with excellent English skills and teaching experience usually made the phone interview stage of the process.
  7. Jun 14, 2018 #6

    George Jones

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    Three years ago at my small (approx. 3000 students), isolated (7-hour drive to closest larger city) Canadian university, we had over 60 applicants for an eight-month Physics Lecturer position.
  8. Jun 15, 2018 #7


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    My university has about 5,000 students, as of yet still no physics major, and offered no research space or start up money. When they hired me, they got over 200 qualified applicants for the position.

    It's not easy to get a job at any university. My grad school wasn't an R1, but got over 600 applicants for an astrophysics job 10 years ago. It's easier actually got get a higher-paying job in industry, but then you almost certainly won't be doing astrophysics - there's really not any money there. Same for most government labs; they want people who do more experimental physics, they rarely hire in astrophysics. NASA does, but most scientists working for them need to earn their salary in grant money every year, they don't have a fixed salary.

    I know very few astrophysicists making over 100k. I just got tenure, and I won't get to the 100k level for another 10 years or so, and I'm making more than most of my friends in academia and elsewhere.

    Physics, especially astrophysics, is unlikely to make you rich or famous or win you big awards. It's a ton of work, a lot school, and any science field takes a lot of slogging through idea after idea and experiment after experiment to even reach a publishable result, much less one very many people will care about. It's great that you're so excited about physics, but you seem to have unreasonable expectations about science in general.
  9. Jun 15, 2018 #8


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    Awesome, congrats on such amazing work. I think your students are very fortunate. :smile:
  10. Jul 6, 2018 #9
    After your PhD., if you still want to do research, then the usual next step is to become a post-doc, but the competition for those positions is stiff, though not impossible to get, but the salaries are nowhere near the amount you're expecting! My advice is to listen to Eri's advice in post #7.
  11. Jul 14, 2018 #10
    The prize postdocs all have salaries of about 70k.

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