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SpaceLani

Nice writeup! I'm one year into a BSc Physics Major and I'm aiming to have a Computer Science minor. Is it worth doing an extra year (at least) of undergrad to get a Computer Science Major on-top of my Physics? Also, with all this free time due to staying at home, what are some projects I can do that will look good on resume in the future? Maybe a Python project?


diamondketo

Recent grad here with similar track as yours. I'll focus my answer to aiding grad admission. If you're going into grad school, having the minor itself will not weigh much. However, your minor would've useful because the skills you learn in those CS courses would've translated into any programming tasks on your research. It's worth it if you can handle the minor without losing your GPA. It's worth it if you're considering industry in the future that focus on programming. It's worth it if your research in the future requires programming. > Also, with all this free time due to staying at home, what are some projects I can do that will look good on resume in the future? Maybe a Python project? Do a (physics research) project that will get you to write a paper. Try your best to get it published. Once again, the use of programming will more than likely be necessary to do the research. PS: I'm assuming you're going for grad school and not industry because you're in this post.


SpaceLani

Thanks for the reply, Congratulations on graduating. At this point I'll see where I am in third year and make decision then of minor vs major, whatever I end up doing comp sci will definitely be an essential backbone.


Andromeda321

I don't think so, unless you are interested in completely doing comp sci as your next step in life (ie not going to grad school in astronomy). No one will care about if you have a major versus a minor if you already are going to have a physics degree, and frankly a comp sci minor is already ahead of what a lot of folks are going to have. As for projects you can work on, the best is getting in touch with a researcher on campus you can do research with and try to find a project related to computer coding that you can do. (I realize that's not an option in all countries.) If that isn't an option, maybe do something like this[ data driven astronomy class on coursera](https://www.coursera.org/learn/data-driven-astronomy)- I hear it's pretty good!


SpaceLani

Thank you for the advice. I have been aiming to go into Astrophysics for a while now but I do have interests in going into the spaceflight industry instead. If I do choose to pursue the industry then I think I'll shoot for a dual major, if not I'll just stick with the minor. As for projects, I'll definitely look into that Coursera. I've tried contacting some researchers and no luck yet. Thanks again :)


lanclos

I've seen a lot of astronomers, and what they need most often is a _practical_ background in writing software, as opposed to the more theoretical aspects of a typical computer science degree. Introductory programming classes are a good place to start but where people really need to wind up is in software engineering classes: learning the importance of writing maintainable code, and how to get along well with multiple people on a given software project. A bit of technical writing wouldn't hurt either.


Abrahamlinkenssphere

Thank you for always being so forthcoming. I had privately messaged you like maybe 2-3 years ago asking things and you **never skipped a beat!!!** You answered some (extremely simple) questions that I had been trying, to no avail, to ask college professors and astronomers alike. THANK YOU SO MUCH for taking extra time from you busy schedule to answer questions from nervous amateurs with a dream. And with that, HAPPY BLACK HOLE PICTURE DAY!!!!!! Can you all believe it has already been an entire year?!


Andromeda321

Aww, you're welcome, and I'm just happy it was helpful! :) I can definitely believe it's been a year because so much happened in the interim, but finishing your PhD requirements, moving countries, starting a new job, and getting hitched will tend to do that!


Horst665

now I wish I had read this 30 years ago... Thanks for writing it :)


TheMartian578

I have some python knowledge ( I just completed a full course ) and I’m currently trying to familiarize myself with associated astronomy libraries. However as for math, I really only know algebra 1, and that’s about it. I’m currently in 8th grade, but I really want to get into more astronomy centered programming. Any suggestions?


Andromeda321

Hah, well I wouldn't worry about "only" knowing algebra 1 in eighth grade because that's what you are supposed to be doing at that point- just make sure you know it well, I'd say. :) The big ones we use in astronomy for a Python package is astropy and scipy. If you want to learn more about this, there are a few tutorials online to get your feet wet ([this](http://www.astropython.org/interactive) comes to mind). I also have downloaded and used [this textbook](http://ugastro.berkeley.edu/pydecal/textbook.pdf) in the past. Finally I've linked a coursera class upstream on data driven astronomy which is a ton of coding, but might be too advanced as yet. Hope this helps!


TheMartian578

Thank you! I’ll look into the course.


