Master's in Astrophysics: Jobs & Salary

Jun 18, 2019

A master's degree in astrophysics qualifies students for several types of scientific jobs. Learn more about the job growth and pay scales for these positions.

This article reviews the median salary and predicted job growth for jobs in the astrophysics sector and related industries. A description of the jobs is provided as well.

Jobs and Salaries For Those with a Master's Degree in Astrophysics

Job Title Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Astrophysicist $83,880 (June 2019)** 14% (Physicists)
Experimental Physicist $120,950 (Physicists) 14% (Physicists)
Plasma Physicist $120,950 (Physicists) 14% (Physicists)
Cosmologist $80,890 (Physical Scientists) 10% (Physical Scientists)
Teacher $60,320 (High School Teachers)
$90,800 (Postsecondary Teacher Physics)
8% (High School Teachers)
10% (Postsecondary Teacher Physics)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **Payscale.com

Descriptions of Careers Attainable with a Master's Degree in Astrophysics

Astrophysicist

Astrophysicists study the universe. This involves analyzing physical and astronomical data. They use telescopes from earth and space to study planets, stars, and other phenomena. A master-level course about cosmology prepares new astrophysicists for the job by presenting the origin and structure of the universe.

Experimental Physicist

An experimental physicist studies matter and develops new theories. Most of the work involves testing predictions with new sensors and experiment. Also, he or she may write papers and present findings to a scientific conference. A graduate-level course covering electricity and magnetism can prepare new experimental physicists for the job.

Plasma Physicist

The main subject of interest for a plasma physicist is plasma. This material is found in stars and in the space between planets. A graduate-level course presenting new information about the cosmic microwave background and dark energy can help these professionals. Plasma physicists write proposals for research efforts and funding, usually in plasma-related endeavors, such as neon signs, plasma screen TVs, and fusion reactors.

Cosmologist

A cosmologist studies the origin of the universe, its evolution over billions of years, and the possible futures of the universe. On a typical day, a cosmologist would write scientific papers and conduct research or experiments. A class for prospective cosmologists could be a course that presents the Big Bang Theory.

Teacher

A teacher with a master's degree in astrophysics can teach a class in a high school or sometimes even college. Some high schools offer astrophysics as a main course, or others offer it as an elective. If astrophysics is not available, one can also teach a physics course or an astronomy course. A culminating experience in a master's program can help prepare new teachers for the job by requiring them to prepare a thesis for review by a committee.

Common Employers and Work Environment

Two of the leading employers of physicists include NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense. Several national laboratories employ physicists as well, including the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. In 2016, about 17,900 jobs were held by physicists. The largest sector of employment for physicists was scientific research and development services. The second largest sector of employment was universities and professional schools. Most physicists work in laboratories, observatories, and offices.

To summarize, there are several high-paying jobs available to students graduating with a master's degree in astrophysics, including astrophysicist, plasma physicist, and cosmologist. Most graduates will work in a laboratory or office, and their primary duties will be to conduct experiments, analyze data, and study the universe.

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