Should I switch to astrophysics?

In summary, the individual has always been interested in physics and math, but was unsure about their goals when applying to universities. They chose environmental engineering for their undergrad, but after finishing their first term, they feel they made a mistake and want to work in the space sector. They are considering switching to astrophysics, but also have concerns about finding a job in that field. They are seeking advice on whether to stay in environmental engineering or switch to astrophysics, and also considering the possibility of not enjoying astrophysics as well."
  • #1
raina1234
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1
Like many of you, I have always enjoyed physics and math throughout high school. When applying to universities, I was quite unsure about my goals, so I applied to both engineering and science majors. I have always been deeply fascinated by astronomy, but I enjoyed environmental science as well. When deciding between astrophysics and environmental engineering for my undergrad, I chose environmental engineering.

I have now finished my first term, and feel that I have made a mistake since I am not really enjoying the content and a lot of the future job positions with this degree do not really excite me. I realized that I want to eventually work in the space sector (academia or otherwise), and that this degree may be a very indirect route to do so. There is definitely overlap (atmospheric sciences, geophysics) of both fields, but I don't know if it's enough.The engineering program that I am in is quite restricted in terms of minors or electives, so taking a few astronomy courses isn't an option.

Any suggestions for what I should do? Should I stay in environmental engineering and try to find internships that can get me closer to the space sector because an engineering degree is considered more "valuable"? Ultimately, I could try for a Astronomy/Planetary Sciences/Astrophysics graduate program, but I don't know how likely it is for me to be accepted.
Or, should I try and switch into astrophysics now because it is a more direct route, with courses that I'd enjoy more? I understand that there are many more factors involved, but any help would be appreciated given the information here.
 
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  • #2
If you're not enjoying your environmental courses and you'd enjoy astrophysics more...what's stopping you? - You're only in your first term, so it's certainly not too late!
 
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  • #3
In my experience it's better to stay as general as you can for as long as you can and only cone down into specifics the further you go. So at first year, you shouldn't be deciding between environmental engineering or astrophysics, but maybe between engineering or physics, and the courses that you're taking should have enough overlap that if you really don't like your decision, you have the option of jumping into the other boat next year.

That said, I think it's also important to have a back-up plan for a career if your plans to get into the "space sector" don't work out. Academically it's extremely competitive. The typical rule of thumb is that for those who graduate with a PhD, getting an academic research position comes with a probability of about 1/10. I can't speak to the industrial side from direct experience, but I suspect it's quite competitive as well.
 
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  • #4
You should be very realistic. Check the job listings on NASA or ESA. See what they are looking for.
 
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  • #5
raina1234 said:
Like many of you, I have always enjoyed physics and math throughout high school. When applying to universities, I was quite unsure about my goals, so I applied to both engineering and science majors. I have always been deeply fascinated by astronomy, but I enjoyed environmental science as well. When deciding between astrophysics and environmental engineering for my undergrad, I chose environmental engineering.

I have now finished my first term, and feel that I have made a mistake since I am not really enjoying the content and a lot of the future job positions with this degree do not really excite me. I realized that I want to eventually work in the space sector (academia or otherwise), and that this degree may be a very indirect route to do so. There is definitely overlap (atmospheric sciences, geophysics) of both fields, but I don't know if it's enough.The engineering program that I am in is quite restricted in terms of minors or electives, so taking a few astronomy courses isn't an option.

Any suggestions for what I should do? Should I stay in environmental engineering and try to find internships that can get me closer to the space sector because an engineering degree is considered more "valuable"? Ultimately, I could try for a Astronomy/Planetary Sciences/Astrophysics graduate program, but I don't know how likely it is for me to be accepted.
Or, should I try and switch into astrophysics now because it is a more direct route, with courses that I'd enjoy more? I understand that there are many more factors involved, but any help would be appreciated given the information here.

What if you switch to astrophysics and find that that is not to your liking as well?

Things look nice and shinny on the outside. People romanticized many fields of study because what they see from the outside are all the excitement and glamor of these areas. In reality, there is a lot of hard work, endless hours, and some really dreadful, boring, stressful periods and tasks.

CCofADoa said:
You should be very realistic. Check the job listings on NASA or ESA. See what they are looking for.

This is not a good advice and a poor indication of the job availability in astronomy, astrophysics, and space science. A lot of people are often surprised that the MAJORITY of work being done by any of these agencies (NASA, various US National Labs, CERN, etc...) are done by personnel employed by other institutions! These facilities and agencies host "user facilities", to put it bluntly, and they administer various programs within their charge, but these programs are run by people employed by other institutions. Just look at the list of collaborators from the Mars rover expedition. How many of those were directly employed by NASA?

Zz.
 
  • #6
The comment on staying as general as possible through your freshman/soph years is good advice. Since you were strong in physics and math, have you considered EE? It is heavy on both, and although the physics applied relies on the quantum mechanics applications (solid state, microdevices) and classical (wave & field, and signal theory), you migh be better positioned to take modern physics and astrophysics as technical electives, which is what i did (looong time ago). It is a challenging career, but it sounds like youre cut for challenge.

And as a bonus the job prospects/possibilities are abundant and well paid.

Best luck!
 
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  • #7
A well known psychologist has a phrase he uses to describe the thing you should work on. Look for the glimmer. When you study a thing, it will have a glimmer about it that catches you eye, that draws you back, that holds your interest. Almost like that subject is shiny and the other subjects are dull and plain.

Look for the topics that you find you turn back to work on, especially when you don't actually need to do more work for your courses. Especially if you should be doing other course work and this topic is grabbing your attention. Take a quick look at your texts. Which ones do you actually get involved in? Which ones do you spend time with and find that you don't hate it but actually enjoy it and make progress? Which ones do you read more than the class work has assigned?

Those are good candidates for the subjects you should load up on. Those are the subjects you will find meaning and fulfillment in working on for your life.

Don't ignore the advice about being general. There are always skills that transfer. If you can find transferable skills that *also* glimmer, then you can have a great career.
 
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Related to Should I switch to astrophysics?

What is astrophysics?

Astrophysics is a branch of science that deals with the physical properties and processes of celestial objects and phenomena, such as stars, planets, galaxies, and the universe as a whole.

What are the benefits of switching to astrophysics?

Switching to astrophysics can offer many benefits, such as the opportunity to study and understand the mysteries of the universe, contribute to cutting-edge research, and potentially make groundbreaking discoveries.

What skills and qualifications do I need to switch to astrophysics?

To switch to astrophysics, you will need a strong foundation in mathematics and physics, as well as critical thinking and problem-solving skills. A bachelor's degree in physics, astronomy, or a related field is typically required, with many pursuing advanced degrees for further specialization.

Is astrophysics a competitive field?

Yes, astrophysics is a highly competitive field due to its popularity and limited job opportunities. It requires dedication, hard work, and a strong passion for the subject to succeed in this field.

What career opportunities are available in astrophysics?

With a degree in astrophysics, you can pursue various career paths, such as research scientist, data analyst, science educator, and more. You may also have the opportunity to work in prestigious institutions, such as NASA or observatories around the world.

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