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Passion vs Money

  1. Sep 22, 2015 #1
    Hi, I am currently a freshman in college and I'm trying to decide on what career path I should follow. Ever since I was little I loved astronomy, from watching shows about it on the science channel, reading books about it, and sitting outside just stargazing. But now I'm faced with a decision, should I pursue a career in Astrophysics or choose a much more lucrative field and pursue it as a hobby? I've always wanted to leave my mark and I truly feel like I can do that with Astronomy but the only problem is that the job market is tough and the pay is not good. What should I do, go with astronomy or pick a more lucrative path? Thanks for any advice.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 22, 2015 #2
    Do you want to hate your life but have money or wake up every day excited but with a little less money? This question is asked once a week and it's really easy. Just do what you love. Don't make your life so hard.
  4. Oct 2, 2015 #3


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    I don't think it is that black and white. I would definitely go with "do what you love" if you are single. However, if/when you start a family there are many other things you need to consider (money, having to move far away to find a permanent position etc). I am not advocating getting job you hate because it pays well, but there is something to be said about having a job you are "only" OK with if it means a happier life outside of work. This is especially true for extremely competitive fields such as astronomy and astrophysics. I have several colleagues who got interested in physics via astrophysics and are still keen amateur astronomers.but who ended up working in more "applied" areas of physics (condensed matter) simply because it was much easier to find work and they couldn't easily move because of family.

    Note that money is not THAT much of an issue unless you want want to live in an expensive city: if you manage to find a permanent position in astrophysics you will get paid well enough to have a "normal" comfortable life, it is finding the position in the first place that is the issue.
  5. Oct 2, 2015 #4


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    A former friend of mine successfully completed his doctorate in astrophysics, after which he decided to continue his career in consultancy. Former colleagues obtained their doctorates in rather pure areas of mathematics and were subsequently successful in the private sector. In other words, at least here in Europe, having an advanced degree in a "pure" field of science or mathematics does not at all imply career suicide.

    That being said, of those "pure scientists" that continued in the private sector, only a minority is making literal use of their academic knowledge. Most of them, it seems to me, were hired for their analytical skills and not so much for their specialisation. If you desire to work in the private sector as well as in your specialisation of choice, then a more applied field may indeed be appropriate.

    Being a bit of a romantic, I would personally always choose "passion" over "money", but as f95toli wrote, it need not be that black and white.
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