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Astronomy and Astrophysics

Degree: BS

Campus: Columbus

College: Arts and Sciences

Astronomy and astrophysics is the study of planets, stars, galaxies and the universe as a whole, including how these originate and how they evolve in time. The principal pursuits of the astronomer are to extend our understanding of the physical nature of the universe and to convey this understanding to students and the general public.

Students who major in astronomy and astrophysics should be ready to start their calculus and physics courses as soon as they begin college. This means that their high school mathematics should go up to and include analytical geometry and trigonometry, and their high school science courses should include physics and chemistry. Experience with computers is also very helpful.

Upon admission to the university, students can declare a major in astronomy and astrophysics within the College of Arts and Sciences.

Modern astronomy is essentially physics applied to the study of celestial objects. Therefore, the astronomy and astrophysics major curriculum looks very much like the physics major curriculum, although certain advanced physics courses and laboratories are not included for an astronomy and astrophysics degree. In addition, students who major in astronomy and astrophysics are required to take an introductory sequence in astrophysics plus an advanced course and an observational techniques and data analysis course. 

The Department of Astronomy encourages all of its majors to pursue research with one of its faculty members in one of many active research programs. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about and become involved in the cutting edge of astronomy discoveries. Areas of research include extrasolar planets, quasars, cosmology, dark matter, stellar structure, instrumentation and galaxy evolution.

Graduates may find opportunities to teach at the high school level. They may also find employment at observatories, planetariums, science museums and in industry where they may assist in computational and observational research programs or participate in public education programs.

A BS in astronomy and astrophysics is also excellent preparation for graduate study in astronomy and in some other physical sciences. Most professional astronomers have faculty positions at universities and colleges or are affiliated with universities and colleges through observatories and laboratories. For these astronomers, teaching and research are the major areas of activity. A PhD is generally required for faculty positions. Some professional astronomers are employed by the federal government directly (e.g., NASA) or by federally supported national observatories and laboratories (e.g., the National Optical Astronomy Observatories and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory). Others find employment in the aerospace industry or with companies involved in computation or image processing. A PhD in astronomy or physics is also generally required for these positions. 

Beginning salaries for faculty positions at colleges and universities range from $50,000 to $80,000, depending upon the candidate’s skills, previous experience (generally gained in postdoctoral research positions), and the size, quality and competitiveness of the school.

  • Provide students with the opportunity to master the fundamental physics at the heart of modern astrophysics: classical mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics and thermodynamics
  • Help students to develop problem-solving skills and the ability to analyze physical systems within the framework of theoretical physics
  • Provide students with an overview of research topics in contemporary astronomy
  • Provide students with a basic mastery of data analysis and statistics
  • Teach students to communicate effectively both orally and in writing
  • Provide students with the opportunity to develop a basic knowledge of and facility with computing