How to Become an Astrophysicist

Astrophysicists are experienced professionals who work in a focused branch of astronomy.

Astrophysics is the specialized branch that centers on the physics of the universe.

Astrophysicists can provide their skills in a variety of industries including research to assist with important projects or in academia to educate students in Astrophysics; some individuals may take positions at a university or college and perform both tasks.

Individuals who want to become an Astrophysicist can expect a healthy job outlook, especially in the postsecondary and research fields.

Education Requirements to Become an Astrophysicist

Individuals seeking to become an Astrophysicist can expect to pursue an undergraduate and graduate degree in order to enter this field as many jobs require an advanced PhD degree in Astrophysics.

Many individuals who study Astrophysics continue on to seek researching or postsecondary positions.

Individuals who would like to pursue a career as an Astrophysicist can choose to study Astronomy, Physics or a closely related field as an undergraduate.

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These degrees can provide in depth knowledge on how the world and the universe work and prepare individuals for graduate programs.

Completing either an Astronomy or a Physics major will allow students to take classes in mathematics, the natural sciences, optics, electromagnetism, classical and quantum mechanics, thermodynamics and optics.

Individuals who want to become an Astrophysicist will need to apply to a graduate program in order to start a career in research or as a postsecondary instructor.

During their graduate program, individuals will take similar classes they took as undergraduates, but in more detail.

Some of these classes include: General relativity, physical cosmology and the physics of the stars.

Individuals will gain in depth knowledge on: the physical properties of the universe, gain techniques for observations, plan research experiments, study the universe using their experiment plan and preparing new theories gained from their observations.

Classes that will help develop these skills include:

  • Planetary formation and evolution
  • Astrophysical flow
  • Stellar evolution and
  • Radiative processes

As the curriculum shows, individuals who want to become an Astrophysicist will need the following skills to succeed in this profession:

  • Attention to detail
  • Planning and organization
  • Skills in designing experiments
  • An understanding of the basics on how the universe works

Astrophysicist Job Description

Many Astrophysicists seek careers in the federal government or postsecondary schools.

Using a variety of techniques and technological equipment, Astrophysicists observe the universe to draw conclusions about its behavior and why it performs the way it does by also using the principles taken from physics.

Astrophysicists performing research use a variety of advanced technologies to gather information and data to fulfill their projects.

Some typical technologies may include the following types of equipment:

  • Telescopes
  • Lasers
  • Microscopes
  • Satellites

Astrophysicists in research will also analyze the information gathered during the research and establish conclusions using that information.

These professionals will also document their findings by writing research papers and be responsible for presenting their new findings by attending seminars, conferences and lectures and dictating on the newest findings in the field.

Astrophysicists working in the postsecondary field will be responsible for teaching their students on the basics of astrophysics, astronomy and physics, testing their students on the material and grading term papers and exams assigned to their students.

Some Astrophysicists may also perform both research and instruction for universities.

These professionals may also provide a glimpse of the most recent research since they are involved in this area as well.

Astrophysicist Salary and Career Path

The median annual wage for Astronomers, which is the larger division of Astrophysics, was approximately $96,460 in 2012.

Exact wages will depend on the industry a professional works in as well as the level of experience.

Industries paying the highest wages include the federal government, which pays an annual median wage of $139,140 while the lowest earning Astrophysicists can expect an annual salary of $77,870.

Colleges, universities and other postsecondary schools tend to pay lower wages.

The job outlook for Physicists and Astronomers is expected to increase by 10 percent through 2022.

This projection is considered an average growth when compared to other professions and is caused by the increase in government spending, which is expected to remain flat but still contributes to the demand for instructors and researchers at the postsecondary level.

Individuals who are interested in determining how the world works and developing the latest research on the universe will find a career as an Astrophysicist a natural fit.

Individuals pursuing this field will have opportunities whether they pursue academia or the researching field.

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