Schools Which university to go to for a physics degree?

I graduated from Georgia Tech a few years ago with a Bachelors in Applied Mathematics and now I am currently a software developer, however, my passion is in astronomy. I have looked at opportunities in astronomy that is towards the engineering route i.e. image processing engineer, detector engineer, software engineer, etc. but all these require me to have a bachelors in physics therefore I have decided to go back to school to obtain a physics degree.

I have applied for University of Georgia (UGA) and Georgia State and both have accepted me so now I am trying to decide which school I should go to (the reason I am not going back to Georgia Tech is because they only have one astronomer). I have compared the two schools and both have very similar courses in physics and both have roughly the same amount of astronomers -- Georgia State has a few more astronomers. Also, both have graduates in physics.

UGA is the more "prestigious" school so I am not sure which school I should go to.

Does it matter which of these two schools I go to? I am leaning on Georgia State because it is much closer and much cheaper, however, I don't mind going to UGA if it will definitely increase my chances landing a career in astronomy over Georgia State.

Here are the links to their course for undergraduate in physics:

https://catalog.gsu.edu/undergraduate20132014/physics/

http://bulletin.uga.edu/MajorSpecific.aspx?MajorId=129
 
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One thing to keep in mind that as much as you enjoy Astronomy only 1 in 10 ever find a job in the field and even with that it will be hard to stand above the crowd.

You should check into this more though as times do change.

Physics, applied math and instrumentation is a challenging field needed by astronomers, astrophysicists and cosmologists.
 
One thing to keep in mind that as much as you enjoy Astronomy only 1 in 10 ever find a job in the field and even with that it will be hard to stand above the crowd.

You should check into this more thiugh ss times do change.

Physics, applied math and instrumentation is a challenging field needed by astronomers, astrophysicists and cosmologists.
I don't understand your post? I am not going back to school to be an astronomer, nor a astrophysicists, nor a cosmologists. I am going back to school to fulfill the technical engineering route in astronomy for example programming a CCD camera. The jobs that I have applied to via the AAS job register only require a bachelors in physics and prior experience in the field. They don't require any PHD. I want to first at least fulfill the basic requirements which is a physics degree then during my schooling I can find an internship in astronomy which both schools have which will fulfill the second basic requirement of having some experience in the field. After that, I will do other things to try and stand above the crowd like creating my github page of astronomy code etc.
 

StatGuy2000

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To the OP:

I'm surprised that your undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics at Georgia Tech and your experience as a software developer is not sufficient for you in regards to job positions in image processing or software engineering related to astronomy, since I presumed your applied math degree would have required you to take physics courses.

That being said, in regards to which school to study for physics, if you are simply planning on earning your undergraduate degree (without considering further graduate studies), I'm not sure it would really matter which school to go to, although @Dr. Courtney may be better placed to answer your question on this matter, as he is more familiar with the colleges/universities in the southern US than I am.

I would also see if it is possible to check with both schools to see if you are able to transfer your math credits earned from Georgia Tech to your physics degree, as this may significantly cut down on the time required to complete your second bachelors in physics.
 
To the OP:

I'm surprised that your undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics at Georgia Tech and your experience as a software developer is not sufficient for you in regards to job positions in image processing or software engineering related to astronomy, since I presumed your applied math degree would have required you to take physics courses.

That being said, in regards to which school to study for physics, if you are simply planning on earning your undergraduate degree (without considering further graduate studies), I'm not sure it would really matter which school to go to, although @Dr. Courtney may be better placed to answer your question on this matter, as he is more familiar with the colleges/universities in the southern US than I am.

I would also see if it is possible to check with both schools to see if you are able to transfer your math credits earned from Georgia Tech to your physics degree, as this may significantly cut down on the time required to complete your second bachelors in physics.
Thanks for your reply! That is correct, so far I have been rejected to all the companies I have applied to which is why I want to go back to school since my current experience isn't sufficient to them. Also, I don't mind going to graduate school to obtain a masters degree in physics if it will help (but I don't want to obtain a PhD). If that is the case, which school would you recommend I go to to get bachelors? And, that is correct, a lot of my physics and math courses I have taken are transferable therefore I will only have to satisfy the upper level physics courses which shouldn't take me no more than a year a half to complete and then I can graduate with a bachelors in physics.
 