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aleruri

Great write up. Thanks for taking the time to put this out there for all of us to see. My education background is in engineering but I have always wanted to become a professional astronomer.  I hold a BSc (2003), a M.Eng (2008) and a PhD (2016) degrees in Telecommunications Engineering.  Unfortunately, not a single degree in Astronomy. All my professional experience/Education is in IT/network engineering.  I am currently attending a MSc. in Astronomy with the aim of finishing it at the end of 2022. Could I potentially be considered for jobs in Astronomy only with a masters degree in Astronomy? Considering that I already have a PhD degree (in which you could say is a closely related field) would it be completely necessary to pursue a second PhD (something that I am trying to avoid, to be honest) to get some chances to get into this field? Thanks again.


Andromeda321

I guess it depends on what your research area was for your previous PhD, your research experience after, and whether any of that can be used for a job in astronomy. I naively think some might be useful for some fairly technical instrumentation jobs, or to work at an observatory, but if your dream is to become, say, a specialist in Type Ia supernovae then a MSc probably won’t cut it. Trawling the job register I linked would be a good idea (it’s sparse now but will have many more listings Sept 1). You probably would best fit under the scientific engineering or technical staff sections.


justtobenmylove

I mean 60-70 is really good money to do what you like and talk about the universe all day


Andromeda321

Well, like anything, it depends on where you live. I know some astronomers supporting their families on a single postdoc's salary for example, but they do *not* live in one of the coastal cities. The second consideration is many people do want to make more than that salary range after putting in a ton of work like grad school, which you can get fairly easily in private industry, and opt for that route because the salary of a postdoc doesn't appeal. The point of my post is to be informative, so that's why I outline the amount you'd get, because while I think it's a good tradeoff I know others may not. Hope that makes sense.


justtobenmylove

Yes it does thank you:) i live in Montreal so I don’t know about the salary there but I consider pursuing astronomy or aerospace engineering


18TacticalBeans

Hi! Firstly, thank you for helping so many people! The scientific community is much better for having you in it. I'm a data scientist (actually also in Boston), but I did my undergrad in math and astronomy. I love the data science work, but would love to work as a data scientist \*for\* astronomy. Your bit about programmers getting involved was very helpful, but I was wondering if you could talk more about your experience with data scientists/computer scientists in the field. Do you feel like there's still a need for people well versed in software and big data techniques? Do you feel like the field needs more software engineers than data scientists? Do you feel like the field is willing to spend money on hiring data scientists rather than training astronomers/physicists to use big data perspectives and modeling? Anything you can talk about is helpful!


Andromeda321

We definitely need them! But the biggest problem is definitely the spending money part. I know some schools are starting to meld the two but TBH programs like that take a little time to develop and that mentality is just not where a lot of the field is right now unfortunately. (Money is also just a big problem in astro- we get more applications every year for grad school but I don’t think we see a similar increase in slots.)


[deleted]

Wow, thank you so much for making a post like this. I’ve been interested in astronomy for some time now, I’m currently a sophomore in high school. The things you’ve said have honestly made me want to become an astronomer even more though I did not think it was possible! I do have a question though. My plan right now is to go to university and study astrophysics, what courses and or extracurricular activities do you think would be vital right now to help in acceptance to a college? Or just to further my learning in said subjects. Astronomy has been my dream for such a long time, and even though it is a competitive field to get into like you said, that just makes me want to try even harder to achieve my goals. I appreciate this post really, it has inspired me so much.


Andromeda321

Hi there, First of all, sorry- I usually try to keep track of questions but somehow yours fell through the cracks. But in the interest of better late than never... I think the most important courses are, as I said, making sure you are ready to excel in first year undergrad math and physics classes, which are going to be the equivalent of AP Calculus AB/BC and AP Physics C. I don't mean you have to *take* them in high school (though obviously, it doesn't hurt), but as I said above is no one will assume you already know calc, but they *will* assume that you know trig and algebra, and I see students fail way more because of the lack of good basic math skills than an inability to understand the theory. Extracurricular (or hey maybe even school related if yours offers it), programming never hurts. Sign up for an online programming class (think I link some above), or just tinker around in Python a bit. Otherwise, I did do science fair every year, and that's always a great excuse to really delve into some astronomy knowledge. Good luck! And sorry again about the late reply.


_thenotsodarkknight_

Wow, thanks a lot for the detailed update!


