Education

Best Astronomy Degree Programs of 2022

Learn more about the top Astronomy programs, what to expect, job prospects, and how to choose the program that’s right for you.

Astronomy is the study of the universe beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Astronomers use a variety of tools to study the universe, including telescopes, satellites, and computers. Astronomy degrees can prepare students for a variety of careers in astronomy, including research, teaching, and engineering.

Astronomy degrees offer a broad overview of the universe, covering topics such as the formation of the universe, the structure of galaxies, and the evolution of stars. Students in astronomy degree programs learn about the different types of objects in the universe, and how they interact with each other. They also learn about the physics of the universe, and the ways in which astronomers collect and interpret data.

How to Choose the Right Astronomy Program

When it comes to choosing the right astronomy bachelor’s degree program, there are a few key factors that prospective students need to keep in mind. The first is the cost of the program. While many schools offer scholarships and financial aid, it’s important to research the tuition and fees associated with each program before making a decision.

The second factor to consider is the location of the school. Many astronomy programs are located in rural areas, so students need to make sure they’re comfortable with the location before applying. Additionally, students should research the internship and job opportunities in the area surrounding the school.

Finally, students need to consider the curriculum of the program. Many astronomy programs require students to complete a certain number of credits in physics and mathematics, so students should make sure they’re comfortable with the coursework before applying.

Best Bachelor’s in Astronomy Programs

The best programs for Astronomy ranking is based on key statistics and student reviews using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Some of the metrics influencing how the rankings are determined include graduation rate, average salary for graduates, accreditation, retention rate, and cost.

Rank 1
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Prescott, AZ

The Bachelor of Science in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is a well-rounded program that prepares students for a variety of careers in the field. The curriculum provides a strong foundation in mathematics and physics, with courses in astronomy and astrophysics that use a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on laboratory work. Students in the program have access to world-class resources, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the Kepler Mission, as well as the opportunity to participate in research projects with faculty members.

Rank 2
Yale University
New Haven, CT

The Bachelor of Arts in Astronomy from Yale University is a quantitative physical science that applies physics, mathematics, and statistical analysis to observing, describing, and modeling the universe. The courses train students in research techniques and quantitative reasoning and develop creative problem solvers.

The B.A. degree program in Astronomy is designed for students who do not plan to continue in a graduate program in astronomy, but who are interested in the subject as a basis for a liberal arts education or as a physical science background to careers such as medicine, teaching, journalism, business, law, or government.

Rank 3
The University of Texas
Austin, TX

The Bachelor of Science in Astronomy from The University of Texas is designed to give students an understanding of the universe and to prepare them to participate in the advancement of this search. Two Options are available: Astronomy and Astronomy Honors. Students who plan to follow Option II, Astronomy Honors, must be admitted to the Dean’s Scholars Honors Program.

Rank 4
University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI

The University of Wisconsin offers a Bachelor of Science in Astronomy-Physics that helps students understand our place in the cosmos. The program starts with a foundation in classical and modern physics before moving on to a comprehensive study of the observable universe. Students who complete the program will be prepared for graduate studies or employment in industrial or governmental laboratories.

Rank 5
Lehigh University
Bethlehem, PA

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Astronomy from Lehigh University is designed for students who want to pursue graduate studies in astrophysics with the goal of becoming professional astronomers. The program provides students with a solid background in laboratory and theoretical astrophysics, as well as in the fundamentals of physics and mathematics. Research opportunities are available to supplement classroom instruction.

Rank 6
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA

The Bachelor of Science in Physics & Astronomy from University of Pittsburgh is a well-rounded introduction to physics and astronomy. The courses are designed to provide students with a foundation in physics and astronomy, as well as the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of interest. The department has a wide range of courses, from the broad spectrum of physics and/or astronomy to specialized research in a field of your interest. Successful graduates from our program take advantage of the research opportunities available in the department and add a minor that brings a unique perspective to their field or career.

Rank 7
George Washington University
Washington, DC

The Bachelor of Science in Astronomy and Astrophysics from George Washington University is a well-rounded program that provides students with a solid foundation in modern astronomy and astrophysics. Coursework includes quantum physics, mechanics, and astrophysics, as well as a range of electives in computer science and physics topics. Classes incorporate hands-on experience with state-of-the-art telescopes, satellites, and data analysis. All students in the astronomy and astrophysics major complete a capstone project as well as a symposium course in which they learn to present their research findings and review their peers’ projects. Students leave the program ready to begin graduate-level education in astronomy, astrophysics, physics or a related field, and they are able to apply their scientific and problem-solving skills in a variety of workplaces.

