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Astrobiology Degree Programs

Astrobiology sets out to answer the age old question of where do we as a species come from? This article gives details about this young scientific field as well as some financial information.

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Bachelor's Degree Program in Astrobiology Information

Astrobiology is a relatively new field of study that focuses on the existence of life in the universe. A program in astrobiology combines coursework in a variety of related fields like planetary science, astrophysics, geology, evolutionary biology, molecular biology and chemistry. Students in these programs typically conduct research, participate in lab work, complete an internship, and attend seminar courses. Currently, bachelor's degree programs in astrobiology can only be found at two universities in the US. However, several schools offer a minor in astrobiology.

Below are some examples of the application requirements as well as some of the coursework a student may face; and finally we conclude with some possible careers to look at after graduation.

Admissions Requirements for an Astrobiology Degree Program

Students looking at this degree plan will need to submit their high school diploma or GED score. It is recommended that students check with the institution admissions office to see if a minimum GPA, ACT or SAT score is required. Letters of recommendation, an interview, and an essay may be asked for as well. For astrobiology programs, it is also strongly recommended that students take as much advanced math and science as they can.

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Astrobiology Program Coursework

On top of the general university requirements, coursework in the astrobiology field will include a number of chemistry classes as well as advanced courses in math, biology, physics and geosciences. Below are some examples of a few of the more common course fields required.

Chemistry

For a degree in astrobiology, one will be required to take a variety of chemistry classes including general chemistry and others like geochemistry (composition of Earth's atmospheres), biochemistry (the properties of enzymes and proteins and others) and organic chemistry (the reaction between organisms). All of these courses will be necessary for astrobiologists to understand any findings from space debris found on the planet or from tests done on trips to space.

Physics

Physics courses are vital to the astrobiology degree and will include much more than basic physics, such as the physics of electricity and magnetism, astrophysics and the study of stellar structures and evolution. Most of these classes come with lab work to aid students in their pursuit of understanding how gravity and space weightlessness works and the effects of both on lifeforms.

Astronomy

A variety of astronomy-related courses will also be required, from basic classes on space science reviewing what we know about the planets, stars and other phenomena, to astrobiology and the search for the essentials to sustain life in space. Astronomy courses will give students the knowledge they need in understanding the expansion of the universe, the actions of black holes, or changes in stars such as novas, red giants and dwarf stars.

Evolution

Students in astrobiology programs need classes in evolutionary studies to better understand the future of life. Courses in basic evolution (changes and adaptations in all organisms) and organic evolution (adaptive changes in populations at their most basic form) will be required. Biologists learn about the evolution of life here on Earth, and astrobiologists need this information to understand what they may discover from the latest data. They need to understand the evolution of life in the past to properly interpret what they may find in the future.

Humanities

Advanced courses in composition, literature and history courses will also be required on top of the general requirement levels. Students will be required to learn about quantitative thinking and writing, cultural awareness, arts and design, and humanities. Astrobiology pupils must know what history tells us about the scientific fields of yesterday and how the culture of the time may have affected that history. Scientists regularly publish new discoveries, and it is important that they do so using proper composition skills.

How to Choose a Degree Program in Astrobiology

There are a couple of bachelor's programs in the U.S. in the field of astrobiology. Several other universities around the nation offer minors in the field. A few schools even offer certificate programs. Both bachelor's programs are recommended by NASA on their website. Students might want to consider location as both coasts are represented by at least one of the two schools. The minor programs, which are spread across the country, allow prospective students the opportunity to study astrobiology while obtaining their degree in something else.

Career Options with an Astrobiology Degree

With this degree, people may find work in a variety of astronomy careers as well as physics and many geoscience fields. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the area of physics and astronomy will grow by 7% between 2014-2024 while the median salary in 2016 was $114,870 for the same group. Other careers that graduates in astrobiology may wish to consider are listed below.

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