Dr. Courtney

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That being said, in regards to which school to study for physics, if you are simply planning on earning your undergraduate degree (without considering further graduate studies), I'm not sure it would really matter which school to go to, although @Dr. Courtney may be better placed to answer your question on this matter, as he is more familiar with the colleges/universities in the southern US than I am.
I had a hard look at the OP and thought a lot about potential advice. The Physics department at UGA is far superior to Georgia State. I am mentoring two Physics majors there, and both the quality of the teaching AND the research opportunities are far superior at UGA. (UGA is something of a sleeper in terms of the quality of its physics department, not far behind Ga Tech, and far ahead of every other public university in Ga.) Though Physics and Astronomy are often grouped in University departments, career tracts and employability tend to diverge. If the question was focused on Physics, my answer would be confident and unambiguous.

But I am not sufficiently informed to do the OP justice on the more specific question of employability in astronomy and also the value of a degree from UGA vs. Ga State toward that specific question. My sense is that the background and earlier degree from Ga Tech will likely wash out most of the advantage that the superior reputation (and training) UGA may offer. But that is more of an educated guess than a well-informed opinion.
 
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I don't understand your post? I am not going back to school to be an astronomer, nor a astrophysicists, nor a cosmologists. I am going back to school to fulfill the technical engineering route in astronomy for example programming a CCD camera. The jobs that I have applied to via the AAS job register only require a bachelors in physics and prior experience in the field. They don't require any PHD. I want to first at least fulfill the basic requirements which is a physics degree then during my schooling I can find an internship in astronomy which both schools have which will fulfill the second basic requirement of having some experience in the field. After that, I will do other things to try and stand above the crowd like creating my github page of astronomy code etc.
My apologies. I saw your initial comment saying your passion is astronomy and I don’t like my current job and you mentioned that one school has only one astronomer so it seemed you really wanted to get into astronomy or something related to it.

I guess I just didn’t understand your post. Sorry.
 

Vanadium 50

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That is correct, so far I have been rejected to all the companies I have applied to which is why I want to go back to school since my current experience isn't sufficient to them.
Yes, but how confident are you that forgoing N years of experience for N more years of schooling will change this?
 

StatGuy2000

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Yes, but how confident are you that forgoing N years of experience for N more years of schooling will change this?
The OP did state (in the original post and his reply to my question) that the positions he applied required a bachelor's degree in physics as a minimum, so any additional N years of experience wouldn't make a difference. He lacks the official qualification, so the N years of schooling -- which amounts to 1.5 years, given the credits he has earned in his Applied Math degree at Georgia Tech that he can transfer to a physics degree -- would be time well spent and invested.
 

Vanadium 50

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Maybe. It's not clear to me that he won't invest N years and find he still doesn't get the jobs he wants. And then what?
 

Dr. Courtney

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Maybe. It's not clear to me that he won't invest N years and find he still doesn't get the jobs he wants. And then what?
Well, that's always a risk for physics majors, now isn't it?

I tend to frame my advice in terms of probabilities, as there are no certainties when it comes to landing jobs when there are lots of applications for every open position.

But if the lack of a proper degree is a tightly closed door, then at least the proper degree is a non-zero probability that it gets opened.
 
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Do you like astronomy?

When I finished my degree I took off for the cold climate of Canberra in Australia to be a programmer, and was part of group of interesting people that did the same. One had, after knowing him for a while, a first love of astronomy. He had a degree not only in computing but also in applied math and was involved in the Astronomical Society. On occasion we would both go up to a telescope in Canberra on Mt Stromlo called the Oddie I seem to recall. I wasn't that enamoured, but it was still an interesting experience. His eyes would glow - you could sense he was hooked. We would chat to the astronomers there and they all agreed that a degree in Applied Math was fine for admission to a PhD in Astronomy - but you would have to do a Honors year or Masters first - that's how its done here in Aus - although some schools are moving to the Bologna model where you do a Masters in Research first. We lost touch but later on a whim I decided to track down what he was doing now. He had set up his own software consultancy and had that title Dr in front of his name. A little digging showed it was Dr of Astronomy.

Not many jobs for Astronomers there may be, but if you really love Astronomy there is nothing stopping you doing the same thing as my acquaintance. And being able to put the Dr in front of your name will open many doors regardless of if you decide to become an Astronomer or not. Let your passion be your guide - don't worry about prestige - how well do you get along with the people at the school is what I would be looking at.

Thanks
Bill
 
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Vanadium 50

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Well, that's always a risk for physics majors, now isn't it?
Yes, but I think the risk is higher here. The OP is looking at a very specific set of jobs and working under the assumption that the only thing that makes him un-competitive is the major on the degree, and furthermore, he's not going for an engineering degree for engineering jobs: he's going for a degree that might just "squeak in".
 