Rank 8
Indiana University-Bloomington
Bloomington, IN

The Bachelor of Arts in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Indiana University-Bloomington is a great choice for students interested in a liberal arts education with a focus on astronomy. The program offers a broad range of courses covering topics such as the solar system, star life cycles, galaxies, and cosmology. Students in the program have access to telescopes at campus observatories as well as data from space-borne observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope. The department also offers extensive computing facilities.

Rank 9
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY

The Bachelor of Science in Astronomy/Planetary Sciences from Stony Brook University is a great choice for students interested in a career in astronomy. The course requirements for the program are designed to prepare students for graduate and professional work in the field. Graduates with a degree in astronomy can teach at the secondary level, work in academic or government laboratories, or conduct research at colleges and universities. The program also provides students with the opportunity to gain a broad education in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Rank 10
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Honolulu, HI

The Bachelor of Arts in Astronomy from University of Hawaii at Manoa is a flexible program designed for students interested in astronomy but who also have a wide range of career goals. The BA in astronomy can lead to a career supporting observatories as a technician, engineer or designer of astronomical equipment or software. This program is also a solid choice for science writers, journalists or data scientists when combined with a second undergraduate degree or graduate degree.

Rank 11
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA

The Bachelor of Science in Astronomy from Louisiana State University is a great choice for students interested in physics and math. The program offers courses in stellar and galactic astrophysics, modern optics, and observational astronomy. Students also have the opportunity to carry out an observational astronomy project at the Highland Road Park Observatory.

Rank 12
Florida Institute of Technology
Melbourne, FL

The Bachelor of Science in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Florida Institute of Technology is a degree focused on the study of celestial bodies beyond the Earth’s solar system. The program is designed to prepare students for careers in the astronomical sciences, either through graduate studies or directly into the workforce. Students in the program gain a strong background in physics, as well as hands-on experience with high-tech observational instrumentation. The program also provides opportunities for students to undertake collaborative research projects with faculty or peers, giving them practical experience to enhance their job search portfolios.

Rank 13
Ball State University
Muncie, IN

The Bachelor of Arts in Astronomy from Ball State University is a 120 credit program that will prepare students for a career in an astronomy-related field or for further graduate study. The program consists of 66-67 credits in astronomy, physics, and mathematics courses. Students will take classes such as The Sun and Stars, Stellar Evolution, Galaxies, and the Cosmos, and Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Rank 14
Northern Arizona University
Flagstaff, AZ

The Bachelor of Science in Astronomy from Northern Arizona University is a multidisciplinary degree that prepares students for a variety of careers related to astronomy and planetary science. The program provides students with a solid foundation in math, physics, chemistry, and geology, as well as skills in advanced technologies and equipment such as telescopes, robotic missions, and laboratory instrumentation. With proximity to world-class observatories and research facilities, students in the program gain a competitive edge in the job market.

What to Expect From a Bachelor’s in Astronomy Program

Students in a bachelor’s in astronomy program learn about the universe and the objects within it, including stars, planets, galaxies, and cosmology. They also develop skills in data analysis and scientific research methods.

Most bachelor’s in astronomy programs require about 120 credits and take four years to complete. Students typically take classes in physics, mathematics, and computer science, as well as astronomy. Many programs also require students to complete an internship or research project.

Prospective students should have strong math skills and be interested in the physical sciences. They should also be able to think critically and solve complex problems.

Common Astronomy Courses

A degree in astronomy typically encompasses a wide variety of courses in physics, math, and computer science, as well as the study of specific astronomical phenomena. The following is a list of five courses that are often found in undergraduate astronomy degree programs.

Intro to Planetary Science

This course covers the formation and evolution of the solar system with an emphasis on the origin of the planets and their moons. Topics include the formation of the Sun and planets, the nebular hypothesis, the solar nebula, accretion, the formation of the Moon, impact cratering, the origin of the Earth-Moon system, the inner planets, the formation of the outer planets, planetary satellites, comets, asteroids, meteorites, and interplanetary dust. Upon completion, students should be able to explain the formation of the solar system and its planets and moons, and describe the evidence that supports current theories.

Galaxies and Cosmology

This course covers the large-scale structure of the universe and the physics of the cosmos. Emphasis is placed on the formation and evolution of galaxies, the nature of the interstellar medium, quasars and active galaxies, and the cosmological principle. Upon completion, students should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the structure and evolution of the universe and the physics of the cosmos.

