What is the Best Degree To Become an Astronomer?

The best degree to become an astronomer is astronomy. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) states that almost all astronomy jobs require a doctoral degree, which will take five to six years to complete. This academic path expands independent career opportunities. Most graduate schools may require program candidates to have an undergraduate physics minor and an excellent Graduate Record Exam (GRE) score.

Academic Overview

Astronomy students will start out their academic experience by completing a bachelor’s of science in astronomy. They may then complete a graduate degree in a specialized field and continue to a doctoral program if desired. What makes degree candidates for graduate school standout is their research expertise and experience. During their undergraduate degree program, students should talk to professors about conducting research projects.

Even if it’s not required, it will give them experience with data analysis, instrument building and software programming. There is a limited amount of summer student programs available at major universities and at national astronomy observatories. Graduate school will involve more research and conclude with a well-written doctoral thesis. This is an excellent time to gain work experience as a graduate teaching assistant.

Bachelor of Art vs. Science

Most astronomy degree programs produce astronomers and astrophysicists who know how to apply the principles of physics and mathematics to study stars, planets, pulsars, galaxies, quasars, black holes and the universe. These programs cater to students who have inquisitive minds, scientific aptitude and well-disciplined dedication. A Bachelor of Science in astrophysics is for students who want to become professional astronomers.

They will find work at NASA, universities, research facilities and national labs. This degree focuses on physics and computer science. Bachelor of Arts in Astronomy programs is designed for students who want a broad background in math, physics and astronomy, but do not plan to go on to graduate school. These graduates will be prepared for careers in science writing, museum work, high school teaching and even planetarium management.

Degree Curriculum

Astronomy majors will take classes in basic astrophysics, which will explore the physics of stellar and non-stellar laws, interiors and atmospheres. Classes in general stellar astronomy will survey the properties of stars, radiation, starlight as well as the practices of telescopes, photometry and spectroscopy. When students learn about galaxies and the universe, they will understand galaxy mergers, interactions, expansions and evolutions.

The most basic class in astronomy will be geared for science and engineering students. Astronomy topics will cover stars, galaxies and cosmology. Math topics will cover physics and trigonometry. Learning about the history and philosophy of astronomy will explore past astronomical concepts through social, literary and scientific analysis. Advanced classes in positional and dynamical astronomy may teach students about the kinematics of star clusters. All programs will include a class in hands-on astronomical instrumentation and computer-controlled optical instrumentation.

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The best degree to become an astronomer may possibly be an astronomy specialization. These include statistical, quantum and computational physics. They also include physics education at both the high school and college levels.