Dr. Courtney

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Yes, but I think the risk is higher here. The OP is looking at a very specific set of jobs and working under the assumption that the only thing that makes him un-competitive is the major on the degree, and furthermore, he's not going for an engineering degree for engineering jobs: he's going for a degree that might just "squeak in".
You raise a good point. The assumption needs more scrutiny, but we'd need to know more about the applicant and about the specific jobs to offer more specific insight on the risk-benefit analysis. Due to privacy concerns, few posters provide enough information here to accurately assess how strong their applications may be for certain positions.
 
@Dr. Courtney Thanks so much for the feed back. If UGA is the better physic school of the two then I would go there instead. I just want my chances to be as high as possible in getting a career in astronomy.

@jedishrfu lol no worries :)

@Vanadium 50 As @StatGuy2000 has stated, I don't have the minimum qualifications which is why I keep getting rejected. For example, I applied for imaging processing engineer for observatories around the world, however, in order to pass their minimum qualifications you will need a bachelors in physics, at least three years of experience in python and image processing. With those requirements, I will only pass one of the three qualifications which is the python experience. I don't have experience in image processing nor do I have a physics degree hence why I need to go back to school.

@bhobba thanks for those kind words!

@Dr. Courtney and @Vanadium 50 Sorry for the confusion, let me elaborate my situation. I graduated with an applied mathematics degree at Georgia Tech, now I am a software developer that uses Java, Python and other technologies that involves building web applications. My job doesn't involve any image processing, doesn't involve using any FITS file, nothing with cameras; there is nothing at my current job that is related to science, it is only strictly building web applications.

The jobs that I am looking for are technical jobs that uses python, Java, C sharp, other languages to build software for the day to day operations of the telescope, detectors and other instruments. For example, here are some engineering/technical job posting in the AAS job registry that I have applied for in the past and was rejected right away:

https://jobregister.aas.org/ad/ac50a089
https://jobregister.aas.org/ad/3e6ba272
https://jobregister.aas.org/ad/3f029017

Those are just a few. There are other job posting that need Big Data experience as well. Please let me know if you need any additional information. Any feedback will be very helpful.
 

Vanadium 50

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I don't think you would be qualified for those jobs even with a BS degree in physics.

Job #1 says right out they accept Physics or Mathematics, and since you didn't get it with Applied Math...
Job #2 is not something a web designer could do. They are looking for PhD astronomers, most likely having finished a postdoc. A web designer would have zero of the five desired skill.
Job #3 is also not something a web designer could do, even one with a BS in physics. They are again looking for someone much more senior with much more experience around telescopes.
 
I don't think you would be qualified for those jobs even with a BS degree in physics.

Job #1 says right out they accept Physics or Mathematics, and since you didn't get it with Applied Math...
Job #2 is not something a web designer could do. They are looking for PhD astronomers, most likely having finished a postdoc. A web designer would have zero of the five desired skill.
Job #3 is also not something a web designer could do, even one with a BS in physics. They are again looking for someone much more senior with much more experience around telescopes.
For the first job, I am positive that there were others that had better qualifications than me which is why I am trying to build my qualifications and resume hence the need to go to school.

For the second job, I posted the incorrect link my bad. There was an older link that had the same title but it only required a bachelors degree. It didn't state PHD. I am unable to find it so I think it expired.

And here are a couple of more:

https://jobregister.aas.org/ad/668f6505
https://jobregister.aas.org/ad/785c22bb
https://jobregister.aas.org/ad/43b35eff
https://keckobservatory.applicantpro.com/jobs/1007399.html
 

Vanadium 50

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It didn't say PhD. But that's what they are looking for.

My point is that getting a 2nd bachelors in a different subject will still leave you uncompetitive for those jobs. Just poorer.
 
It didn't say PhD. But that's what they are looking for.

My point is that getting a 2nd bachelors in a different subject will still leave you uncompetitive for those jobs. Just poorer.
Again, my question is only for job opportunities that do not require a PhD. That job posting that says PhD was a mistake on my part. I didn't mean to post that job posting. For the other jobs I have listed they only mention bachelors. Any job that says PhD then I know getting a second degree is a waste of time. My question is only specific to the bachelors degree jobs that I have posted. For example, the keckobservatory job I posted and the data engineer job that I posted above.
 

Vanadium 50

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I am not sure you are listening to me. Even when the jobs do not say require a PhD, that is what they are looking for. That's the level of experience they want, even if they do not use that language. That's certainly who your competition is. That's who they are hiring. In my estimation (I am not an astronomer, but my department has several and I am an APS DAP member who has reviewed telescope proposals) none of these jobs would open up had you had a BS in physics rather than applied math. None.
 

