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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato


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According to a recent survey of the American Institute of Physics, the number of bachelor degree recipients in physics who go on to work on a graduate degree is approximately the same as the number who enter the work force immediately. The largest employer of all physicists, both those with a bachelor's degree and those with a Ph.D., is industry. The second largest employers of Ph.D. recipients are colleges and universities, whereas for bachelor's degree recipients government laboratories are the second largest employer.

Many physicists are engaged in some form of basic or applied research. Their work may involve planning and conducting experiments and analyzing and interpreting the data. Physicists in industry are usually engaged in development and design of state-of-the-art products and processes. Physicists in colleges and universities are involved in research and teaching. High school physics teaching offers much satisfaction to those interested in secondary education.

Because of the requirements of our technology-oriented society, career opportunities for physicists are good and will remain good into the foreseeable future. Average starting salaries depend on the level of education and are very good at each level.

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What Astronomers Do

Astronomy involves the study of the universe beyond the earth, covering topics ranging from familiar celestial objects, such as the moon, sun and stars, to a variety of extraordinary objects including pulsars, quasars and black holes. The mysteries of the universe are gradually being unraveled by the few thousand professional astronomers in the world today.

The majority of these astronomers hold doctorates in astronomy or astrophysics. Many find employment as faculty members at colleges or universities where they are engaged in teaching and research activities; others are full-time research astronomers at major observatories around the world. Astronomy graduates who do not obtain doctorates may still find employment in a variety of roles in support of professional astronomy.

Beginning in 1975, MSU offered a Bachelor of Science degree in Astronomy, which served to prepare the student for graduate studies in astronomy or astrophysics. The astronomy minor was also available for students requiring a less extensive knowledge of astronomy and astrophysics.

In February, 2010, the elimination of the Astronomy BS was announced, as part of the substantial financial cuts necessary to balance the university's budget. As a result, students wishing to earn an undergraduate degree in astronomy will have to look elsewhere. Another route to an astronomy career is to obtain a BS in Physics here at MSU, followed by graduate work in Astronomy or Astrophysics at another institution. The American Astronomical Society maintains a listing of college departments offering astronomy-related degrees, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Careers in Astronomy

The American Astronomical Society provides an online brochure describing possible careers in professional astronomy.

Job Register

The American Astronomical Society hosts an online job register that advertises openings in the field of astronomy. Because the number of professional astronomers is not large, only a few hundred jobs become available each year.