Astronomy and Astrophysics, B.S.

Astronomy and Astrophysics, B.S.

What is an astronomy and astrophysics degree?

Astronomy and Astrophysics BSSpace sciences at Florida Tech have set the standard since 1958, successfully preparing students for high-tech careers at top space agencies and research firms. The astronomy and astrophysics degree option, focused on the study of celestial bodies beyond the Earth's solar system, is designed to meet the needs of students intending to pursue graduate education and a career in the astronomical sciences.

Whether you want to study the mysteries of black holes, examine the physical behavior of stars or determine the origins of the universe, the astronomy and astrophysics degree from Florida Tech gives you a strong background in physics and hands-on experience with high-tech observational instrumentation.

Gain Practical Experience

Astronomy and astrophysics at Florida Tech isn't just something you study–it's something you go into the lab or onto the roof (where the telescopes are) and do! Florida Tech students gain scientific skills through hands-on experience in small classes with intensive faculty-student interaction.

The Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Group at Florida Tech is concerned primarily with observational and theoretical studies of white dwarf stars, M dwarf stars and cataclysmic variable systems. During your study at Florida Tech you have an opportunity to undertake exciting independent or collaborative (with a peer or professor) research in a topic of your choosing, gaining practical experience for an enhanced job search portfolio and the perfect preparation for graduate and professional school and employment.

Build Professional Relationships

Beyond the classroom, students working for an astronomy and astrophysics degree build leadership and professional experience through exciting internships and participation in academic organizations like Sigma Pi Sigma (national physics honor society), Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, the Student Astronomical Society, student government and over 100 other student organizations.

Get Recruited Upon Graduation

Employers seek out graduates with an astronomy and astrophysics degree from Florida Tech. Companies that recruit our students for internships and careers include the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Harris Corporation, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, DRS Optronics, Kennedy Space Center, NASA and the Space Telescopic Science Institute.

Earn An Advanced Degree

After receiving their astronomy and astrophysics degree, many of our students go on to master's and doctoral programs at Florida Tech and other prestigious universities, including Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth, MIT and Yale.

Why pursue an astronomy and astrophysics degree at Florida Tech?

When considering astronomy schools, consider that the astronomy and astrophysics program at Florida Tech is the first ever in the world. Students choose Florida Tech over other astronomy schools because we have one of the largest astronomy programs in the United States in terms of bachelor's degrees awarded annually. Florida Tech is one of just two Florida universities listed by Peterson's Top Colleges for Science, with our department playing a prominent role in that distinction.

One benefit we have over other astronomy schools is that we are the lead institution for the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy (SARA), which operates automated one-meter-class telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Ariz., and at Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory in Chile. Both are accessed and controlled remotely over the Internet. SARA also sponsors an NSF-funded summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program that provides 10–12 students from around the United States an opportunity to work with scientists at SARA institutions.

Small Class Sizes & Intensive Faculty Interaction

An excellent group of instructors is another reason why Florida Tech is among the top astronomy schools Our internationally recognized faculty members work in various fields that include extra solar planets, stellar astrophysics and active galactic nuclei. Small class sizes with a student-to-faculty ratio of 12:1 give you an opportunity to receive one-on-one attention from professors. Physics and space sciences faculty include a TED Global Fellow, the founding chairman of the Southeast Association for Research in Astronomy, and an NSF CAREER Award-winner.

The monthly Astronomy & Astrophysics Public Lecture Series gives our professors an opportunity to impart their knowledge to students and the community on topics of general interest. Professors highly encourage students to participate in research projects to gain hands-on observations with our telescopes or work with data from space-based observatories such as the Hubble Space telescope. These experiences are among the many reasons Florida Tech rises above other astronomy schools.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

This small learning environment is accented by large-university quality internship and research opportunities. Astronomy schools are dedicated to research and Florida Tech professors specialize in everything from human space exploration to stellar evolution and are devoted to providing students with exposure to countless professional-level research opportunities. Often, students get to analyze data from space-based observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the Kepler Observatory.

High-Tech Laboratory Facilities

Facilities and resources are important to all astronomy schools and Florida Tech boasts some of the best. Not only do our students have access to the Olin 0.8-m telescope, the largest research telescope in the state of Florida on campus, they also have access to telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. There are also two astronomy labs where undergraduates work. Classes are held in the F.W. Olin Physical Sciences Building that provides 14 teaching and 21 research laboratories, a 3,500 sq. ft. "high bay" physics research hall is used for magnetic levitation launch systems and high energy physics research, as well as planetary science work.

Great Florida Location

In terms of location, other astronomy schools have a hard time competing with Florida Tech. The campus is located on Florida's Space Coast, an area with year-round subtropical weather and 72 miles of Atlantic Coast beaches. The campus is also located within Florida's High Tech Corridor, which puts it in close proximity to over 5,000 technological companies and NASA Kennedy Space Center. In addition, students can find a host of entertainment options including Brevard Zoo, Sebastian Inlet, area festivals and events and Orlando theme parks.

When considering astronomy schools, consider the many benefits Florida Tech can offers.

How will an astronomy and astrophysics degree prepare me for the future?

Because of Florida Tech's location at the heart of the Space Coast, there are a plethora of opportunities for our students to obtain both astronomy internships and astrophysics internships during their studies.

