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Programs How to become a marketable PhD astrophysicist?

  1. Jun 15, 2011 #1
    Hello,

    The title of this thread refers to my question: How to become a marketable PhD astrophysicist ?

    My plan up until now was to obtain a joint honours degree in mathematics and physics, then eventually move on to a PhD in astrophysics.

    I have been lurking around this forum for years and the general concensus seems to be that it is practically impossible to get a research position. I don't intend to be one of those people holding a PhD and working in finance or other non-research based jobs.

    Over the last 2-3 years I have also developped interest in astronautical engineering (or more broadly aerospace eng). Now I'm looking forward to substitude mathematics for aerospace engineering - Is it possible to do a "double degree" in both physics AND aerosapce engineering? Can you proceed to a PhD in astronomy/astrophysics or physics with such a degree?

    If I was to not achieve a research-based job after obtaining my PhD in physics/astronomy/astrophysics, I can always look for a job in the field of space engineering and perhaps work with building/researching telescopes, space probes, etc. I'm assuming there's plenty of jobs available for engineer graduates upon completing their studies.

    What do you think?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 15, 2011 #2
    If you want to be marketable, you have to be flexible. If you say *I will not do job X*, that make you less marketable. This is particularly weird if you don't really know what job X is, and even weirder if you don't know what astrophysics research involves.

    People with astrophysics Ph.D.'s in finance are not working as bank tellers. Banks hire people with Ph.D.'s in astrophysics because it turns out that certain parts of finance are very similar to astrophysics research. Since I like doing astrophysics research, that works for me.

    A lot depends on what you want out of life. What I do doesn't fit a lot of people's definition of scientific research, but as long as it fits my definition of scientific research, that really doesn't matter.
     
  4. Jun 15, 2011 #3
    Well can I be flexible by doing a double degree in both aerospace engineering and physics? Suppose I don't find my ideal research-based job (and I really want it to be space/physics related), at least I can venture out in the industry of astronautical engineering, right?
     
  5. Jun 15, 2011 #4
    You really do need to get some internships to figure out what it is that you like doing and what you don't like doing. One reason that I think that people that want to get physics Ph.D.'s should get some experience doing undergraduate research is that many people figure out that they don't really like research once they try doing it.

    Same for engineering. Before you make any firm decisions, get an internship with aeronautical engineers.
     
  6. Jun 15, 2011 #5
    Alright, I'll try and look into that. Hopefully it'll narrow down my choices. But do universities offer such a program where you can major in physics AND simultaneously in aerospace engineering (like a double major program)?
     
  7. Jun 15, 2011 #6

    chiro

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    I think you should also be aware that when you work, you are going to most likely have to learn new things, or relearn old things in new ways. Showing someone that you have that capability is important because that's what happens.

    Also chances are that if you can something really hard, you can do something that is "not as hard" (or demanding in some respect like say "intellectually" demanding).

    There are a lot of industries where you need to recall and effectively use knowledge like medicine for example. But in saying this, any kind of industry that requires problem solving to a high degree (which includes medicine), education is a continual process: you don't stop after your bachelors, masters, or even PhD for those kind of environments.
     
  8. Jun 16, 2011 #7
    But do universities offer such a program where you can major in physics AND simultaneously in aerospace engineering (like a double major program)?
     
  9. Jun 16, 2011 #8
    Seriously? Don't respond to people who try to help you with the same copy pasted question.

    And no. Our university is top-5 in the US for engineering and pretty high for physics and the department would blow a gasket if you suggested such a thing. Mainly because you would not be able to come out of it in four or five years other than a bare bones physics degree and a very sorry aerospace degree. You could do it, but no grad school would be happy to admit you with a half-assed degree.
     
  10. Jun 16, 2011 #9
    I sincerely appreciate the help and advices, I didn't intend to be rude by copy pasting the same question.

    On a sidenote, I've read about people with an aerospace/electrical engineering degree do their PhD in physics (I'll extend that to possibly astrophysics). Is this possible? Braching out like this in a different field with a bachelor in eng.
     
  11. Jun 16, 2011 #10
    In addition to the question I asked in my post (right above this post): If I were to make such a transition, will I need to catch up with some additional material in grad school?
     
  12. Jun 16, 2011 #11
    You weren't being rude. Nobody answered your bold face question in your original post.

    I think its a pretty good idea. I am currently a math/physics double major myself, and have thought about switching math with aerospace also due to more options after graduation. You can do a double in aerospace/physics at my uni no problem. In fact, I know a fellow physics student doing it. I would like to hear others comment on this also, but it surely sounds like a solid plan.

    I know a physics graduate student who is about to finish his PhD in General Relativity numerical simulations...or something along those lines. He got his BS in Aerospace engineering. He told me that he had to spend a year taking upper level undergraduate physics courses to prepare for physics grad school. I assume the same kind of deal would be the same for the other way around.
     
  13. Jun 16, 2011 #12
    Interesting! It's quite reassuring what you mentioned, but to quote another user (MissSilvy):

    And no. Our university is top-5 in the US for engineering and pretty high for physics and the department would blow a gasket if you suggested such a thing. Mainly because you would not be able to come out of it in four or five years other than a bare bones physics degree and a very sorry aerospace degree. You could do it, but no grad school would be happy to admit you with a half-assed degree.

    I'm utterly confused right now. However your example of the person who is doing his PhD in GR with an aerospace engineering degree seems compelling, seeing that it's better to have one "full-baked" degree and transfer into physics by taking a year worth of upper level courses. So which option is better?
     
  14. Jun 16, 2011 #13
    Today I spoke with my physics teacher who suggested me that given aerospace engineering is so multidisciplinary it might be a possibility to switch to physics or astrophysics for the matter (for graduate school).

    Is this something frequent in the academic world, to jump from one field to another without starting over, as would be the case in my example above?
     
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