How to become an astrophysicist
Are you interested in obtaining an astrophysics degree? Source: Cristofer Jeschke/Unsplash

Do you want to understand the universe and its contents – including stars, planets, galaxies and celestial objects, by applying the laws of physics?

Do you want to roll up your sleeves and get stuck into exoplanet exploration and uncover the truth about cosmic origins?

If all these questions are met with a colossal YES! Then an astrophysics degree could be perfect for you.

What is an astrophysicist?

As defined by PhD candidate, Renee Spiewak from Swinburne’s Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, “An astrophysicist might study galaxies, planets, stars or other celestial objects such as black holes and asteroids […] they might look back to the beginning of the universe and try to understand how it formed, and some astrophysicists might even try to predict how the universe will end.”

Distracted by intergalactic issues and cosmic challenges, an agile astrophysicist never limits their thinking. Always searching for the next revelation, problem-solving skills are a core attribute to a career in astrophysics.

According to NASA Science, you’ll want to ask yourself three main questions: how does the universe work? How did we get here? And are we alone?

“For millennia, people have turned their eyes to the stars and wondered if there are others like themselves out there. Does life, be it similar to our own or not, exist elsewhere?”, NASA Science questions.

Acknowledging these three core questions and wanting to answer them means you’re already an astrophysicist at heart.

But to get the full picture, securing an astrophysics degree is advised.

How to become an astrophysicist

“To become an astrophysicist, you have to get your credentials so you can prove to the scientific community that you understand what it is to make real science.

“This involves a lot of studying. Typically, you start with a Bachelor’s degree in Astronomy, Physics, or even Engineering or another related field. Then, you do a Master’s degree or go straight into a PhD in Astrophysics, like I am currently doing, ” Ms Spiewak explains.

At the Bachelor degree level, you can pursue engineering specialities, science-related fields or a core focus of astronomy.

Alternatively, you can dive straight in with a BSc in Astrophysics.

Introducing you to the basics of physics and demonstrating how this knowledge can be applied to the physics of astronomy, a BSc in Astrophysics must widen your critical thinking habits and encourage your explorative nature.

To get to the next level, search for a Master’s degree in Astrophysics.

Covering theoretical, observational and instrumental areas in astrophysics and other scientific disciplines, upon graduation, you’ll be able to pursue a career in academic research, physical science industrial practice, research and development, or in other highly skilled careers.

PhDs are welcome, but not always necessary to secure a career in the astrophysics arena.

Always research the university’s facilities and faculty members too, to see whether they’ve made any recent advancements or provide learning enhancement tools.

For instance, Swinburne astrophysicists Dr Adam Deller and Dr Ryan Shannon were recently part of an Australian-led research team which, for the first time, determined the exact location of a powerful one-off burst of cosmic radio waves known as fast radio bursts.

Knowing that the faculty you’ll meet are motivated to answer these three integral questions and are excited to contribute solutions to cosmic challenges means that you’ll be surrounded by passion and inspire progress.

And as long as you keep your eyes on exoplanet exploration and your remains curiosity high, your future success will sky rocket.

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