Observing the Universe

This course covers the use of astronomical equipment and software to observe and record the night sky. Topics include the solar system, stars, galaxies, and deep-sky objects. Emphasis is placed on the use of telescopes, binoculars, and digital cameras to observe and record astronomical objects and events. Upon completion, students should be able to locate and identify astronomical objects using various types of astronomical equipment and software.

Stars and Stellar Evolution

This course covers the formation and evolution of stars, from their initial collapse to their eventual death. Emphasis is placed on the physical processes that determine the structure and evolution of stars, the observational properties of stars at various stages in their lives, and the role of stars in the larger context of galactic evolution. Upon completion, students should be able to explain the formation of stars and stellar systems, describe the main sequence and post-main sequence evolution of stars, and discuss the role of stars in the chemical and dynamical evolution of galaxies.

The Solar System

This course covers the formation and evolution of the solar system with an emphasis on the origin of the planets and their moons. Topics include the Sun, planets, planetary satellites, asteroids, comets, meteoroids, and interplanetary dust. Upon completion, students should be able to explain the formation of the solar system and the major characteristics of its component parts.

Career Options for Astronomy Graduates

Graduates of astronomy programs work in a variety of fields and industries, including astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology. They may also work in fields such as education, research, and government.

Astronomer

Astronomers study the universe and everything in it, from the smallest particles to the largest structures. They use a variety of tools and techniques, including telescopes, computers, and satellites, to observe and collect data about stars, planets, galaxies, and other objects in space. Astronomers typically specialize in a particular area of study, such as planetary science, stellar astrophysics, or cosmology.

Astrophysicist

Astrophysicists study the universe—from the largest galaxies to the smallest particles—and everything in between. They use a variety of tools, including telescopes, satellites, and computers, to collect data and develop theories about how the universe works. Astrophysicists often specialize in a particular area of research, such as cosmology (the study of the origin and evolution of the universe), stellar astrophysics (the study of stars), or planetary astrophysics (the study of planets).

Telescope Operator

Telescope operators are responsible for the operation and maintenance of a telescope and its associated equipment. They typically work at astronomical observatories and are responsible for setting up the telescope, aligning it with the night sky, and ensuring that it is functioning properly. They may also be responsible for conducting astronomical observations and recording data. In some cases, they may also be responsible for providing public tours of the observatory and giving presentations about astronomy.

Planetarium Director

Planetarium directors are responsible for the overall management and operation of a planetarium. This includes everything from developing and presenting educational programs and shows to maintaining the planetarium equipment and managing the budget. Planetarium directors typically have a background in astronomy, although some planetariums also hire directors with experience in education or museum management.

Science Writer

Science writers communicate scientific information to the general public. They may write for magazines, newspapers, websites, or other publications, or they may work as freelance writers. Science writers typically have a background in science, which they use to interpret and explain scientific findings to a nonscientific audience. In some cases, science writers may also be responsible for coming up with story ideas, conducting interviews, and fact-checking.

Insights From an Astronomy Graduate

Dominick James is an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley. He has a bachelor’s degree in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley. Dominick has over 10 years of experience in astronomical research.

ClimbtheLadder: What were the biggest takeaway(s) you got from your Astronomy program that you may not have gotten otherwise?

Dominick James: The biggest takeaway from my astronomy program was the ability to think critically about the universe. In addition, I learned how to use telescopes and other astronomical equipment. I also gained an understanding of the physics of the universe.

ClimbtheLadder: What type of person is successful and thrives in an Astronomy career?

Dominick James: A person who is successful in an astronomy career is someone who is passionate about the subject. They are also good at problem solving and have a strong foundation in math and physics. In addition, they are able to communicate their findings to others.

ClimbtheLadder: What misconception(s) do people have about an Astronomy degree, and what would you tell them?

Dominick James: I think the biggest misconception about an astronomy degree is that it’s all about learning about the stars and planets. In reality, astronomy is a very math-heavy field. A lot of the research that astronomers do is based on analyzing data that’s been collected by telescopes. So if you’re not good at math, an astronomy degree is probably not for you.

Another misconception about astronomy is that it’s a very theoretical field. While there is a lot of theoretical work that goes into astronomy, there is also a lot of observational work. Astronomers use telescopes to observe the universe, and they use the data they collect to test their theories.

So if you’re interested in astronomy, I would say that you should make sure you’re good at math, and you should also be interested in both theoretical and observational work.

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