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Physics What can an astrophysics get into?

  1. May 25, 2009 #1
    I'm planing on taking astrophysics after high school. There's just so much to chose from after that, what are my choices? Could I do something like exosolar planet research? Or would I have to take something else? What are my other options?
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  3. May 25, 2009 #2


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    There are jobs in astronomy, in either university teaching/research or government research Nasa/ESO/MPIA etc (depends on your nationality)
    Then there are all the general physics jobs in industry.
    Then all the numerate graduate jobs
    Then all the Dilbert jobs.

    Of my grad school class I would say 50% went into academic jobs 25% to Wall St and 25% to industry, mostly software or defence jobs.
  4. May 27, 2009 #3
    If you want to study astrophysics, study astrophysics. The WORST that can happen is that you end up working for me with a $100K+ job in the defense industry. That is a pretty good worst case (we hire lots of astrophysics PhDs). The best case is that you will work in astrophysics and spend you life having fun. Go for it!!
  5. May 27, 2009 #4
    RockenNS42, in my experience, it's probably better to do your undergraduate degree in physics rather than astronomy or astrophysics. If you choose to become an astrophysicist, physics will actually give you a better preparation for astrophysics grad school than astronomy.

    Also, here are questions from a particle astrophysics PhD student (i.e. myself) for those who have already responded.

    Could you elaborate on the general physics jobs in industry? From what I've seen, most of the industry jobs that actually involve physics (as opposed to software engineering or something of that nature) are in the field of condensed matter physics. If there are industry jobs for astrophysicists that involve doing physics, I would certainly like to consider them.

    I would be interested to hear more about the defense industry jobs. What's the typical job description of the astrophysics PhDs that you hire? Are these people hired for their physics skills, or are they taken on mostly as programmers?
  6. May 27, 2009 #5


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    Most undergrad 'astronomy' degrees are only a couple of optional courses different from a physics degree. Places call them astronomy degrees because more people are interested in astronomy than physics!

    I know a lot of physicists who are managing engineers in large companies. Technical consultancy is another popular choice and there are lots of physicists working in small technology companies making laser scanners, oil field instrumentation, medical devices etc. A lot of engineering jobs that require multiple disciplines, eg. optics+electronics+software go to experimental physicists.

    I was in a radio astronomy dept so lots of people went into radar stuff. I was at an alumni event with a lot of high-up ex students where one tray of dodgy chicken could have wiped out Nato's radar capability for a generation.
  7. May 28, 2009 #6
    That is a good worst case!
    In such case, what would a job in the defense industry be like?
  8. May 28, 2009 #7
    Most work by astrophysics types would be in software. 80% of the cost of new weapons is software so the chances of working in software is quite great. It is what is called embedded software. This is not hacking on a computer, but software that makes the hardware go. It is what controls the flight of missiles and drones. This is very math intensive stuff, the kind of thing that needs the skills learned studying astrophysics.

    The other possible career is in optics. Astronomers of course need to understand optics and telescopes. This is a good fit since the military needs lots of telescopes and other optics so they can know what enemy is doing or where a drone or missile is going.

    I don't propose that you go into astrophysics in order to work for a military contractor. There are easier paths. But it is certainly a good fall back plan. You can use it to sell the idea to your parents also.
  9. May 29, 2009 #8

    no your right, just a fall back. But I don't got to sell any ideas to my parents , there the ones who got me hooked on astrophysics in the first place

    but thanks, now like you said, I have a good idea of a possible fall back if I need it
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