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2021 Astronomy & Astrophysics Degree Guide

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.

A Recent Jump in Astronomy & Astrophysics Degrees

#222 Most Popular Major
1.2k Degrees Awarded
9.1% Increase in Graduates

In 2018-2019, astronomy and astrophysics was the 222nd most popular major nationwide with 1,168 degrees awarded. This is a difference of 106 over the prior year, a growth of 9.1%.

Approximately 101 colleges in the U.S. offer a astronomy and astrophysics degree of some kind. Explore this or one of our many other custom astronomy rankings further below.

What Are The Requirements For a Degree in Astronomy & Astrophysics

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.

Astronomy Degree Program Entry Requirements

astronomy and astrophysics degree applicants generally need have finished high school or their GED. Many schools may also have GPA and SAT/ACT score minimums that must be met. In addition to these basic astronomy and astrophysics program qualifications, to serve in some astronomy careers, special certification may be required outside of your degree.

Types of Astronomy & Astrophysics Degrees

There are various different levels of astronomy degrees. You can get anything from a associate's degree in astronomy and astrophysics to the highest astronomy degree, a research/scholarship based doctorate. The type of astronomy degree you choose will determine how long it takes to get your diploma.

Degree Credit Requirements Typical Program Length
Associate Degree 60-70 credits 2 years
Bachelor’s Degree 120 credits 4 years
Master’s Degree 50-70 credits 1-3 years
Doctorate Program required coursework including thesis or dissertation At least 4 years

A doctor's degree (research / scholarship) is the most common level of education achieved by those in careers related to astronomy, with approximately 32.4% of workers getting one. See the the most common levels of education for astronomy workers below.

Level of Education Percentage of Workers
Doctoral Degree 35.1%
Post-Doctoral Training 26.8%
Master’s Degree 25.2%
Bachelor’s Degree 9.1%
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate 2.6%

59.1% of astronomy workers have at least a research/scholarship based doctorate. See the chart below for the most common degree level workers in astronomy and astrophysics have received.


The education level required is different depending on the astronomy career you are seeking.

Astronomy Careers

Average Number of Jobs
$27.7k Average Starting Salary
11% Growth Job Outlook 2016-26

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.

Solid Growth Projected for Astronomy Careers

Want a job when you graduate with your astronomy degree? Astronomy & Astrophysics careers are expected to grow 10.7% between 2016 and 2026.

The following options are some of the most in-demand careers related to astronomy and astrophysics.

Occupation Name Projected Jobs Expected Growth
Natural Sciences Managers 62,300 9.9%
Physicists 20,500 14.5%
Physics Postsecondary Professors 19,400 10.2%
Atmospheric, Earth, Marine, and Space Sciences Professors 14,400 9.9%
Astronomers 2,200 10.0%

How Much Money Do Astronomy Grads Make?

Recently graduated astronomy and astrophysics students earned an average of $27,700 in 2017-2018. Earnings can range from as low as $27,700 to as high as $27,700. As you might expect, salaries for astronomy graduates vary depending on the level of education that was acquired.


High Paying Careers for Astronomy Majors

Salaries for astronomy and astrophysics graduates can vary widely by the occupation you choose as well. The following table shows the top 5 highest paying careers astronomy grads often go into.

Occupation Name Median Average Salary
Natural Sciences Managers $139,680
Physicists $125,280
Astronomers $111,090
Physics Postsecondary Professors $103,830
Atmospheric, Earth, Marine, and Space Sciences Professors $101,890

Getting Your Astronomy & Astrophysics Degree

With over 307 different astronomy degree programs to choose from, finding the best fit for you can be a challenge. Fortunately you have come to the right place. We have analyzed all of these schools to come up with hundreds of unbiased astronomy school rankings to help you with this.

One of 7 majors within the Physical Sciences area of study, Astronomy & Astrophysics has other similar majors worth exploring.

Majors Similar to Astronomy

Related Major Annual Graduates
Chemistry 22,156
Physics 13,927
Geological & Earth Sciences 9,522
General Physical Sciences 4,527
Atmospheric Sciences & Meteorology 1,072

View All Astronomy Related Majors >


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