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I will be majoring in astrophysics in college, but am not entirely convinced by my major selection because I think it will restrict me to fewer jobs than, for example, a physics degree. Is there really a difference in what I major in if it's related to STEM?

I'll be graduating this year and am hoping to major in something that I enjoy that could provide financial stability in the future.

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Jennifer’s Answer

Hello Victoria!

I advise you to follow your passion and that will make the degree easier to pursue. Naturally the coursework will become more difficult as you progress, so being genuinely interested will help the learning and retention process.

However, if you're concerned about job selection, my advice is to keep in mind that unless you pursue a very specialized occupation, the degree you earn likely will not prohibit you from other jobs. It turns out many professionals have jobs that aren't related to their college degree. For example, my father worked in the Parks Department of a very large city, and the man in charge of his department had a degree in music; one of my best friends has a degree in English and works in the sales department of a large tech company.

Typically a college degree demonstrates to a potential employer that you have the fortitude to stick with a goal, do well, and have the capacity to learn.

I hope this helps. And good luck.
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this is really helpful. Victoria
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Andrew’s Answer

STEM is a very board term ranging from mathematics, science, to engineering. Looking for a stable career and financial future, STEM can be an appealing choice. However, you should find out what your passion lies before you decide on your college major.

Astrophysics is a sub-discipline in physics. You will not dive into “astrophysics” until you start graduate school. Nonetheless, some colleges may offer a course in astrophysics in the upper division (junior-senior level).

If you would like to study astrophysics, you should first earn a bachelor’s degree of science in physics. Then, you will have to look for a graduate school, in which astrophysics is offered.

As far as job opportunities in astrophysics are concerned, we should be cognizant that our career path may not perfectly align with the degree(s) we earned. For example, if you earn a Ph.D. in astrophysics, you probably will have considerable mathematical, physics/scientific, computer programming, and analytical skills that would make you employable in many areas even beyond STEM disciplines.

Case in point, decades ago, a Ph.D. in physics (non-linear optics) got a job at Wall Street with a six-figure salary based on his mathematical skills (non-linear differential equations).

For my case, my Ph.D. is in solid-state geophysics. But I ended up working on geodynamics and space geodesy as a consultant scientist at NSAS for two decades before I returned to academia as a professor of mathematics.
The bottom line is that a solid education will open doors to many areas.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much! I will keep this in mind. Victoria
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