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Physics Is it too late to begin pursuing a degree in astrophysics at 26?

  1. Jul 9, 2012 #1
    In a nutshell, I'm a 26 y/o currently active duty military member with 8 years in (as a Aviation Ordnance Aircraft Mechanic), and plan on getting out honorably late next year.

    I've always been interested in the universe (black holes especially) (and the fact we are literally a way for the cosmos to know itself), and cosmology in general, but I'm also interested greatly in the very small.

    Back to my question, I currently have a 3.87 gpa doing bs online courses, and just want to know where is a good place to start with classes on the path toward one of these degrees, and (other than the obvious) is there any schools in New England that anyone could reccomend to start out at.

    I have 3 years of free schooling to take advantage of when I get out, so I want to get as much knocked out as I can in pursuing my degree.

    I'm new here, but not new to blogging, so bare with me as I get used to this site.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 9, 2012 #2
    You can start with any school that with an undergraduate physics major.

    The big problem that you will run into is trying to coordinate an interest in astrophysics or cosmology with family/personal life. If everything goes on schedule, you will be spending the next eight to ten years working as an academic serf, at which point you will find yourself having to start a career from scratch that has nothing to do with astrophysics.
  4. Jul 9, 2012 #3
    Thanks for the reply.

    I know it's going to be quite the process with school, but I'm hoping I will be able to balance the school life with the family life better than the average person, as the military has molded my families ability/willingness to adjust to any situation we are in. On the subject of Astrophysics/Cosmology in general, it is of great interest to my family, friends, and obviously myself, to see if I can grab a career being someone who interrogates the universe in general.

    Other than getting through the classes, which will be tough enough, I'm prepared to have 0 to do with Astrophysics for some time. Honestly, I'm prepared to fall back on Cosmology/Astronomy in general as back up fields (if that managed to work), or if I do better than expected, possibly try to get a minor in something else.

    All in all I just want my career path to involve the universe, whatever my major ends up being.
  5. Jul 9, 2012 #4
    You need to go in knowing that the odds of you getting a permanent research position in astrophysics/cosmology is very, very low. The typical odds of getting a permanent research position *once you've gotten the Ph.D.* is 1 in 10, and that's after getting two post-docs which last for six or so years, post-Ph.D.

    The good news is that if you get into graduate school, you will be doing research for five to eight years as a graduate student.

    It's more realistic to expect to do research as a graduate student for a few years, before you are forced to do something else for a career.
  6. Jul 9, 2012 #5
    Many physics grad students are over 30. A significant minority are much older than that when they start grad school. So I doubt that you're too old!

    As others already pointed out, the usual problems for older students are funding, family/personal life balance, and career prospects. Grad student stipends are often barely enough to survive or less than that. That can be especially tough if you're supporting a spouse and/or children. And most physics students don't end up doing academic physics research as a long-term career.

    That said, I think physics and/or astronomy is a perfectly good way to spend 3 years of military-funded education. This is especially true if you wouldn't mind getting a physics degree and then working in a non-academic job.
  7. Jul 18, 2012 #6
    I went to back to school as a non-traditional student. I'm now a 34 year old, married, first-year physics graduate student. Oh, and I have a kid, too.

    Family responsibilities definitely make grad school harder, but not impossible. However, being older does have some advantages, too; for example, I'm more focused and driven than most of my younger comrades. I manage to get more done in an 8 hour day than many of the other grad students get done in 12 hours. So far, I've been doing quite well and have been enjoying my grad school experience.
  8. Nov 14, 2012 #7
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