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Similarities between engineers and physicists

  1. Feb 23, 2010 #1
    Hello, I am currently doing a double degree program of engineering and science at Australian National University. However, due to budget constraint I am going to drop engineering and just do science which will only take 3 years instead of 5 years.

    I am interested in astronomy and electronics engineering (computer engineering). If I just do astronomy as my science major, would it have a major impact in my future career that I am only going to be academics? Other than science discipline, what are the other fields that an astronomer can work confidently in?

    Can a scientist switch to be an engineer? If so what kind of job will a scientist do in engineering industry? I wonder what are the similarities between them.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 27, 2010 #2
    As an engineering major myself (aerospace), engineering is much more oriented towards applicability. You see an idea from its inception to its result. Engineers are extremely well paid (not as high as doctors, but you're paid upwards of twice the average salary in America).

    Astronomers, however, are not very well paid. As far as I'm aware, you're pretty much destined to spend your life in an observatory, or a similar job. The only interfacing an astronomer might have with an engineer is outlining requisite specifications for a new telescope, observatory or similar field-oriented areas. They are most certainly not interchangeable disciplines.

    If I were you, I'd spend the extra two years to become an engineer. If you cannot find work as an astronomer (if that is your heart's desire), then you can easily fall back on your engineering background.
  4. Feb 27, 2010 #3
    I'm sure you're aware but for others it's worth mentioning that this isn't really what astronomy is: observational (and even moreso that with optical telescopes) is a tiny tiny part of astronomy and, in fact, I have only once touched a telescope and I have a 5 year degree in astronomy + physics.

    I would say that physicists (I'd consider astronomy graduates a subtype of physicists) can transfer to engineering. For big companies, there will be graduate programmes where the requirements will normally be engineering or physical science, then the specific training is done on the job. Of course, transferring to engineering from science, like Angry Citizen suggets, will be difficult: you'll have a lot of work learning how to speak like an engineer, as it were.
  5. Feb 27, 2010 #4
    It's more than that for certain fields of engineering. I'm finishing up a degree in computer engineering, and I'm almost positive astronomers don't go anywhere near most of the stuff we cover (EE+CS), as physics major in general don't do such applied stuff and our upper level courses are mostly focused on devices and other really applied stuff.
  6. Mar 1, 2010 #5
    Thanks for all the information. It seems to me that working as an engineer would be a much better choice as it closely matches my characteristics.
  7. Mar 1, 2010 #6
    No you are not.

    People with computational astrophysics backgrounds can be *very* highly paid on Wall Street. Also observationalists generally design and build their own instruments so I know of some astronomers that are specialists at either civil engineering (i.e. they create the telescope blueprints) or are electromechanical engineers (i.e. building instruments).
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2010
  8. Mar 1, 2010 #7
    Were they doing astrophysics in university or did they do civil engineering/mechatronics?
  9. Mar 1, 2010 #8
    Astronomy. The problem with a straight civil engineering/mechatronics training is that you don't get the training that you need to do the job (i.e. they don't teach you anything about optics).
  10. Mar 1, 2010 #9
    Does that only hold for computational astrophysics or also computional physics in general?
  11. Mar 1, 2010 #10
    I see. Then doing a combined degree of astrophysics and electronics & telecommunication engineering seems to be a good option and I have pretty much done the right choice. What I need to do now is to get financial aids or this semster will be my last since I can't afford studying in Australian National University anymore. :(

    PS: I am an international student.
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