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Which "category" of space career should i go into?

  1. Sep 20, 2014 #1
    I have always loved space and the universe. I think that as a civilization we need to dedicate more time, funds, and efforts to exploring and studying the things beyond our own Earth.

    A freshman in college, I need to soon settle on a major that I want to aim for (Bachelor's degree). Let me make it clear right off the bat that I am willing to continue on to graduate school if it will be a benefit overall to me.

    To me there seem to be two different "categories" of jobs/people that all work on things concerning outer space and the universe.

    There are...
    1) The astronomers, astrophysicists, and physicists - they mostly study the facts of the universe, do research on the universe to make new discoveries (using math a lot in those projects), and sometimes teach these things to students (college professors). They often use telescopes and computers in daily work.

    2) The astronautical engineers - they work for companies like SpaceX, Mars One, etc. to actually design, build, and run rockets, space capsules, and other space crafts. They are often directly involved with missions to the International Space Station, the Moon, and soon to be Mars.

    First, correct me if I have anything wrong. Assuming I am fairly accurate there, let's continue on...

    I can't decide which "category" I'd rather go into. I think the first category interests me more. But from my understanding that first category is also more difficult to get into. First, you need a PhD, which requires 7-10 years total in school. After that, the job opportunities are scarce and often only average-paying.

    The second category seems much more open and easier to get into. You often only need a Bachelor's degree to become an astronautical engineer, and there are many more positions available. And the pay is often quite high.

    Another thing I'd like to make clear is that I really don't have any interest in becoming a college professor (at least not in the first several years after I graduate college). I know that most astronomers/astrophysicists are professors, but I don't want to do that. I would rather work for a government agency like NASA, or for other private sector space companies working on space projects and/or missions.

    So what should I do? I just can't seem to decide. Is it possible to do both within an entire lifetime? Could I start out in one category and eventually transition into the other?

    Thanks for all the help in advance.
  2. jcsd
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