I'm 37 years old. Can I still get into astrophysics?

  • Thread starter JJ Reardon
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  • #26
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So I would have to ask that once they've gotten through to grad school, how is money a hindrance when they can earn money while pursuing the degree?

Because stipends are rather low. It's enough to live off of, but it's not enough to lead an upper middle class lifestyle once you graduate. Also, I think that you are actually in a better position to make use of your degree since you have prior work experience. For a lot of people with Ph.D.'s, they have been in school since age five, and have been surrounded by other people that have been in school since age five so getting a job is something of a shock.

One good thing about the Ph.D. however is that you leave with zero debt, which turns out to be a tremendous advantage. If you get a physics Ph.D. and you want to be a beach bum, you can do that. If you get a law degree, you can't, because, you are in debt up to your ears.
 
  • #27
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Also, time is of huge concern. If you have kids or a spouse or anything else in your life, working up to 50-60 hour weeks for years on end strains relationships.

50-60 weeks is typical for high tech industry jobs. For my Ph.D., I ended up working 80 hour weeks for years on end. On the other hand, this isn't unique to Ph.D.'s, I heard horror stories of medical residents, first year lawyers and MBA's.

A lot depends on the nature of the relationship. One reason Ph.D.'s end up marrying each other (and often have Ph.D. kids) is that you end up with someone that understands the process. I also know of a well-known astrophysicist who has an extremely wealthy spouse that pays the bills while he writes papers, and two other astrophysicists that happen to be in extremely wealthy families.

One other extremely unusual aspect of academia is "two for one". It's pretty common practice that if one spouse gets a faculty job in a university that the university will offer a position to the other spouse if they also have academic qualifications.

One thing that I think is coming out of this conversation is that the barriers to getting a Ph.D. started at a late age aren't intellectual. They have to do with "practical" issues like families, kids, and money.
 
  • #28
Ascendant78, Your advice was really nice. Thank you. I think that's what school will probably be like for me. I'm looking forward to the challenges and there are probably some really great people out there to make friends with.
 

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