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Majors for astronomy related careers?

  1. Oct 19, 2005 #1
    Im currently a sophmore in college, majoring in physics. I really really want to pursue an astronomy related career, not sure exactly what I want to do, but I want it to be related to astronomy somehow. Im not having the best of luck with physics even with help and calc I was fine, but calc II is a bit much for me. Im thinking that since im having a bit of trouble with those subjects and a little bored with them sometime, I really need to find other paths into an astronomy related career via another major. Does anyone know of what other majors might work out well with astronomy? I do not exactly know what kind of jobs exist for this field or what is needed for them, any input is greatly appreciated.
     
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  3. Oct 19, 2005 #2

    SpaceTiger

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    Probably one of the best ways to get into astronomy with minimal physics is via engineering. Astronomers are always looking for people to help them build their instruments. "Minimal" should be interpreted with caution, however, since you still need to know a good bit of physics and math to be a decent engineer.

    Of course, you could also manage the computer systems in an astronomy department or at an observatory, but I don't think that would be much fun for you.
     
  4. Oct 19, 2005 #3
    As mentioned, engineering is another way to get involved with astronomy. Either through building the equipment Astronomers use, or helping to modify, calibrate and configure the equipment. Someone has to build the equipment in the observatories. And there is PLENTY of equipment.

    HOWEVER, engineering is not the "easy way out," if you are not able to do physics; ESPECIALLY if you are having problems with calculus. Engineers take differential (calculus 1), integral (calculus 2), multivariable calculus (calculus 3), differential equations, linear algebra, probability theory, etc. It is certainly not for those who are weak in mathematics. Engineers also take a lot of physics classes. In fact, engineering classes all revolve around physics and mathematics. There is no escaping it.

    So I'd suggest you stick with what you REALLY want to do -- but work harder at it! I'm sorry, but you will not get into astronomy without taking calculus 2.

    With some hard work, you can do it. Just keep at it and do not get discouraged. If you need help, post your problems in the homework or calculus sections of these boards. They can be a great tool.

    Good luck.
     
  5. Oct 19, 2005 #4

    SpaceTiger

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    I agree with pretty much everything you said and I certainly don't intend to belittle engineers, but it is true that the minimally "physicsy" engineering major will require considerably fewer physics classes than the equivalent astronomy major (at least at the schools I'm familiar with). I had several friends who were getting aerospace engineering degrees at the same time I was doing astronomy and they would tell me how grateful they were that they didn't have to take many of the physics classes required for astro.

    I also agree that one should be willing to work hard for their goals, but we have to be realistic. I would ask the OP to consider how much effort they want to put into this and how much trouble they really have with math and physics. If it's really hard for you, then any of these options will be extremely difficult and you will have to be willing to sacrifice other things to get ahead. If it's just that you're not at the top of your class, then it's hard to say -- it will depend on your choice of school and discipline.
     
  6. Oct 20, 2005 #5
    Well, of course engineering majors take less physics classes than Astro majors! If I wanted to do physics/astro I would have chosen one of those as a major. I just didn't have the interest to do pure physics. I do see what you're saying as it pertains to the original posters question.

    To major in either engineering or physics, you have to REALLY want it. You have to genuinely be interested. They can't be substitute courses of study because you can't hack it at something harder.
     
  7. Oct 20, 2005 #6

    SpaceTiger

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    Hmm, although I do think you should have a genuine interest in the field you're pursuing, I don't agree that people should never sacrifice their career goals because they're too hard for them. I've seen many people go on to live very happy and productive lives doing just that. Different priorities for different folks. If I wanted to have 20 - 30 hours a week (or more) to devote to my family, then it would be a bad idea to take a job that required my attention 24-7.

    If you're really struggling with your career, does it not sometimes make sense to switch to something else for which your skills are better suited? This is not the same as saying that the "something else" should be viewed as universally easier, just that it may be a better match to your talents.

    To be a successful astronomer, you pretty much have to be in the top 10-20% of your math and physics classes. Otherwise, you'll be struggling for your entire career. You don't, however, necessarily have to have a good sense for how machines work or be proficient at building things. You don't necessarily need good people or organizational skills. You don't have to be able to differentiate a Bach concerto from a Beethoven symphony.

    I would suggest the OP consider their strengths and weaknesses. We can't tell you where you'll be happy and successful, we can only tell you your options. Like I said, side routes into astronomy include engineering and computer science. If you enjoy either of those things, then I see nothing wrong with pursuing them.
     
  8. Oct 20, 2005 #7
    Thanks for the replies guys, definitely seems like I need physics and math for most of my options. Im going to give it a try again, probably have to retake calc II, but i'll keep at it a little longer and see if I can pull it off.
     
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