1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Physics or Astronomy?

  1. Jul 29, 2009 #1
    I am looking into a graduate program in either physics or astronomy. I plan on studying astrophysics and cosmology, but am not sure which route I should move towards- a phd in physics or phd in astronomy since I heard that if you get a phd in astronomy rather than physics it hurts your options careerwise.

    Any advice?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 29, 2009 #2

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    PhD's aren't usualy in a subject as such. all it will say on the certificate is the school/faculty/institute that issued it - you can describe it as physics to an employer if you want.
     
  4. Jul 29, 2009 #3

    The content of your PhD is determined by your supervisor. In general, when you're applying to grad school you're actually applying to a professor (this works a little different at some prestigous schools in the states). So if you want to do astrophysics and cosmology then find a prof doing what you like. As for your degree, at my school, we just have the one "Physics and Astronomy Department" so it's all one department so your piece of paper won't dillineate between them. It will all depend on how you package it on your resume.
     
  5. Jul 29, 2009 #4
    At a school like UCLA, you have separate phd programs in physics and astronomy. So you are saying that a university doesn't really care if your phd is in physics or astronomy when you apply for a position there?
     
  6. Jul 29, 2009 #5

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    As maverick said the content of the PhD is the project. You don't do a Phd in physics you do a PhD in "Some boring modelling of some uninteresting star".
    You could do this in the Institute of Astronomy, the Cavendish laboratory (physics dept) or the Department of applied maths and theoretical physics. All it says on your PhD is the school of physical sciences.

    An employer just cares that it was physics-ish and not english literature, An academic job cares about your papers, your supervisor's reputation and how much grant money you can bring in.
     
  7. Jul 29, 2009 #6

    eri

    User Avatar

    In the US, often PhD programs are combined with masters coursework, so sometimes there are real differences between a PhD in physics and one in astronomy - I've had a few profs who attended astronomy PhD programs, and they didn't take as many physics courses as those required by physics PhD programs (only one semester of graduate E&M and quantum instead of two, fewer math-physics courses, etc). They have told us that a physics PhD is simply more marketable than an astronomy PhD.
     
  8. Jul 29, 2009 #7

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Industry hires PhDs for one of three reasons.

    They want specific technical skills, so a company making superconducting magnets for MRIs is going to be hiring PhDs from particle physics experiments with experience in magnet design cryogenics etc. They don't care if the beam line is housed in the physics dept or astronomy dept.

    They want a technical manager that 'outranks' all their other engineers, a Phd trumps a degree. They are semi-interested in what work you actualy did day-to-day.

    They are Wall st and want to hire 'smart' people. They ask for a PhD so they only have to look through 20 applicants instead of 2000. They are interested in where you went to school if it means they only have to read 3 MIT/Caltech/Stanford applications.

    None of these cares if you took graduate GR in the astronomy dept or graduate QM in the physics dept. In industry a famous school matters, in academea a famous supervisor matters.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Physics or Astronomy?
  1. Astronomy and Physics? (Replies: 8)

  2. Physics in Astronomy? (Replies: 2)

  3. Physics for Astronomy? (Replies: 4)

Loading...