Astronomy and Astrophysics is the study of planets, stars, galaxies, and the universe as a whole, including how these originate and how they evolve in time. The principal pursuits of the astronomer are to extend our understanding of the physical nature of the universe and to convey this understanding to students and the general public.
Astronomy is an observational, not an experimental, science. With only a few exceptions (meteorites and moon rocks), we cannot actually touch celestial objects and are totally dependent upon incoming radiation from space. Observations over the entire electromagnetic spectrum (gamma rays, x-rays, ultraviolet, visible light, infrared, microwave, and radio waves) are collected with both earth-based and space telescopes and analyzed using the tools of modern theoretical physics. The heart of the prospective astrophysicist's education consists of a firm grounding in physics plus the advanced mathematics at the core of the physics.
Most professional astronomers have faculty positions at universities and colleges or are affiliated with universities and colleges through observatories and laboratories. For these persons, teaching and research are the major areas of activity. Some professional astronomers are employed by the federal government directly (e.g., NASA) or by federally supported national observatories and laboratories (e.g., the National Optical Astronomy Observatories and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory). A PhD degree in astronomy or physics is generally required for these positions. We encourage undergraduates who wish to pursue a PhD degree in astronomy or related fields to double major in both astronomy and physics.
Individuals with a MS and BS degrees in astronomy and astrophysics may also find employment at observatories, planetariums, science museums, and in industry where they may assist in computational and observational research programs or participate in public education programs. At least one past OSU astronomy major used her training as a stepping stone to a career in science journalism.
The possibilities are wider than you think!
The BS degree in Astronomy and Astrophysics offered by the Ohio State University is excellent preparation for graduate study in astronomy and other physical sciences, as well as a solid grounding for becoming a teacher in the physical sciences at the primary and secondary levels.