How Can I Study Astrophysics?

You can study astrophysics at the bachelor's through doctoral degree levels. Continue reading for information about coursework, which typically involves laboratory work and observations, and see information about career prospects. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

How Do I Apply to an Astrophysics Program?

Both undergraduate and graduate programs are available in the field of astrophysics. Schools usually award you with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.), a Master of Science (M.S.) or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). The first year or two of a bachelor's degree program will be spent taking prerequisite physics classes. Programs will likely set minimum GPA requirements that you'll need to maintain in these courses.

To apply to a graduate degree program, you must usually take standardized graduate exams and hold a bachelor's degree in physics, astronomy, math or computer science. You also typically must meet a minimum GPA requirement in your math and science courses.

What Is the Coursework Like?

During an astrophysics program, you'll study astronomy and space phenomena, such as black holes and planet formations. You'll usually work in labs and take observational courses that allow you to examine astronomical events through telescopes. Programs might also might include computer science training. Common topics that you'll study during an astrophysics program include the following:

  • Multivariate calculus
  • Physics laboratory
  • Planetary systems
  • Observational techniques
  • Relativity and cosmology
  • Computational astrophysics
  • High-energy astronomy
  • Quantum mechanics

Bachelor's degree programs in astrophysics programs often end in a senior thesis that combines astrophysics knowledge with scientific writing. Master's degree programs also usually end in a thesis. Ph.D. programs culminate in a dissertation that must be approved by a faculty committee. The dissertation allows you to conduct independent research on a chosen astrophysics topic. You can usually gain teaching experience during both M.S. and Ph.D. programs.

Can I Study Online?

You can enroll in a master's degree program in space studies online, although these programs are rare. You can also complete a partially online master's or doctoral degree program in beam physics, which includes astronomy coursework. Many of the courses can be conducted online, but you must meet on campus for your thesis work.

During an online program, you'll usually watch lectures through recorded videotapes and interact with students and instructors through discussion boards and chat sessions. You can also self-test yourself with interactive online exercises. Schools recommend that you have a DSL or cable Internet connection to properly participate in classes. You also might need a DVD player and telephone line.

What Jobs Are Available?

With a bachelor's degree in astrophysics, you can work as a technician or research assistant to physicists. A bachelor's degree can further allow you to work as a planetarium technician. You could also become a curator for a smaller-scale planetarium with your undergraduate degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), museum technicians and conservators made a mean yearly salary of $41,330 in May 2009, while curators earned a mean wage of $52,330 per year in May 2009 (www.bls.gov).

With your graduate degree, you can work as an astronomer or physicist. The BLS reported that a Ph.D. can allow you to pursue your own independent research. Physicist and astronomer positions were predicted to increase 16% from 2008-2018, which was higher than the average for all jobs. Astronomers earned a mean annual salary of $102,740 in May 2009, while physicists made a mean yearly wage of $111,250 in May 2009, stated the BLS.

A Ph.D. also allows you to apply for postsecondary teaching positions. According to the BLS, postsecondary physics teachers made a mean salary of $83,320 per year in May 2009.

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:

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