BA in Astrophysics
Do you keep Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s “Cosmos” near the top of your Netflix queue?
Do you dream of exploring such diverse fields as the solar system, star formation and stellar evolution, the structure and makeup of the interstellar medium in the Milky Way, and the structure and evolution of the universe?
Are you comfortable with calculus and advanced physics, fearless about studying them more, and ready to apply that knowledge to an exploration of cosmic problems?
If you answered yes, a major in astrophysics may be “in your stars.”
As an astrophysics major you will find a challenging, yet personal, environment where you can prepare for a career in research, teaching, and other scientific areas. You will receive a rigorous foundation in astronomy and physics, while working closely with internationally respected faculty on the most important astrophysical research problems of the day. Working with faculty, you’ll make use of the excellent observational, laboratory, and computational facilities in the department as well as national and international observatories.
The BA in Astrophysics
The College of Liberal Arts offers a bachelor of arts (BA) in Astrophysics; it’s administered through the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics in the College of Science and Engineering, which also offers a bachelor of science (BS) in Astrophysics. This may be confusing, so here we explain the similarities and differences between the two options.
- The BA and BS are equally challenging. The major courses are the same for both degrees and students from both take their classes together. The pre-requisite courses to enter the major are the same.
- Admissions to the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science & Engineering are different; you might get into one college but not the other.
- The structure of the degrees are slightly different. The BA has more flexibility if you want to pursue multiple interests, allowing space in your degree plan for breadth and depth; the BS degree program offers opportunities to take additional astrophysics and technical courses.
- The BA degree requires proficiency in a second language.
The Liberal Arts Advantage
Students who choose the BA degree have the option to add relevant minors to their major and their electives will help them develop skills that employers look for, above and beyond technical skills developed in the major courses. These core career competencies include:
- Analytical & Critical Thinking
- Applied Problem Solving
- Ethical Reasoning & Decision Making
- Innovation & Creativity
- Oral & Written Communication
- Teamwork & Leadership
- Engaging Diversity
- Active Citizenship & Community Engagement
- Digital Literacy
- Career Management
Consider your own interests and career goals and consult with an advisor when deciding whether to apply to the College of Liberal Arts (for the BA) or College of Science & Engineering (for the BS). Both degrees will prepare you well for your future.
All liberal arts degrees help CLA students develop their Core Career Competencies, and astrophysics majors develop specific skills that are applicable to lots of different careers. These skills include analytical and critical-thinking skills, strong research skills and attention to detail, ability to gather, interpret and report data, and extensive math and physics knowledge.
Students who take the SuperStrong Interest Inventory receive a three-letter interest code, which identifies their top three areas of interest, work activities, potential skills, and personal values. The interest code "ISE" is often associated with this major, however, the SuperStrong assessment can help you understand how your interests connect to a variety of majors and career options. You can learn more about common employer types and occupations associated with this major. You can also see CLA specific examples of alumni careers below.
Internship & Job Search Websites
- MN Employers Who Hire Physics Graduates
- American Astronomical Society-Internships
- Careers in Physics
- Physical Scientists Jobs
- Science Careers
- Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics
- American Astronomical Society
- American Physical Society
- Minnesota Astronomical Society
- American Institute of Physics
Alumni Career Examples
Below is a small sampling of what alumni with this major have pursued, organized by the most common career fields they go into (although keep in mind that there are alumni in all eight of the career fields). You can also utilize the LinkedIn's Alumni Tool and the Maroon and Gold Network to further explore alumni career pathways and connect directly with professionals.
Note: *Asterisks denote that further education and/or training is often required
Research Assistant, University of Minnesota Observational Cosmology Group
Owner, Realtime Precision Systems, Inc.
Planetarium Outreach Educator, The Bell Museum