Planetary Science, B.S.

Planetary Science, B.S.

What is a Planetary Science Degree?

Planetary Science BSOne of Florida Tech's most prestigious space science degree programs, the planetary science degree option is designed to meet the needs of students intending to pursue graduate studies in space physics, geophysical sciences and planetary sciences.

The program also provides professional preparation to students who intend to pursue a career in aerospace and related industries. Established alongside the U.S. space program, Florida Tech has one of the oldest and most well-known collection of space science degree programs in the country, including the planetary science degree.

Gain Practical Experience

Whether you want to study the effects of solar activity, examine the properties of planetary bodies in our solar system or unlock the mysteries of planets around other stars, a planetary science degree from Florida Tech gives you a strong background in physics and hands-on experience with space science technologies.

Home to all physics and space sciences programs, the Olin Physical Sciences Center includes two large multi-use lecture/demonstration classrooms and the Olin Observatory, which houses our 0.8-m Ortega Telescope. Faculty are involved in NASA's Kepler exoplanet mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Cassini mission to Saturn and Titan, and study solar system objects from Mercury to the Kuiper Belt and beyond.

Through study, independent research and internship opportunities, students gain practical experience, an enhanced job search portfolio and the perfect preparation for graduate school or employment.

Build Professional Relationships

Beyond the classroom, planetary science degree majors 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 campus-wide student organizations.

Get Recruited Upon Graduation

Employers seek out graduates with a planetary science degree from Florida Tech. Employers who recruit our students for internships and careers include NASA, United Space Alliance, Harris Corporation, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, DRS Optronics, Malin Space Science Systems, nearby Kennedy Space Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute.

Earn an Advanced Degree

After receiving their degrees from the Department of Physics & Space Sciences, many students go to post graduate studies at Florida Tech and other prestigious universities including:

  • Johns Hopkins

  • Dartmouth

  • MIT

  • Caltech

  • Notre Dame

Imagine yourself at Florida Tech with the opportunity that a planetary science degree gives you.

Why Pursue a Planetary Science Degree at Florida Tech?

Florida Tech students benefit from a close-knit academic community and small student-to-faculty ratio, something not usually found at the average planetary science college.

This is unique when you consider that we are one of the largest earth and space science programs in the U.S., in terms of the number of undergraduate degrees awarded annually. This is high praise from the American Institute of Physics for Florida Tech and an important reason to consider enrolling in our planetary science program. In fact, Florida Tech is one of only a few universities in the world to offer a bachelor's degree in planetary science. The unique program and fresh new curriculum make Florida Tech an exciting option for students interested in studying planetary science at college.

Faculty

Another reason why Florida Tech is a great college is its faculty. Florida Tech faculty members are top research scientists who truly care about student success. Our professors give the highest priorities to both teaching and research, which involve real-world applications. There are many opportunities for research, which gives students a chance to develop a strong working relationship with their professors in a hands-on learning environment.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Professors actively encourage students to join one of the various research groups in the department as early as their first year. Students who work closely with professors doing research work with data from spacecraft such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the Cassini mission, or the Kepler Space Telescope. In the planetary science program, professors at Florida Tech work on space weather, solar physics, planetary geology, exoplanets, astrobiology and the science of human space flight.

High-Tech Laboratory Facilities

As a planetary science college, students here conduct their research alongside faculty working with active NASA missions, such as the Cassini mission to Saturna and the Kepler exoplanet mission. Other resources available include the Ortega 0.8-meter telescope, the most research active telescope in Florida, which is located on campus, and our global network of 1-m class telescopes.

Great Florida Location

In terms of location, the average college cannot compete with Florida Tech. Students take advantage of the Panther Aquatic Center on campus or enjoy nearby Atlantic Ocean beaches and the Indian River Lagoon, the most diverse estuary in North America. The subtropical climate of the Space Coast also offers great year-round weather. Florida Tech's central Florida location puts us close to attractions such as Kennedy Space Center, Sebastian Inlet, Orlando theme parks and local events.

All these factors combine to make Florida Tech an appealing planetary science college.

How Will a Planetary Science Degree Prepare Me for the Future?

Internships are an exciting and hands-on way for Florida Tech students to gain experience in the workplace while still completing their degree. These valuable learning opportunities build skills and add valuable references to your resume that equips you for future planetary science internships and employment. Students looking for planetary science internships find opportunities at many local and international organizations. Some of these companies and organizations are:

  • NASA

  • Harris Corp.

