Short of being a stunt car driver, the most exciting real-life careers may just lie in the sciences. From studying the earth we live in to the skies above us, the sciences are all about exploration and delving into the unknown. Also of note, many of these fields are among the most stable and lucrative available.
The major in astronomy examines the motion and nature of the sun, moon, starts, planets, and other celestial bodies. Astronomy brings to bear the knowledge of the mathematician, the chemist, and the physicist. Astronomy has evolved through recent centuries from an observational science, relying on data gathered from peering through a telescope, to an experimental science, including space exploration.
Some colleges offer astronomy as an individual major. More frequently, program offerings are titled “Physics and Astronomy, ” “Astronomy/Planetary Sciences, ” or “Astrophysics.” This underscores the close alliance of astronomy with physics in today’s colleges and emphasizes the extensive grounding in physics required of astronomers. The plan of study consists of courses in general physics with lab, chemistry, electromagnetics, and core courses in astronomy. A close working relationship with a faculty advisor is important when pursuing a major in astronomy. Classes include physics, basic mechanics, electricity and magnetism, relativity seminar, astronomy, astrophysics, chemistry, advanced mathematics.
- college professor
- computer science
- freelance writer
- government researcher
- research scientist
- secondary school teacher
- museum planetarium director
- technical writer
Astrophysics focuses on the more theoretical aspects of astronomy and is devoted to the exploration of laws of physics that affect astronomical bodies, their relationships with one another, and the discovery of clues to the origin and development of the universe. Students will receive scientific and technological training in the space sciences, including advanced work in mathematics and physical sciences. (Not every college distinguishes between the astronomy and astrophysics majors.)
The plan of study is a challenging one and suitable only for students strong in math and physics. At the undergraduate level, the focus is on the in-depth study of topics in physics, with particular emphasis on such areas as mechanics, quantum theory, electromagnetism, and electricity. This is supplemented with a heavy concentration in advanced mathematics and electives in astronomy. A B.A. degree can be offered, but B.S. is preferred, especially for students intending to pursue a Ph.D. in astrophysics.
- computer specialist
Atmospheric science covers a wide range of activities all having to do with the processes related to the Earth’s atmosphere. The atmospheric science major can sometimes be linked closely to oceanic and space studies, since these three environments interact with one another. The atmospheric scientist wants to solve problems related to weather forecasting, air pollution, the impact of the location of industrial plants and their processes, and all aspects of wind power and erosion. This is a complex field in which many people choose to go on to graduate school in their particular area of interest. Though the studies are demanding, job prospects are good for students who successfully complete an atmospheric course of study.
Students will begin with introductory courses in weather and earth systems, in addition to basic work in calculus, physics, and chemistry. Further course work will center on the study of the interaction of the dynamic systems that define and impact upon the atmosphere, including more advanced course work in the student’s area of interest. In many programs, research assistantships are plentiful, in addition to the research expectations of the major. Co-op or internship opportunities may also be available or required. Classes include weather systems; forecast modeling; geophysics; physics; chemistry; atmospheric chemistry; calculus and advanced calculus; Earth systems; evolution, dynamics, and analysis; electromagnetics; and kinetics.
- atmospheric researchers
- climate researcher
- environmental consultant
- policy analyst
- pollution control consultant
- power company manager
- wind power developer
Bacteriology studies a branch of microbiology that concerns the examination of bacteria and their classification by type, as well as the analysis of their physiological and biochemical properties. The bacteriologist researches bacteria that are suspect in causing human disease and studies the ecological significance of bacteria in the cycle of matter.