Should I Become an Astrophysicist?
Astrophysicists explore physical properties of celestial objects, including stars, planets, and galaxies; thus they need a substantial amount of scientific knowledge. Becoming an astrophysicist requires training and skill in a combination of astronomy and physics. Students should identify prospective schools and maintain a high GPA in high school and concentrate on excelling in math, science, and computer science.
|Degree Level||Some bachelor's programs exist; most professionals have doctorates|
|Experience||Summer internships in high school and college will help an applicant with competitive schools and professional positions.|
|Key Skills||Math, science, and computer skills are all highly valuable.|
|Salary (May 2015)*||Astronomers earned a median wage of $104,100 a year; physicists earned a median wage of $111,580 a year|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Step 1: Become Involved Early
Joining local astronomy clubs and participating in related events can be an early way for aspiring astrophysicists to meet people in the field and develop an understanding of the scientific community.
Step 2: Excel in High School Math and Science
Because astrophysics is a demanding and competitive field, entering a well-regarded undergraduate program could prove beneficial to a prospective astrophysicist's educational and career path. With that in mind, high school students should strive to maintain a high grade-point average and take advanced classes in science and mathematics to increase their chances of admission to a quality school.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Atmospheric Physics
- Chemical Technologies
- Earth Science
- Geophysics and Seismology
- Natural Sciences
- Planetary Astronomy
- Water Resource Sciences
Step 3: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Undergraduate programs in astrophysics aren't common, so students might opt to pursue a physics or astronomy degree with a strong secondary focus on the other topic. Taking courses in computer science is important because the skills developed apply directly to astrophysical research.
Step 4: Get Involved in Research
With summer research programs and other opportunities for undergraduates available, the most competitive students often spend their 'vacations' developing hands-on experience in astronomical research. Some programs can be contacted through colleges or universities, while others are directly reached through national organizations, such as the National Science Foundation.
Step 5: Complete a Doctorate
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that most physicists and astronomers, including astrophysicists, have a doctoral degree. Ph.D. programs in astrophysics require in-depth coursework in physics, astronomy, mathematics, computer science, and statistics, as well as original research culminating in a dissertation. Doctoral programs generally take five years or more to complete.
Astrophysicists explore physical properties of celestial objects, including stars, planets, and galaxies. While some bachelor's degree programs in astrophysics exist, most astrophysicists have a doctorate degree.