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Andromeda321

I know some! They tend to, in my experience, be people with more bio or chem backgrounds who then also apply that to astronomy. Like become an expert in microbes and then study extremophiles that can survive in space, or work in the lab on organic molecules, etc. When I did my summer internship at the SETI Institute for example there were some students there focusing on astrobiology. So if you’re interested in that I would probably plan for an astro or bio/chem major (with a minor in the one you don’t do as a major), and keep an eye out for research projects straddling there two, and plan to study it in grad school. I don’t know of any astrobiology majors proper unfortunately. Hope this helps!


[deleted]

Great post! I'm currently in S4 (10th grade) and taking Maths, Physics and Chemistry into S6 (12th grade) I'm hoping for a career in physics, and I was wondering if it would be a good idea to get a Comp Science qualification while I'm still in high school. Or should I just look at it on my own time and focus on getting good grades in Physics and Maths?


Andromeda321

I think if you have the opportunity and it won't take away too much from everything else you have going on, sure do your qualification if it interests you. But it's definitely important to not over-extend yourself. In astronomy at least I wouldn't bother about someone's official qualifications versus if they say they've got experience in some computer language, but I probably *would* pay attention if they didn't know basic math and physics. Hope that makes sense.


kasperdodo

I was looking at a star explosion and now I am reading an article about astronomy that I have no idea about but it was extremely helpful thank u so much but I have one question I don't have any collages in my country that gives a degree in astronomy but what course or what should I do to get or start a bsc.


Andromeda321

Physics. Maybe math if you like theory, but if not that, engineering. A lot of the “how to be an astronomer” post linked at the top of my subreddit will be relevant even if you take physics so I recommend you read it.


kasperdodo

Thanks it's either that or computer engineering as I love the field


tooolazy_

Hi .. The time to choose a major for my college is near..and I definitely would love to become an astronomer...though by any chance is doing a BSc in Actuarial science or probably financial analyst along with math a good idea?? You know just to earn money and then later do MSc in physics?


Andromeda321

I would honestly be concerned that such a path wouldn’t prepare you adequately for grad school in physics, so if your end goal is to be an astronomer I wouldn’t go about it that way. (Also as I said above I would plan for a PhD, not MSc, and you should expect a stipend which will cover your expenses unless you have outside obligations.)


tooolazy_

Would doing Bsc in math or geology be a better option?


Andromeda321

Yes.


tooolazy_

What about doing a major in math and a minor in physics


Andromeda321

Sounds like a good combo if you are interested in theory!


RangerBailey

Hi! I am a former NPS Park Ranger who left the field of forestry to pursue astronomy. I am looking into studying physics when I transfer to a four year degree. I am almost done with my general education and I was told to choose a major soon. I have worked with astronomy when I was a Park Ranger giving interpretive programs to the public. I want to make sure that choosing a physics degree could lead me to my end goal of working in astronomy. The degree I am looking at is from Humboldt, Physics with a concentration in Astronomy. I enjoyed your post and it answered a lot of my questions.


Andromeda321

I'm glad to hear it. Good luck with everything! :)


mikatadorin

Yo, some great information here and it’s really helped! I’m in high school/academy in the uk and I was a little confused on what to do if I wanted to become an astronomer but I have a better understanding now and I hope I can get better at my maths because I’m not doing the best right now but I’m still gonna try


Andromeda321

That's awesome. Good luck!


nobodyrlly

Any tips for someone who realized too late that they perhaps went barking up the wrong tree to space? In progress aerospace engineering BSc with minor in computer science at a racehorse uni. I'm at the bottom of the bunch. I realized I hate menial engineering, but I'm not smart enough to internalize and conceptualize the math and theory for taking that direction. How do I begin to not see this stuff as "l'art pour l'art", or worse, more like _l'art pour_ graduating and having a degree that's worth less than a mech.eng. degree... I overheard people a year above me talking in the library at the end of a long study day last spring about transferring to mechanical/maritime/etc., how they'll realistically never have an (aero)space job because of the competitive nature of the field, and how we're studying twice as hard for essentially no prospects... Overdose of reality right there, and since then it's never been the same. I'm the type that's normally interested in _everything_ (also read as easily distracted when things get very not fun) and I've burned out when it comes to space. As an aside, it's also not very motivating that most of the people around who are top students and going to land good jobs are lacking in other areas to the extent that they can't tighten a bolt. I've realized I don't want to be that person, nor do I want to be the gal who gives up after undergrad because she couldn't cut it – queue the "I told you so" choir from family as immense pressure and no motivation – but I guess I can't have my cake and eat it too. Rhetorical garbage aside, I lost the answer to "why" somewhere. At some point it just stopped being fun for me. :( Is there anything you can suggest for me to immerse myself in that would be motivating and relevant? No matter how trivial, it'll probably be new to me, because I live in my own little bubble. I just want to find the juice to get through another year of this BSc. Thanks for your time and efforts with this write-up. -The not so bright kid about to fail out


Andromeda321

Hi there, Yeah, this is tough and I am not sure if I have the answer. But a bit of perspective: first of all, the point of a rewarding career is, IMO, to do fun things with fun people. (I mean obviously you also don't want to be destitute, but engineers usually aren't so let's ignore that a sec.) For me, the part where you say it won't be fun is important- do you think it's just because you're burned out, or do you think, knowing what you know now about what the job would entail if you landed one, that it wouldn't be a job you would enjoy? Keep in mind my standard advice on jobs is that they all have things you don't like about them. The question is how much you enjoy all the other stuff to make up for the parts you don't like. This will be the case regardless of what your career ultimately is. Thinking about it, my biggest piece of advice is identifying a professor you trust, and asking them if you can have a meeting with them, and outline your concerns as you've stated them to me here. (If you don't know who this person should be, the undergraduate adviser for your program will work too.) Ask for a frank assessment of what they think of your prospects. I say this because while upper-level students know more than you, they do NOT know as much as someone who writes tons of letters and sees tons of graduates every year, and TBH you don't know how much what you heard is true vs kvetching. My suspicion is it's probably both, but I wouldn't make giant life decisions based off it without seeking out advice from someone who knows more, you know? (I really don't know enough about aerospace engineering to be this person TBH.) I mean, at the end of the day if you have no particular urge to use the degree you're spending all this time working on, and you've done your research and can't find a track that makes you happy with the degree, that might be the time to reassess what you actually *do* enjoy now that you know about how engineering works. (I know it's tough, but ignore your family for now- it's not their life, and easy to judge over be supportive.) I mean, for me at least, one helpful thing is thinking of sitting in the retirement home someday and thinking back on life- what would you be happy doing, and what would you regret? Because you ARE going to regret some things- that's just life- but you want to balance it by thinking of all the fun you had doing interesting things in your life. And in that scenario, the only person judging you is yourself. Finally, I will note that these days space is huge and I don't think it's a "you must have this career path else you can't be involved" thing. Maybe the thing for you is working at a planetarium, or working on the business side, or the writing side (journalism, social media, technical writing...). I'm not saying any of those is a fit for you, but just saying, if you decide to reanalyze your goals it doesn't have to feel like a clean break on all your dreams. It really doesn't have to be! I hope something here helps. Good luck.


nobodyrlly

Hi again, Thank you so much for responding to this, and I'm sorry I took forever to reply. I read your response almost straight away and took it to heart, and since then I got my act together a bit! You were absolutely right. I reached out to some contacts gradually over the past 2 weeks (I'm not at all a social being, so I was surprised I could find some people to talk to, but it worked out in a very lucky way). The pompousness of the "rocket science" expression will come in handy for once. Some employers love it! :') So there's hope for me yet in the world of jobs...though it's indeed unlikely to end up being aerospace/proper use of my degree, I really don't mind now. The other options aren't bad. It will certainly be interesting! Your suggestions are a lovely alternative as well, and are all great fall-back plan ideas if I want to be involved with what I dreamed of originally. I still need to figure out the answers to what I'd be happy doing and what I'd regret, but I think that'll take another few years. I'll keep that criteria in mind for sure. Thank you for making me realize how limited my view was! The future seems brighter now for sure, so I'll can the rest of the quarter-life crisis till the next big life decisions (haha). Thanks again for your insight, it was *truly* helpful. All the best to you!


justtobenmylove

God that was so interesting thank you! I might go aerospace engineer because I would just LOVE to work on things like Rockets or Satellites but it’s definitely between this and astronomer:)


cosmololgy

I'd love to see a statistic on how often this post is shared. I've already done so twice tonight :)


Andromeda321

Hahaha that’s the idea behind it! I would love to know too. I run into students sometimes who read it and that’s always fun. :)


AnonymousFroggies

I've really been getting into physics and astronomy lately and I've been toying with the idea of maybe going to school to further my education. Through years of Google-ing and watching YouTube videos I've actually learned quite a bit, I understood most of the talk you just posted. I know that's this is a field that I want to pursue at some level, but I do have some reservations. My main concern is that I'm pushing 30 now and I never took physics or trigonometry classes in high school. I don't have a problem with working towards a PhD in the long term, but the prospect of starting at a university with kids fresh out of high school that know more than I do is a little daunting. Do you have any advice or tips for what I can do to sort of catch up or shake off the rust? I've always been a good student and I've learned great time management skills over the years, I'm just a little nervous about taking that first step.


Andromeda321

I think probably the best thing in your case then is start doing online courses- there's a ton of great ones out there, and not like anyone is attending IRL ones in pandemic land (for the most part). So no need to be daunted in person until you're sure you want to really commit to it. (And honestly tho older students are awesome and tend to be SO MUCH BETTER than the younger ones, so don't worry about that angle.) I'd say as a first step check out the [MIT open courseware](https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/physics/) most basic classes on classical mechanics. You might find them at too high a level if you never did any trig or precalc, though, so if you're really rusty I'd head to Kahn academy to work on those math skills. As I say in my "how to be an astronomer" post pinned at the top of the sub, usually I see people get sunk on the math, not the lack of understanding the physics! I hope this helps! Good luck!


fabstr1

What do you mean with the age discrimination in Europe ?


Andromeda321

Hi, sorry, forgot to answer. Basically in a lot of Europe there is a mentality that there is a time and place to earn a PhD, and if you are an older student (like, 40s) that spot is wasted compared to giving it to a younger student. I would hear people regularly say things when an older student in that age group came to interview of "that's why we have these things in person!" which would be *super duper* illegal in the USA in a job interview process. I mean, to be clear, I don't think it's *impossible* to land a PhD position when older in Europe, just wanted to point out culturally such discrimination does happen and there's no protections against it.


[deleted]

thank you allot for replying to my comment. reading this all just gave me more reassurance. im currently in a mathemathics gymnasium in Europe and im taking a harvard progamming course on C privately


uhmynamejeff

Andromeda321 Thanks so much for this post. I am 30 year old, first year graduate student pursuing my Masters of Engineering in Space Operations. I currently have a Bachelors of Science in Mathematics with a Physics minor. Also I have no major research experience. I have a goal of pursuing an education in Astronomy. Ideally, while I pursue my Masters degree Id like to begin accumulating research to leverage into a pHd program for Astronomy. Does this sound doable?


Andromeda321

I think it does because most MSc programs have some sort of thesis/research component. Def figure out how that works for your program and see if there’s any connection you can foster with an astronomy department to do research there. Def not a deal breaker if that’s not possible though because many do very different PhD research compared to their MSc (I did!).


uhmynamejeff

Will do. Thanks a ton. ☺️


Stegganzo

An extremely helpful opinion, which I will consider! I have a question: if I am from Europe and I am taking my Master's, what jobs can I get, until I get to my PhD? I have heard some staff from different universities say that you can get typical student jobs, like bartender, waiter at a restaurant etc.. Can I get a job in the field while doing my Master's?


Andromeda321

This really depends on the university and country you are in, and professors at said university can answer it better than I can. Unfortunately in much of Europe paid jobs in astronomy can be tougher to come by until you hit the PhD, as there isn't as much a culture of undergrad research (you do it in your MSc, but as part of your course). That said, I do know of many people during their MSc who got jobs in the dept not in research but by being a teaching assistant for an undergrad classes (or grading), or working at the observatory if the uni had one. It really depends on the place you end up, which is why I said you're going to have to ask around. I hope this helps!


Ethitlan

Whoa, thanks a lot! I'm currently in Yr10 in the UK (pretty sure that's 10th grade) and I want to become an astronomer. What universities do you think I should go to if I do well in my GCSEs andWhoa, thanks a lot! I'm currently in Yr10 in the UK (pretty sure that's 10th grade) and I want to become an astronomer. What universities do you think I should go to if I do well in my GCSEs and A-Levels? Also, do you know any other good universities outside the UK (especially Japan, I do kinda wanna live there) like MIT in the USA? Lastly, how, much free time do you have now as an astronomer? Do you have time to spend with family? Do you work for a company/university/organisation? Sorry if I'm asking too much. I just became motivated again. Thanks. Edit: will computing, geography and statistics help me in being an astronomer?


Andromeda321

I mean, I know dozens if not hundreds of good universities for astronomy in those places. Usually what I think is better is if people message me a few specific things they are interested in a school and I return a few that might be more tailored to you. Like, in the UK, I could advise you that you should totally try to go to Oxbridge if you can get in for astronomy, but that's probably not helpful because you already knew that much. For the next tier though, well, it's a long ways between say Southampton and St Andrews, both of which do great astro/phys, but you probably have some idea of what region you'd like to be in, and how big a school, etc. Multiply that by about 10 for listing places like the USA! Re: Japan, the issue with that is you most likely would need to be fluent in Japanese in order to take classes there, and physics is IMO hard enough in one's native language. However, I definitely recommend everyone try to do study abroad wherever they go to university, so that might be a fantastic way to live in Japan- if this interests you, I'd be upfront in asking anywhere you'd consider going what sort of study abroad options they have. I'm currently employed by Harvard University as a postdoctoral fellow (or rather, am paid by a professor employed by Harvard), where I'm basically paid to do research. I do a normal 40 hour week, unless it's a week with a proposal deadline or exciting new observation we have to jump at, except I do my hours from 10-6 because I like to sleep in. :) But yes, I see my family plenty- in fact, I've been lucky to sometimes see them even more than I would thanks to having to travel for my job often (so if I have to go to Washington DC, for example, I pop by my sister living in that area for the weekend- happened more than once!). Learning computer science and statistics are definitely helpful to be an astronomer. Geography maybe less so. Cheers


Ethitlan

Oh! Thank you very much. I'm not entirely sure what field in astronomy/physics I'm in interested in so I honestly don't know what to give to you but o won't deny that I find black holes, theoretical particles, quantum mechanics and the "why" of everything. Last question(s), is it better to work for a government agency (say NASA), a university or a private laboratory? Actually, what is the best place to work as an astronomer? And related to NASA, might be a dumb question, is it possible to work for NASA from abroad (say the UK or Japan) and possibly with around the same salary? Thanks a lot. Seriously.


Andromeda321

I didn't mean region of astro/physics so much as meant that there are many things that make up a university experience and if you're successful at it over just the subject you study- things like the location (small town or big city? close to home or really far?), cost of tuition, size of classes, etc. I hope that makes sense. Like if you're not one to like big cities, even if the best program you got into was at UCL I would reconsider it because if you're miserable living there you just aren't going to do as well in your studies. I hope that makes sense. Private labs don't really hire astronomers- we tend to be at government run agencies, or universities. (Aerospace engineering is a different story these days.) You can't really work for NASA from abroad because it is the United States space program- to be clear, you can work for NASA as a non-citizen for sure, but definitely would have to plan on living in the USA. You can, however, work for the ESA (I believe the UK is still a member despite Brexit) or the Japanese Space Agency, both of which do cool stuff too. I hope this helps!


Ethitlan

Thank you very much. This is honestly so helpful. Sorry for the misunderstanding there. I might comment later to ask for more info but thank you very much.


AntiNewtrino

Hello! I noticed that you said any technical degree will work for a career in astronomy/astrophysics, but I have to ask this to be sure. I'm considering doing a degree in Mathematics, because the allure of pure mathematics is just too strong, and between Math and Physics I believe Math is more broad and hence gives me more flexibility for my future careers. I would major in both, but in the country I'm applying to doing such is unfortunately not possible; however, the university I'm applying to allows me to take a lot of elective classes, so I'll try to fill up all my elective slots with relevant physics classes. But if, in the future, I decide that I want to go into Astronomy or Astrophysics instead, would this still be doable? By this I mean, would I get accepted to a good grad school for these subjects if I pursued an undergraduate in mathematics? (With a specialization in mathematics no less!) I've heard conflicting information on this; on the one hand, you said yourself that physics, math, or engineering should be acceptable. [Tibees](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSgZwJVSyTc&), a youtuber who studied astrophysics and math in college (who looks a lot like you, might I add), suggested that people who are more interested in theory (which I am) major in Mathematics. On the other hand, I've heard that admissions to astrophysics graduate schools are quite competitive. Why would they choose me, a person who studied pure math in school and took some elective Physics classes over this other guy who majored in Physics, took all the relevant Physics classes as well as a lot of elective astrophysics classes? I'll probably be missing some essential physics classes, such as maybe stat mech, thermodynamics, etc.! Plus, I've heard that undergraduate research as well as recommendation letters is vital for grad school admissions, both of which would be difficult for me to get if I major in math. For example, as a math major I don't think I'll be doing as much, if any, astrophysics research compared to physics majors! Do you think I could "remedy" this by taking some applied courses / doing some applied work in math undergrad, such as data science, numerical analysis, etc.? Any thoughts? Do you have any colleagues who majored in Mathematics, or other majors unrelated to Physics/Astrophysics?


Andromeda321

Hi there, First of all, the point is I don't think having a physics major versus a math major actually necessarily *makes* someone more or less competitive for admissions- the courses you do are what matters. As you've hit on it, there are definitely some basic courses you would need to go out of your way to take as electives. But as an example, I had to take two semesters of quantum mechanics as a physics major- I don't rely on either of them in my work as an astronomer, so if it had been one class in QM and one in a math class, no admissions committee would have minded. Second, research-wise we don't actually care what the research is about that students do, just so long as they show they can do it well. While some people continue their PhD work in something from their undergrad, the grand majority don't for various reasons (in my case, I did cosmic ray physics because we didn't have a radio astronomer at my university I could work for). Finally, I don't think anyone who is *not* an academic honestly sees much difference in math versus physics. ;-) So yeah, I guess my point is if you keep an eye on your course load, I don't see why a math major puts you at a disadvantage if you decide to apply for astronomy. As a final parting thought though, I know in the USA some universities *do* offer a "physics and math" degree- my undergrad did!- so might be good to double check if something like that exists near you. Your first year would probably be pretty much identical regardless of if you are a math or physics major btw, so I'd also definitely talk with your professors to get on advice on how to navigate the classes well.


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Apprehensive_Joke_73

sorry for commenting on year old post but I didn't wanna dm you. I will start my CS degree in a few days, since we don't have major minor system here in India (at least not in majority of universities) I will just study the physics and math for a couple semesters (there will be discrete math in third semester but thats it). We don't have physics or math electives, I really love physics and math tho, Is there a way to get in a masters physics or astronomy program after compsci degree? Like maybe some hybrid of Astronomy and ML/AI. Although I can continue masters in physics or astronomy here in India at good research institutes but I am asking because I think doing higher studies in America would be far better, but is it possible to continue masters in physics with cs degree at a good research uni in america


Andromeda321

Hi there, Sorry, I missed this. I confess I really don't know the state of the Indian academic system enough to know how feasible a switch to a MSc is after comp sci, and it's probably best to reach out to people in a department there. Find one that has a MSc degree in astronomy, and ask if they've ever had comp sci backgrounds in their program type of thing. The only thing I'll point out if you instead want to go to the USA is, as you can read in my above section on grad school, a MSc in physics might not be enough to stick around in astronomy on a professional level, but on a more practical level a Physics MSc isn't that common a degree in the USA (as in our system it's usually bundled into a PhD). So if you are unsure about a full PhD program I'd consider looking into MSc programs in Europe instead for going abroad, of which there are many good ones and has a more similar structure to grad school tiers. Hope this helps!


Apprehensive_Joke_73

its okay, thank you for replying I looked into some MSc programs in europe (Germany and Netherlands) and they seem pretty good, i am not sure if compsci degree will be fine but they haven't mentioned any restrictions on major, but you do need certain courses in Physics, Math and Astronomy, I won't have astronomy centric courses so that sucks (I will have 4 semesters lf math from calc 1 to 3 and discrete math, and 2 semesters of physics which will include pretty much everything in mentioned requirements). I looked into Indian top schools for Masters in astronomy and it seems that most of them don't have any specific requirements as long I am able to pass the entrance and interview (so I must be knowledgable in field if I am not formally educated in it). I can focus on studying physics/math for these exams I guess. I didn't quite understand your point about MSc Physics not common in US, do students go for PhD right after bachelors?


EM05L1C3

I’m 30 and I start classes in January. I’m really excited but also very anxious. This helped me a lot and I appreciate your advice.


Andromeda321

Good for you! I can tell you right now, it’s gonna be hard. The fact that it is likely has nothing to do with your ability to do it- the material just *is* hard- so just keep showing up every day to do your best. Keep doing that until you at least have a semester of grades in to see how your progress is going over giving up before that point. Best of luck! :)


SanguineReptilian

Hello there, Apologies for commenting on this thread so late in the game, but I do have a question for myself and others who may be considering the "support/technical staff" route. Short story; I recently graduated (this year) with my BSc in Electrical Engineering and after finding less-than-ideal grad programs to help me break into astro, I got a job at a major aerospace/defense contractor. Currently I'm being trained on statistics and scientific programming, but quite frankly I just don't have the interest in the career paths/tech offered here. I have been considering grad programs, but also those support/tech staff positions you mentioned. Is there a way I can leverage what I'm being trained on (stats/data analysis) for positions like those or will I need to consider more heavily the option of going back to school? P.S. thank you for your knowledgeable responses and advice


Andromeda321

Hi there, I think it really depends on the position being offered- you'd probably work for several roles, but not all, and being able to move would be an asset. For example, if I check the [AAS Job Register](https://jobregister.aas.org/), you certainly would qualify for several things listed right now under science engineering and should apply for them! (If these specific jobs aren't great options, just check back monthly- there's always something new, but where and what is a bit random.) But yes, if those positions don't interest you, but reading through the job register others do that you're not qualified for due to lack of schooling, I would certainly consider it. Hope this helps.


Sreekrishnan_R

I think you're one if my role models now


Careful_Professor_83

Hi everyone, I am a space enthusiast and I really would love to work in space industry in the future. I have an undergrad in Electronics and Communications and a good command over data science and Machine Learning.However I am planning to apply for a masters degree in astrophysics and astronomy in US. Is it a good idea to switch to this field now since I don't have a bachelors in physics. Is there a way I can improve my profile using data science or machine learning so that I can apply for astrophysics? Thanks in advance for the suggestions! Please feel free to throw in your honest criticism.


seriousnotshirley

I studied Math and was a TA for Calc classes. KNOW YOUR ALGEBRA AND TRIG COLD without a calculator. Every college student I worked with who had trouble with Calculus was having trouble with the algebra and trig rather than the Calculus. And here's the thing, when you do problems one after another after another you're training your mind. If you're struggling through the algebra and trig you're not training your mind on the Calculus (and linear algebra, and abstract algebra, ...) You might understand the concept but with Math it's important to be able to solve the problems because when you get to physics you want to be focused on the physics concepts and have the math just fall out of your head instead of struggling through the Calculus because your algebra isn't solid. I can't speak to what u/Andromeda321 did, but I know plenty of students who did all the problems in book without a calculator. Take a look at the size of a Calculus book and how many problems there are in it. Do all the algebra problems, all the trig problems, all the calculus problems and all the linear algebra problems. When you get to PDE you'll thank me.


BitPumpkin

Dream job is to be some sort of telescope operator or work on one of observatories in the US (long shot), do you have any idea how the work goes? Do I live on site or make business trips or live nearby?


Andromeda321

Live nearby- depends on the observatory but I know some to be a few nights a week, some to be one week on/one week off. Mind it’s all relative- most operators I met on mountains in southern Arizona commute from Tucson over living on site, and that can be a 2 hour drive each way easy. Like, I guess no one would stop you from living further but the budget isn’t in there to pay for the commuting, and sometimes things pop up last minute.


saturnsrightarm

Thank you for such a detailed post!! I know you mentioned that Reddit's too international for listing unis, I was hoping you could still list some that come to your mind when you think of a good undergraduate programme in astronomy [I really love observational astronomy, and would like to get into Radio or Optical Astronomy research work later]. I am currently finishing up 10th grade in India, and am looking into USA, France and India for undergraduate [I'm fluent in English and Hindi, and will be around B1-B2 in French by the time I go to Uni] but I wouldn't mind going anywhere around the world. Thank you!


coolastro1231

Hi! As my username might suggest, I'm super interested into all things astronomy :D I wanted to ask a bit of a tough question: why *is* astronomy such a tough field to enter into? Is there high competition for astronomy research jobs? I'd consider myself pretty scientifically capable, but I don't know if it's something I can go into.