StatGuy2000

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I am not sure you are listening to me. Even when the jobs do not say require a PhD, that is what they are looking for. That's the level of experience they want, even if they do not use that language. That's certainly who your competition is. That's who they are hiring. In my estimation (I am not an astronomer, but my department has several and I am an APS DAP member who has reviewed telescope proposals) none of these jobs would open up had you had a BS in physics rather than applied math. None.
@Vanadium 50 ,with respect to the first job post that the OP linked to, you are flat out wrong that the job requires a PhD -- the scientific software engineer position specifically states that their required requirements are for a "Bachelor's degree in Astronomy, Computer Science, Physics, Mathematics, or other relevant engineering or science field." So the OP would have the bare minimum qualifications degree-wise with respect to that position.

Another position that the OP linked to involved an Instrumentation Specialist position, which specifically stated that the applicant must have a "Bachelor's degree in Engineering, Physics, and related field" in addition to previous job experience. None of these positions are the kinds that would either require a PhD, nor would employers be looking for PhD holders specifically.

Granted, I'm not certain that a physics degree on its own would make the OP more competitive in these positions either -- if anything, a degree in electrical engineering may be more useful instead.
 

Vanadium 50

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@Vanadium 50 ,with respect to the first job post that the OP linked to, you are flat out wrong that the job requires a PhD -- the scientific software engineer position specifically states that their required requirements are for a "Bachelor's degree in Astronomy, Computer Science, Physics, Mathematics, or other relevant engineering or science field."
My message #16 is pretty clear about that job...

Job #1 says right out they accept Physics or Mathematics, and since you didn't get it with Applied Math...
So it's hard for me to see where I am "flat out wrong".

Many or most of the candidates for these positions are, in fact, astro PhDs who for whatever reason, did not get faculty jobs. That's the pool. Yes, the occasional EE will get an instrumentation job (but not the BlackSky job). now and again. But this is quibbling. My main point is that the OP will be no more qualified for a single one of these jobs if he gets a second BS in physics. Quibble with details if yoy must, but as far as advice goes, that's what mine is.
 

Dr. Courtney

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I am not sure you are listening to me. Even when the jobs do not say require a PhD, that is what they are looking for. That's the level of experience they want, even if they do not use that language. That's certainly who your competition is. That's who they are hiring. In my estimation (I am not an astronomer, but my department has several and I am an APS DAP member who has reviewed telescope proposals) none of these jobs would open up had you had a BS in physics rather than applied math. None.
My experience is that jobs that absolutely require a PhD state it explicitly in the ads. There are some jobs where a PhD is not an absolute requirement, but that attract sufficient PhD applications that applicants without one are at a severe disadvantage. But I've seen applicants without a PhD get hired for these - usually these are permanent positions with more modest salaries (relative to PhD salary expectations) and a history of failing to keep PhDs around for more than a couple years. The hiring managers want employees who they are more likely to retain once they are familiar and productive in the position, and they are tired of being a short term stepping stone for PhDs.
 

StatGuy2000

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My message #16 is pretty clear about that job...
I missed your message on #16.

Many or most of the candidates for these positions are, in fact, astro PhDs who for whatever reason, did not get faculty jobs. That's the pool. Yes, the occasional EE will get an instrumentation job (but not the BlackSky job). now and again. But this is quibbling. My main point is that the OP will be no more qualified for a single one of these jobs if he gets a second BS in physics. Quibble with details if you must, but as far as advice goes, that's what mine is.
I think this is the crux of where I feel you are wrong -- I'm not convinced that most of the candidates of the positions are in fact astro PhDs. If anything, my expectation is that there is a large candidate pool of people who have Bachelor's or Masters degrees with engineering or physics degrees who are looking for positions in, say, instrumentation, image processing, or software development type jobs.

Now will the OP be more qualified for any of these jobs with a second BS in physics? I'm not certain of the answer, but if his contention (note: I believe the OP is male, given the handle name) is that he is being rejected for these positions because he does not have a physics degree -- as he stated earlier in this thread -- then by that token, he would be more qualified for these positions after completing a second degree in physics, in addition to his applied math degree and his experience in software development and his coding skills.

How competitive would he be in comparison to someone who has an engineering degree or a physics PhD is unknown -- some employers may not want to hire a PhD for whatever reason, whereas others may look exclusively to physics PhDs.
 
@Vanadium 50 I am sorry but you are wrong that these positions require PhD. I looked at some of the employers LinkedIn pages that have similar roles and none of them stated that they had a PhD. Only a bachelors in physics and one other had a computer science degree. Granted I have only seen three profiles for those job titles in LinkedIn, as there aren't many with those titles on LinkedIn.
But I do agree with you on the BlackSky jobs as I have also looked at their employment and all of whom I was able to find were PhD.
 

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