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I'm very interested in astronomy, but worried about job prospects.

  1. Aug 24, 2010 #1
    I'm a CC student (barely just started), and I'm planning on transferring to a high quality university with excellent grades.

    Problem being, I've been really confused as to what to major in.. I was trying to go the "realist" route before, and get into business even though it's not really what I'm into. But lately, I've rediscovered my love for astronomy/physics. And I would do anything to have a job in a field where I could study that. So I noticed Berkeley has an Astrophysics B.A. program, and I got really excited about it until more recently when I've read of the bad job prospects and employment opportunities in research.

    My questions come in when it comes into whether this is a realistic thing for me to try for, and other questions.

    Some of my questions include:

    1. I realize there's a high chance I would need to teach college/university (and I really enjoy teaching people things so I think I would enjoy this), but is this any better than research as far as there not being a lot of jobs? Is it probable I could get a job in teaching astronomy/physics at university and/or community college? Is this a better career track as far as number of employment positions?

    2. If I do go into teaching, should I go for my Ph.D or stick to a Master's degree? I've read most community colleges are easy to get a job at and only require a Master's, but would it be possible to work at one while studying for my Ph.D? Or should I just stay in school for my Ph.D and try to get a University position?

    Pretty much any information/help from people who know about this stuff would be appreciated. I'm kinda stressing out over it, I want to do something I really care about, but I also don't want to be unemployed after spending that much time in school... I apologize for these being maybe overly asked questions, I'm pretty new here and I've only read a few things. Just any advice would be appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 24, 2010 #2
    The job market for research faculty in astronomy is terrible. The good news is that depending on what direction you go in, the job market for anything else is pretty decent.

    Yes. If you want to teach at the community college or high school level, there is no shortage of jobs. The problem is that the pay for those jobs are either rather low or extremely, extremely low.

    Most graduate programs in astrophysics are Ph.D. programs which they give you a masters along the way.

    It's unlikely that you will be if you go the Ph.D. route. Even in this tough market, I don't know personally of any astronomy Ph.D.'s that have been unable to get a job. The job may have nothing obviously to do with astronomy.

    Something else to remember is that you don't *have* to have a career in astronomy. If you like astronomy, then you get your Ph.D. and sell used cars.
  4. Aug 24, 2010 #3
    Thanks for your reply. :)

    I think I'm just going to go for it.

    Can I get into an astrophysics Ph.D program with a major in physics? UCR offers a "physics and astronomy" major, it's basically like a hybrid of it from what I understand. There's electives and I'd obviously choose all the astronomy ones.
  5. Aug 25, 2010 #4


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    You're better off majoring in physics than astronomy or astrophysics for getting into a graduate program in the field. Actually, you'd be best off getting PhD in physics and studying astrophysics to do it - physics PhDs are very employable outside of astronomy, but you can still do astronomy with it. A double major would be best if you can find it, but that's not necessary. However, transferring as soon as you can is a good idea - people who get into top grad programs are the ones who have top grades and test scores but have also shown an aptitude for research. And you really can't get research experience in community college.
  6. Aug 25, 2010 #5
    That's what I'm doing. My PhD will be in physics (even though my department offers an astro PhD). But my dissertation will be in gamma ray astronomy. If I'm not mistaken, just about every astro PhD student at my school did their BS in physics rather than astronomy.
  7. Aug 25, 2010 #6
    Thank you everyone! This has been really helpful so far. I think what I'll do then is get my B.S. in Physics (the school I plan on going to has a lot of astrophysics classes anyways), and then go to a grad school for physics and study mainly astrophysics, thanks again those who have put in their 2 cents.

    It would still be helpful to hear anyone's opinion on this matter, though. :)
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