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M.Sc Astrophysics, my prospects

  1. Nov 30, 2013 #1

    I guess recently I've been trying to think (read: stressing over) about what in the world I could do with the rest of my life once I finish this M.Sc in computational Astrophysics.

    I need something that won't keep me bogged down in a cubicle running a 9 to 5, I'll hate my life (having had the opportunity to try). At this point, I'm even considering medical school. It at least offers, among other qualities, geographic mobility and a decent pay-cheque (if you can manage to pay off those loans). I don't mind continuing school, I just need something that will pay-off. It seems to me that although one could boast about certain skills you have as physicist, people would rather hire someone who has been trained in that specific discipline, whatever it may be. I like working with people, I like science, I like getting my hands dirty, thinking and being on my feet, but from my point of view, nothing seems accessible. I could be very wrong and maybe my thinking is narrow minded. I'm just worried that I won't hold value in today's job market, although I've been told I should be creating my own value rather than complaining...

    What options do I have on the global job market today?
    (read: HELP!)

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 30, 2013 #2
    You really need to provide more information about your job skills. A masters in computational astrophysics is a good accomplishment, but I am not sure what skills you learned with it. Physics is a given, but beyond that? I would imagine the career prospects for you becoming specifically involved in astrophysics are slim and highly competitive. You also likely need a PhD if that is what you are looking for. You can always go into some engineering route, probably even be professor at some colleges, but you might need more education depending on what you want to do.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2013
  4. Nov 30, 2013 #3
    Yea, continuing in astrophysics is 1. not too desirable 2. Seriously competitive. Well I have a B.Sc in Experimental Physics and the M.sc, so I'd say Statistical Data Analysis, Programming in C/C++ and Python, some experience with Monte Carlo simulation, and N-body Simulations. That's the obvious stuff, I think probably scientific and non-scientific writing as well.
  5. Nov 30, 2013 #4
    You might be able to get some jobs programming stuff with the ability to program in C/C++ or python, along with data analytics. However, from what I have heard most physics majors will not make as high of a salary as someone with masters in computer science or something more related to programming. Of course this entirely depends upon the job at hand. If it is a job doing physics stuff I imagine the converse might be true?
  6. Dec 1, 2013 #5


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    You could go down the medical physics route (e.g radiology) ?

    That's pretty vague. What interested you the most while studying astrophysics ?

    Well, research positions are competitive because they're specialised, so you're competing with very specific criteria (e.g work experience and proven genuine interest), rather than just academic credentials. So get to know someone in the field, you're much more likely to find an opportunity that way.

    Applying those skills to more abundant jobs, and blindly applying for jobs, would probably get you an entry level analysis role in finance or the energy sector (9 to 5 drudgery), possibly basic programming in the gaming industry, providing you have a fair programming knowledge. Engineering (entry level) is another possibility.

    It's probably better to get employed into a subject that led to your skills, rather than pursuing the skills themselves. o:)
  7. Dec 1, 2013 #6
    Been thinking about that recently, might actually be a solid option. Decent pay + i get to use at least some of my physics knowledge.

    Trying to get a better understanding of the universe I suppose. But that's vague too. So a good answer would be the analysis, I think that is honestly my favourite thing about physics. Observing some physical system (doesn't have to be physics related I suppose) based on some laws or principles, and observing how that system evolves through computation. Taking that raw information and trying to get an understanding for what's going on. I took a computational physics class in my undergrad where most, if not all, of what we learned was statistical data analysis, and to this day, it was my favourite and most informative class.

    What do you mean by "field", Academia or Industry?. Either way I definitely agree, Its about who you know most of the time.

    hmm, this has got me thinking a little... you might be correct. I mean, if I could find some type of: project based Data analysis programming job working in a team for physics then yea, that would be great. However, I think the reason that I'm chasing the skills is that I like *everything*, the skills are what I think I really enjoy in physics but not necessarily the fact that its physics... I could apply the same knowledge to any job and be at least satisfied.

    The skills, for me, are the fragments of what my dream job would be. So in combining most of these I feel like I can get closer to achieving that? Does that make sense? Probably a bit idealistic but hey, why not, I'm still young.
  8. Dec 3, 2013 #7
    I was thinking about same before doing an MSc in Astrophysics. I did Engineering and have got a job.!
  9. Dec 3, 2013 #8


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    Yes, the OP can go the engineering route. It is much easier to get into with a degree in engineering, but it is possible for physicists to secure such jobs. It also sounds like the statistics route may make sense.

    Becoming an engineering professor is another thing altogether, at least here in the US. When I was in grad school in electrical engineering many of us wanted to become professors after getting our PhDs. Most of us that finished grad school failed to earn a tenure track position. One of the students that finished a handful of years before me managed to beat out 500 other applicants to get a tenure track opening, and during my grad career our department had a faculty position open up and there were about 1000 applicants. These numbers, while anecdotal, convinced me to not even bother to try. More than a decade later I still know classmates that are living on soft money year to year, making little money, hoping to get their shot at a professorship.

    So I claim that a MSc in astrophysics will NOT get a faculty position (at least in the US) except under very unusual circumstances (eg. long track record of high quality published engineering work, demonstrated ability to secure funding, etc) . A PhD is almost certainly required, and even then it is a long shot.

  10. Dec 4, 2013 #9
    Would you like working outdoors as well? With a physics degree you could do most masters courses related to the hydrocarbon industry, either exploration or exploitation. You could apply your computer modelling skills to real world data sets or be involved with field data acquisition. Employment prospects seem relatively high.
  11. Dec 7, 2013 #10


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    I have seen Astrophysicist and Associate Computational Biologist positions open up in MA for people with BS or MS in physics recently. The "Astrophysicist" position is training students and postdocs how to use the lab equipment, operating antennae and collecting and analyzing data. The computational biology had more to do with building computer models of systems and scientific computing, mainly in genetics I think.

    I would be applying to both (probably unsuccessfully) if I wasn't only a second year undergrad :(
  12. Dec 13, 2013 #11
    So would a radiologist do this kind of thing? I would suggest "the world is your oyster". There are so many areas you could move into to do this kind of stuff. Check out some job sites and see what jobs are available using the search term "Statistical Data Analysis". For example:


    P.S. that's a great paragraph, polish it up for your CV!
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