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    Question Considering astronomy as a career



    This is my first time joining a forum of any kind, so if I did something wrong, please don't get upset, just tell me what I can do to fix it.

    I've been interested in astronomy for over a year now (well, I've always been interested, but recently more intensely), and I'm considering a career in the field. I haven't made up my mind yet, nothing is set in stone of course, I'm only 17. I'm fixing to go into my senior year of high-school next year and I'm pretty nervous about what's going to happen after that. Is there anyone on this forum that has experience or knows where I can find answers to the questions below?

    I've gone through the last 3 years preparing myself for a career in engineering, It's something that I can seriously see myself doing. Historically speaking, I've usually done poorly in math since grade school, but I did take PreAP Algebra II this year and I am taking Pre-Calculus right now over the summer so I can take AP Calculus my senior year. I guess previously I hadn't really been in the right mindset to learn because I thought it was stupid to learn something that a calculator can do. Now I have a respect for math and it's consistency in modeling the world around us.
    I have a 3.35 GPA. People keep telling me that's low. I took AP Physics 1 and plan on taking AP Physics 2 and AP Physics C, in addition to AP Calculus next year. I was never really worried about my GPA and I never really worried about my grades because I always passed and I always made stellar grades on my tests, but once you get a low GPA your freshman year, it's difficult to raise it up. Should I really be as scared as people tell me I should be? How can I get colleges to see that I am serious about astronomy or engineering (whichever one I eventually pick), with these grades?

    Another question;
    I am originally from Spain. Even though I am a Spanish citizen, I'm not exactly very fluent because I moved to the U.S. when I was 6. The reason we live here instead of there is because my mom married an American, but they have recently divorced. I want to be able to move closer to home because I don't have family here, I don't know anybody here, and I want to be able to take my mom back so she can spend whatever time she has left with her mom. Because of this, if I choose to pursue astronomy, I'd rather study in a European university as it would probably be better for me in terms of making connections and getting tenure. I'd have to speak with my counselor about this, but if any of you know anything about this process, I'd appreciate it. I'm thinking of studying in the UK because even though I'm conversational in Spanish, I'm not ready to learn in that environment. I'm also learning German because it's an important language in Europe, especially in the scientific community, and because who knows, I might want to transfer to a German university at a later time. Do you think it is wise to study in Europe or should I study in the states?

    I'm still not sure whether I'd like to go into Astronomy or Aerospace Engineering. Both are exciting fields no doubt, but I don't know if I'm ready to get into the heartache of getting a PhD. It's not the work that scares me, it's the commitment and the pressure. It's the job market. This is something that if I do, I'd have to commit to wholeheartedly, nothing must hold back. If I choose to become an Aerospace Engineer, I could just get my Bachelors or Masters and get experience. I'd probably not land a job at the ESA from the get-go but at least I know my skills will be needed somewhere - I wouldn't have to teach a high-school class just to survive if I don't get tenure. I'm also worried about how I would fund college; no one really tells you anything about how to take a student loan or the other options available to you.

    So what do you think? What's your advice or take on the situation? Thanks for letting me join your forum, I just bought a book on telescope optics and I'm looking to build a telescope soon, so I'll update you guys on how that goes. I'll draw up some schematics in AutoDesk and you can tell me what you think.

    Thanks!

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    Default Re: Considering astronomy as a career

    Welcome to the forum!

    This is a very difficult question - and is a little unfocused.

    A career in "Astronomy" may involve several different fields of study. To do well in most you will likely have to demonstrate great facility in Math. In general Astronomy is also a highly competitive field and in order to work in it you will likely find that you must have a PhD.

    But I'm curious as to why you want to work in "Astronomy"? It turns out that professional "Astronomy" may not bear much resemblance to what we do as amateur astronomers and you can literally be a professional astronomer without ever having looked through the eyepiece of a telescope.

    Aerospace Engineering? I know little about how competitive that market might be. But again, you are going to have to be pretty good at Math.


    A suggestion if I may?

    Figure out what job you want (at this time) and then try to go and visit with the person who does the hiring for that job. Ask them what you would need to do to get the job. They may tell you what you need to study and where you need to study.

    When you know where you need to study (and what) then go to that school and ask them what you would need to do in order to get into their program.

    This way you know what you need to do.

    So far as the GPA? I suspect they will be more interested in you GPA in the scientific areas. But yes, I'm sure a better GPA would be better in general.

    But again, define the goal(s) and then go to the people who do the hiring or training for that goal.

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    Default Re: Considering astronomy as a career

    You can always go to a local junior or community college for your first 2 years, then transfer to a regular 4 year university. This is a lot cheaper route to a undergraduate degree. It's much easier to be accepted as a transfer student with an associates degree than to be accepted directly from high school. It also give you a chance to get a good GPA while in junior college. Plus you can still live at home and work part time while attending junior college.

    Colleges want to see more than GPA, you need to take the SAT and ACT tests and get good grades on them, you can take them more than once. They also want to see that you are involved in other activities, especially community service.

    Talk to your counselor about scholarships and grants and their requirements, than apply for as many as you can. Go to your local library and look for books on scholarships and grants too. You need to be aware that most public universities have different tuition rates, one for residents and a higher one for non-residents.

