Major Overview

Students fascinated with space and good with math may excel when majoring in Astronomy and Astrophysics. A degree in this field of study will allow you to learn everything about outer space from galaxies and stars to black holes and planets. You will take classes in calculus, computer science, astrophysics, cosmology, physics, planetary geology, astronomy, and more to gain an understanding of the area beyond our planet.

Possible concentrations within this major include, Astronomy, Astrophysics or Planetary Astronomy and Science.

Required Skills

Students interested in pursuing and Astronomy or Astrophysics degree should have a strong background in mathematics. Professionals are often required to complete and explain complex calculations. Critical thinking and analytical skills will allow students to understand these calculations and apply them to the project they are working on. Since professionals often work with others, strong communication and teamwork skills are necessary.

Professionals in the Astronomy and Astrophysics field work full time in offices or observatories. Students should be prepared to work long hours, especially at night, in order to observe stars and other celestial bodies.

Although a master's degree will allow graduates to work in this field, most employers require a Ph.D. These programs typically take 5-7 years to complete and allow students to work in a variety of locations completing fieldwork or research. Internships or summer programs will allow students to gain experience in this field as they work towards an advanced degree.


Graduates with advanced degrees in Astronomy and Astrophysics often go into research and development. While graduates may pursue careers at private companies, the top government employers for astronomers and astrophysicists are NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense. This field is growing at an average pace. Jobs are available, but there is a lot of competition for top paying positions. Graduates with advanced degrees may have to hold multiple postdoctoral internships before pursuing a fulltime position.

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Example Careers

Here is a small sample of the careers that a degree in Astronomy & Astrophysics might open up.

Atmospheric, Earth, Marine, and Space Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary
Natural Sciences Managers
Physics Teachers, Postsecondary
Salary data is estimated by College Factual using 2013 data provided by PayScale.
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