The job opportunities in astrophysics and related fields depend on your level of education. Career choices will be broader with a doctorate than a bachelor’s degree. Another influence on employment possibilities will be the years of experience you bring to the job. Also, the coursework in a bachelor’s and master’s degree in astrophysics may prepare you for a career as a physicist or astronomer. Therefore, the curriculum can expand the job horizon.
The prefix ‘astro’ comes from Ancient Greek ἄστρον (ástro), meaning “celestial body.” English examples are astrology, astronomy, astronaut, astrolabe, and astrophysics. The word physics also originates in Ancient Greece (φυσική), Romanized to physikḗ meaning literally, the knowledge of nature. Therefore, by joining the prefix with the word physics, you apply physics to astronomy. For this reason, the courses at the undergraduate level emphasize a combination of physics and astronomy topics.
For example, the Bachelor of Science in Astrophysics at Baylor University’s Department of Physics includes General Physics, Computational Physics, Foundations in Astronomy, Quantum Mechanics, Thermal Physics, and Modern Cosmology.
The College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Astronomy at Indiana University in Bloomington offers a B.S. in Astronomy and Astrophysics. The study plan concentrates on mathematics, physics, and astronomy. There is also the option of earning a dual degree in Physics and Astronomy & Astrophysics with only a modest increase in classes.
The two schools above reflect the typical curriculum consisting of a load of math, physics, and astronomy subjects whose assortment might allow you to seek a job as a physicist, for example. A job posting on Zippia seeks a Staff Physicist-Radiation Effects Engineer at Northrop Grumman, a defense contractor. In addition to secret security clearance, you’ll need 14 years of work experience with a bachelor’s degree in physics, material science, or mechanical engineering. A master’s is preferred, which reduces the work experience to 12 years.
The answer to the captioned question is subjective. What constitutes a good career for one may not meet the criteria of another. Some may place money at the top of the list, whereas others want job security or challenging work. Certain individuals prefer to shun the limelight doing research, and others want to be behind a lectern teaching or engaging with a group as a consultant. The employment location, the company’s reputation, the company benefits, and the type of work all affect one’s career choice.
Peratron on Wallops Island, Virginia, posted a position on Indeed for a Manager-Mission 1 (Space Rockets) for applicants with a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical or electrical engineering or physics. Three years of management experience is also necessary to work for a corporation that partners with NASA’s Sounding Rocket Operations Contract: a suborbital space flight program. Assuming you meet all the qualifications, is this a good career choice? The posting doesn’t state a salary, but pretending that is enticing, does the job satisfy what you consider an optimum career selection?
LinkedIn surveyed 25,311 recent college graduates in 2014 to see what was most important for a career choice. The top spot was Compensation with 61%, followed by Balance between work and personal life at 56%.
FastCompany, an American monthly business magazine, posed the question: What does the class of 2019 want in an employer? The research, performed by LaSalle Network, a Chicago staffing agency, stated that 35% of respondents would work in any industry out of college. The salary expectation of graduates was between $51,000 and $60,000 annually. Unlike the LinkedIn survey, the LaSalle respondents placed job growth at the top, followed by work/life balance. Compensation dropped one spot from the previous year to #3.
Recent college graduates might minimize company benefits in their career objectives; however, generous medical and dental plans, as well as a matched 401(k), are significant. With the cost of rents or home purchase, the current generation of college graduates may find it difficult to save. A paycheck deduction invested in a growing 401(k) can be a substantial nest egg if you remain with one company for most of your career.
We’ve strayed into career generalities from the question of astrophysics being a good career. Someone passionate about physics and astronomy may plow ahead with their educational goals of a master’s degree or Ph.D. and worry about job prospects later. But these other factors should come into the equation.
What does the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics say about the occupation category of Physicists and Astronomers? Data from 2020 state that the average salary was $128,950 with a doctorate or professional degree. This field employed 20,500 in 2019, and the job growth is 7%, or a change in 1,400 positions over ten years (2019-2029). Spread over that time equates to only 140 jobs a year! However, when you search for Physicist jobs on the Indeed employment site, it refers to over 6,000 postings. Before embarking on a graduate program, it might be prudent to check the job market to ascertain if astrophysics is a promising career.