A master's degree in astronomy or space studies prepares one for a career at a space agency such as NASA, at a private space company, or at a university. By completing a master's degree online, one can study at a convenient location and time. Below are details about these online programs.
General Degree Program Information
Online master's degree programs in astronomy or space studies are typically taught via recorded lecture and online chat by experts in the field. Students usually take approximately two years to complete this type of master's degree. Some programs require that students complete a thesis while others do not.
Online astronomy and space studies programs tend to have similar courses regardless of what school holds the course. The following are courses and topics that may be offered in one's program.
Introduction to Space Studies
Most astronomy and space studies programs begin with an introductory course that has students examine space policy, space programs, scientific studies, and technical issues involved in space exploration. Courses can also explore the future impact of these policies and programs. This class is generally geared towards the needs of non-scientists.
Research Methods in Space Studies
Courses covering research methods in space studies teach students best practices for research. This includes how to organize and conduct one's research and how to think both logically and creatively while remaining critical and scientific. This is expected to help one prepare for an eventual PhD proposal.
History of Space
History of space covers the history of space exploration. Emphasis is placed on individual research centers and their contribution. Some attention is also paid to the political factors behind space exploration. At some schools this topic is combined with the introductory course.
Planetary and Solar System
Planetary and solar system courses focus on our own solar system. This course will include study of the sun, individual planets, and moons. It also covers past, present, and future exploration of our solar system, such as the moon landings and Mars colonization. Additionally, these courses also cover threats to our planet, such as meteor strikes.
Comets, Asteroids, and Meteorites
Many believe that comets, asteroids, and meteorites were created at the same time as the planets of our solar system. These could be considered the leftover parts from the formation of the solar system. In courses like this, the composition, history, and relationships of these objects are covered to better understand the early life of our solar system.
Astronomical instrumentation covers the design and construction of tools used for astronomical research. Instruments covered include those that can see in UV, x-ray, and gamma-ray spectrums which give astronomers a better understanding of the universe than visible light would alone. These courses also cover the mechanical design and machining of astronomical instrumentation, optics and optical system design, and real-time and near real-time computer control.
Although it sounds like something out of Dr. Strange, astrophysics is the study of stars and galaxies. These courses also cover the methods and instruments used to study the universe. Additionally, these courses cover cosmology: the study of the past, present, and future of our universe.
Admission to an online program tends to be a more straightforward process than admission to an on-campus program. Most online graduate programs require only that one have a bachelor's degree from an accredited school. One does not need to take the GRE or provide letters of recommendation at some schools, though it does vary. Additionally, one may find that some schools charge a modest application fee while others do not have an application fee at all.
Master's degree programs in astronomy are available in online formats and usually feature topics like space studies, research methods, and the history of space.