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    Default Re: Considering astronomy as a career

    Greetings David,

    I have been teaching Electronics/Avionics and Aerospace Technologies for 20+ years and have served as an Astronomy enthusiast for 15 years. I offer this only by way of introduction. When I was young, I too dreamed of one day becoming an "astronomer".

    At the Technology Center where I teach, my class consists of high school juniors and seniors as well as adults but, your questions and concerns are universal and are not bound to age or gender. I have to agree with the prior comments/suggestions offered and recommend that you do some additional research and attempt to filter the extraneous data and try to obtain more details within the specific feilds available within both of the disciplines that interest you. To say that you want to be an Astronomer or an Engineer is much too vague.

    I will say this, the opportunities now and in the future of aerospace are limitless as the aerospace industry (globally) is now experiencing a great deal of attrition due to retirees' and a deep lack of college students enrolled in aerospace engineering to someday fill those exposed positions.

    The bottom line at this point, (and I hate to sound like a teacher) do your homework/research. Talk to people, visit places that operate in the areas that interest you, make phone calls (but, understand not everyone will have time to take your call), send letters expressing your interests, and on and on..... One step at a time.

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    Default Re: Considering astronomy as a career

    Hello and welcome to the forums, David!

    First, a word about astronomy as a degree path. I'm not a professional astronomer, but I know the job market is limited. Most of the astronomy jobs out there require a PhD and involve teaching at a university, with a research project or two on the side. For the most part, the job consists of poring over tons of data. Some professional astronomers have never looked through a telescope or even have the desire to. But if questions about the life cycle of stars and what it's like inside a black hole excite you and keep you up at night, then it might be right for you.

    I can't really offer any advice about which university is best, or even whether the U.S. universities are better than ones in Europe. Google professional astronomers and aerospace engineers and find out what universities they attended. Then research those places and find out how their astronomy/physics and aerospace engineering schools are rated. Then look at entrance requirements for those schools. Some places will have no problem with your current GPA, but others may not accept it.

    Work as hard as you can this coming school year and raise your grade as much as possible, and this will open you up to scholarships and other means of financial aid to help you attend the university of your choice.

    If you still aren't decided on your major when you enroll, start out by taking common "core" courses that both degree paths require. Then when you do decide on your major, you haven't wasted any credit hours or money.

    Good luck!

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    Default Re: Considering astronomy as a career

    Welcome to the forum. When I was your age, I had similar aspirations toward astronomy as a career, and as little view of the reality of the situation. I did pursue a degree in astrophysics at the time and have used it not at all since. I have had careers as an accountant, an application programmer, a mainframe systems programmer, and most recently as a network engineer.

    I would suggest that while you are deciding which path you want to take, concentrate on the Math side of things. It will be useful whether you move toward astronomy or engineering, and is the basis for a lot of careers in the sciences. My counselor at college pushed me that way while I was trying to make up my mind, and it has worked out well for me.

    BTW, astrophysics lost a lot of its glamor for me when I discovered that it would tie me to teaching at a university for a long time, and that actual work in the field would be a side activity to that. I had no real interest in teaching at the college level and did not pursue the field beyond the BS level.

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    Default Re: Considering astronomy as a career

    Yes, I've given it some thought and I don't really think it would be the career for me. I want to be able to enjoy astronomy, so I think I'd rather just do it for myself. It just wouldn't do much for me, it doesn't have the advantages that a career in engineering has. Besides, I can contribute to the field of astronomy and (astro/aero)nautics as an engineer, probably more so than I could if I was an astronomer. I'm a more hands on kind of guy and even though engineers spend a lot of time in front of a computer, it would be satisfying to actually be able to see the results afterwards. It just doesn't seem like a very flexible career, and I don't want to be in my 30's by the time I get to actually join the workforce. It's a career that requires total dedication and concentration, not to mention it's more of a scholastic career path - As Bob said I don't really want to be stuck in a classroom teaching students. As important as that is, I want to be on the frontier dealing with more exciting things. I don't really know how life is going to unfold for me so I think engineering is probably going to be the best choice. It's something that I'm good at and I enjoy, with the added bonus of a great job market and flexibility (not to mention pay).

    Thanks,
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    Default Re: Considering astronomy as a career

    I would shoot for Aerospace. I work in the Aerospace field and we hire entry level engineers for prob in the 40k-50k range (my company is pretty cheap). Nice bit of change starting off. Get 2-5 years under your belt and you can job to another company and easily be in the 70k-80k range. Even if you wanted to mix in Astronomy you could try and work for a place to builds rockets and what not.

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    Default Re: Considering astronomy as a career

    Excellent advice from everyone.

    For a university in Europe go to Germany. They accept non-German students and there is no tuition; basically all you need is to provide your living expenses and learn the German language and, of course, meet their admission requirements.
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    Default Re: Considering astronomy as a career

    Excellent advice from everyone.

    For a university in Europe go to Germany. They accept non-German students and there is no tuition; basically all you need is to provide your living expenses and learn the German language and, of course, meet their admission requirements.
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