  • Lockheed-Martin

  • DRS Optronics

  • Space Telescope Science Institute

These planetary science internships provide experience that leaves students confident knowing they have the skills and knowledge to succeed in the career world.

Research Opportunities

In addition to planetary science internships, all Florida Tech students are encouraged to participate in research projects. This may entail hands-on observations with our telescopes or working with data from spacecraft such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the Cassini mission, or the Kepler Space Telescope.

Students may choose from a wide range of research topics in space sciences, with subjects ranging from space weather, to solar physics, to planetary geology, to exoplanets and astrobiology. This research, alongside experience gathered from planetary science internships, allows our students to stand out among potential employers.

Join Clubs and Organizations to Enhance Your Earth Sciences Degree

Students for the Exploration and Development of Space is a student-run organization that allows members to meet regularly to discuss space news and activism. They also take part in networking to allow them to make the connections to secure planetary science internships and careers after college.

The Student Astronomical Society is another organization that focuses on space; these students peer through high-tech telescopes from around the world and beyond. Utilizing telescopes from Florida Tech and across the globe, they are able to observe fascinating cosmic events and phenomena.

Students can also join the Sigma Pi Sigma national honor society and the Society of Physics. Campus life provides a wide range of activities for students from intramural and intercollegiate sports, to area events and activities.

What Can You Do with a Planetary Science Degree?

According to the American Institute of Physics, Florida Tech's space science program is one of the largest in the U.S., in terms of B.S. degrees awarded annually. In fact, Florida Tech is one of only a few universities in the world to offer a bachelor's degree in planetary science. The unique program and fresh new curriculum make Florida Tech an exciting option for students interested in planetary science jobs. This may be due to the fact that it was established alongside the U.S. space program located just minutes from Kennedy Space Center and surrounded by planetary science jobs.

All physics and space sciences students are well prepared for entry-level planetary science jobs in high-tech corporations that have research and development divisions, particularly those with ties to the aerospace industry. Graduates are and have been employed at companies such as Harris, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, DRS Optronics, Malin Space Science Systems, Kennedy Space Center, NASA Goddard and the Space Telescope Science Institute.

Career Outlook

Whether you want to study the effects of solar activity, examine the properties of planetary bodies in our solar system or unlock the mysteries of planets around other stars, a space science degree from Florida Tech sets you up for an array of planetary science jobs.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), provides information about specific jobs including median annual pay, working conditions and job outlook, among other things.

The outlook for planetary science careers can be studied by referencing both Earth science and space science industries. According to the bureau, jobs in space and atmospheric science are expected to increase by 11 percent through 2020, as fast as the average for all occupations. This growth is expected in both the government at national laboratories and the private sector as weather forecasting and space travel continue to become more sophisticated.

Planetary science jobs can be found at the government level and in education, with many jobs now held at universities. This sector is also expected to grow due to increasing attendance at postsecondary institutions. Check the handbook to learn more about any of the space science careers or similar occupations listed below.

Career Options

Planetary science jobs are varied and include such challenging professions as:

  • Planetary Scientist
  • Astronomer
  • Astronaut
  • Oceanographer
  • Volcanologist
  • Seismologist
  • Environmental Geologist
  • Petroleum Scientist

Entry-Level Salary Expectations

PayScale.com is an online salary information company providing real-time information on job market compensation. Data for planetary science jobs are not specifically listed. 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.

If you wish to work in education, you will find a range of salaries depending on the part of the country you live in and the level at which you teach, ranging from $37,200 - $55,000.

Other occupations could pay:

Aerospace Engineering: $62,500 – $118,000
Physics: $51,200 – $99,100
Environmental Geology: $45,000 – $89,400
Geology: $50,000 – $89,400
Petroleum Engineering/Scientist: $98,000 – $163,000

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

Potential Employers for Florida Tech Graduates

Employers who recruit Florida Tech students for internships and planetary science jobs include:

  • NASA
  • United Space Alliance
  • Harris Corporation
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Boeing
  • DRS Optronics
  • Kennedy Space Center
  • The Space Telescope Science Institute
  • Malin Space Science Systems

Graduate & Doctoral Programs

Many planetary science majors go to master's and doctoral programs at Florida Tech and other prestigious universities to prepare them for planetary science jobs. They include:

  • Johns Hopkins
  • Dartmouth
  • MIT
  • Caltech
  • Auburn University
  • Georgia Tech
  • Ohio State University
  • Rice University
  • SUNY Stony Brook
  • UCLA
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Florida
  • University of Texas
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Yale
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