Some of the organizations that provide astronomy internships and astrophysics internships include:

  • NASA

  • DRS Optronics

  • Lockheed-Martin

  • Harris

  • Northrop Grumman

Students participating in astrophysics and astronomy internships have monitored the Deep Impact Mission's collision at Kitt Peak National Observatory, worked with the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory and helped to develop and test new night-vision optics used by the U.S. Army.

Research

In addition to astrophysics or astronomy internships, astronomy and astrophysics students are encouraged to utilize Florida Tech's F.W. Olin Observatory, which houses the Ortega Telescope (the largest research-grade telescope on Florida) to take part in research projects. These projects may entail hands-on observations with our telescopes, or working with data from space-based observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, or the Kepler Observatory.

Florida Tech is the lead institution for the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy (SARA), which operates automated one-meter-class telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Ariz., and at Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory in Chile. Both are accessed and controlled remotely over the Internet.

SARA also sponsors an NSF-funded summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program that provides 10–12 students from around the U.S. the opportunity to work with scientists at SARA institutions.

Department faculty operates the world's largest X-ray array for measuring lightning. Faculty also co-operate (with UCLA) a chain of 10 geomagnetic field observatories from Central Florida to Maine, and maintain a NASA-qualified clean room.

Valuable astrophysics and astronomy internships and research gives students real-world experience and learning opportunities.

Join Clubs and Organizations to Enhance Your Space Sciences Degree

The Florida Tech chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space is an active organization that meets to discuss space news and activism, as well as taking part in events with other space organization around the southeast.

The Society of Physics Students is a professional organization that focuses on education and enrichment and holds a variety of regular activities for students across campus. Students can also join Sigma Pi Sigma honor society and the student Astronomical Society. These clubs and organizations are the perfect way to network for astrophysics and astronomy internships, research opportunities and potential jobs.

What can you do with an astronomy and astrophysics degree?

Florida Tech offers a Bachelor's of Science in Astrophysics and Astronomy that prepares graduates for high-tech astronomy careers at top space agencies and research firms, involved with such technical work as space exploration and stellar evolution.

Astronomy and astrophysics is the study of the universe as a whole, ranging from the vastness of space to the smallest of subatomic particles. Astronomy careers include developing new technologies, methods and theories based on the results of research that deepen our understanding of how things work and contribute to innovative, real-world applications.

Career Outlook

What astronomy careers are available? The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes a resource called the Occupational Outlook Handbook that provides detailed information about hundreds of jobs, including data about median pay, projected growth in employment and prerequisites.

According to the Bureau, physics and astronomy careers are expected to increase by 14 percent through 2020, as fast as the average for all occupations. This growth is expected to come in the federal government in national laboratories as study continues to energy and science research, as well as in university-based research and teaching. Check the handbook for a list of many different career options.

Career Options

Astrophysics and astronomy careers include:

  • Physicist & Bio Physicist

  • Astronomy

  • Aerospace Engineering

  • Nuclear Engineer

  • Medical Research

  • Energy Research

  • Postsecondary Education

Other employment opportunities include:

  • Materials Science

  • Geology & Geoscience

  • Biomedical Research

  • Environmental Research

Entry Level Salary Expectations

PayScale.com is an online salary information company providing real-time information on job market compensation. Data for astronomy careers are not specifically listed, however associated science careers are listed and can provide some insight on what you might expect for your income upon graduation, as well as the earning potential you might achieve over your career.

Aerospace Engineering: $62,500 - $118,000
Physics: $51,200 - $99,100
Geology: $45,000 – $89,400
Molecular Biology: $40,100 - $84,900
Microbiology: $39,700 - $76,200
Nuclear Engineering: $66,800 - $107,000

Check PayScale.com for the most recent information on this and other careers.

Potential Employers for Florida Tech Graduates

The range of potential employers that could provide astronomy careers includes many organizations that have offered internships and jobs to Florida Tech graduates such as:

  • Harris

  • Lockheed-Martin

  • Boeing

  • DRS Optronics

  • Kennedy Space Center

  • NASA

  • Goddard

  • The Space Telescopic Science Institute

  • Northrup Grumman

  • U.S. Army

  • Brookhaven National Laboratory

  • Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

  • Museum of Natural History in New York City

  • Kitt Peak National Observatory

Graduate & Doctoral Programs

Astronomy careers are available immediately upon graduation. However, more than half of astrophysics and astronomy degree students pursue graduate school after graduating from Florida Tech as this is necessary for jobs in research. Beyond the master's and doctoral programs at Florida Tech, our students are accepted to graduate degree programs at schools including:

  • Auburn University

  • Caltech

  • Dartmouth University

  • Johns Hopkins

  • Georgia Tech

  • Ohio State University

  • Rice University

  • State University of New York (SUNY) Buffalo

  • SUNY Stony Brook

  • UCLA

  • University of Arizona

  • University of Florida

  • University of Texas

  • Vanderbilt University

  • Yale

Astrophysics and astronomy degree students choosing not to attend graduate school typically enter any one of the astronomy careers in one of the high-tech corporations that have research and development divisions including:

  • Harris

  • Lockheed-Martin

  • Boeing

  • DRS Optronics

  • Kennedy Space Center

  • NASA

  • Goddard

  • Space Telescopic Science Institute

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