How Can I Become a Space Scientist?
Do you have a talent for complex math? Do you love physics? Have you always wanted to learn about worlds beyond Earth? A career as a space scientist might be a good fit for you. Read on to learn more about degree programs, career opportunities and common job responsibilities for space scientists. Schools offering CCAF degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Types of Degree Programs in Space Science are Available?
Space science is less a defined scientific field than a loose category that draws on multiple disciplines. Foremost among these disciplines are physics, astronomy and astrophysics; space science also includes elements of chemistry, geology, biology, computer science and engineering. Earning a master's or doctoral degree in physics, astronomy or astrophysics could prepare you for work as a space scientist. Master's programs are typically completed in two years; you may need 5-6 years to earn a doctoral degree.
Physics, astrophysics and astronomy programs often overlap in subject matter. Some schools even offer astrophysics and astronomy as concentrations within a physics degree. Physics programs are primarily concerned with understanding and manipulating light, matter and the fundamental forces of nature. Classroom and lab courses touch on photonics, quantum mechanics and gravitation.
Astronomy and astrophysics are nearly synonymous, but have small, conceptual differences. Astronomy programs emphasize direct observation of celestial objects to discover basic facts about their motion, chemistry and meteorology. Astrophysics programs are more concerned with finding explanations for the origin of the observable universe and the objects within it according to known laws of physics.
Where Do Professionals Work?
A majority of space science is conducted through remotely-controlled satellites and spacecraft, with manned space programs providing a smaller amount of hands-on research. Thus aerospace companies, major universities and government agencies - like the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA - are your potential employers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't provide figures for space scientists, but it does report that 15,600 people were employed as physicists and 1,500 were employed as astronomers in 2008 (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, the number of employed physicists and astronomers was projected to grow by 16% from 2008-2018.
What Will My Job Duties Be?
The duties you perform should generally fall into three areas - planning, deployment and analysis. Planning responsibilities may include designing satellites, satellite instruments, telescopes or experiments for manned flights. Deployment duties may involve the successful management of satellite or spacecraft launches. Analytical work for space scientists could include interpreting data from experiments, satellites or telescopes and drawing conclusions.
To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below: