Astrophysics

Astrophysics is the exploration of the scientific origin and physical nature of stars, planets and other matter in space. Learn about related degree programs and job duties, as well as employment outlook and salary info.

Is Astrophysics For Me?

Career Overview

Astrophysics is a branch of astronomy dealing with questions and scientific endeavors regarding the physics of the universe. Professionals in the field of astrophysics, who primarily consist of physicists and astronomers, spend most of their time conducting research in order to develop theories that explain matters such as the origin of the universe or the interactions among celestial phenomena. As an astrophysics professional, you may work with an array of sophisticated equipment, including telescopes, microscopes, lasers and other electronic devices, when conducting experiments. Professionals in this field are typically employed by government agencies, universities, laboratories and museums with planetariums.

Employment and Salary Information

If you're interested in working in astrophysics, you should expect favorable job opportunities over the next several years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for physicists and astronomers will grow by 10% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov), which is average growth compared to all occupations. Individuals with backgrounds in physics should see good job opportunities in medicine and many technological or research and development areas. Favorable opportunities may also be available for aspiring high school physics teachers, which the BLS reports is a highly in-demand occupation in certain regions. According to the BLS, astronomers earned a mean annual wage of $102,550 in May 2012, while physicists earned a yearly average of $114,150 at that same time.

How Can I Work in Astrophysics?

Education

Many schools offer both undergraduate and graduate level programs in astrophysics. Throughout the programs, you can examine the physical properties of the universe, learn observation techniques, design experiments, test existing theories and develop new theories.

Bachelor's degree programs in astrophysics give students a foundational overview of the subject by providing a traditional physics major with advanced astrophysics electives. In a typical undergraduate program in astrophysics, you might take courses covering the physics of stars, life in the universe, general relativity and physical cosmology.

Graduate programs in astrophysics exist at both the master's and doctoral levels. As a graduate student, you'd focus on particular areas of interest that were covered more generally in your undergraduate program; examples may include radiative processes, planetary formation and evolution, astrophysical flow and stellar evolution.

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