WHY MAJOR IN ASTRONOMY?

Astronomy may be pursued as a generalized liberal arts major or in an interdisciplinary program in combination with other subject areas, or in a pre-professional program leading to a career as a researching or teaching astronomer.

Students who feel that they have the inclination and capability to pursue Ph.D. level research in astronomy and astrophysics would select an appropriate program of physics, astrophysics and supporting mathematics courses to prepare themselves for graduate school. Those who might prefer an emphasis on the teaching of astronomy at the college, junior college, or secondary levels, rather than research, would pursue a program giving a broad preparation not only in astronomy, but also in the related subjects of physical science and geophysical sciences.

It is also legitimate to consider career orientations that combine other fields of interest with astronomy. To pursue such interdisciplinary programs, one could take courses in other areas, fashion a minor of some sort, or actually plan a double major, whichever is most appropriate. All such programs should be chosen in careful consultation with the Undergraduate Adviser and need his approval Some examples might be: (i) an astronomy major combined with courses in either history or philosophy of science; (ii) an astronomy major taking courses in journalism, communications or radio-television-film, for someone with an interest in science writing, planetarium work, or public education/outreach; (iii) an astronomy major with a computer sciences minor, a versatile combination involving very employable skills; (iv) a double major in astronomy and an engineering discipline for someone desiring to enter the aerospace field; (v) a minor in education for someone interested in secondary school science teaching. This by no means exhausts the possible interdisciplinary programs that might be pursued - subject to the approval of the Undergraduate Advisor.

Note that in considering majors that could be described as interdisciplinary, it is strongly recommended that you check with advisers in both departments. The major and minor requirements of both departments should be compared to determine if both will allow you to take all the courses you need. There may be some composite programs where you should major elsewhere and minor in astronomy.

It is also possible to consider an undergraduate major in astronomy primarily as a liberal arts program, with its objective the understanding of man's place in the cosmos. Such a program would be free to call upon a wide variety of subject areas, depending upon what aspects of the study were being emphasized. Besides technical courses, such a program could easily include courses in history, philosophy, biology, chemistry, psychology, and anthropology, to name a few areas. It should also be mentioned that a number of students have found the astronomy major to be a stimulating and satisfactory preparation for law school or medical school.

It is clear that each of the options above requires a different set of courses, and it is for that reason that the astronomy major at the University of Texas is flexibly designed, with a minimum of specific requirements. Students are encouraged to visit the department and discuss possible courses of study with the undergraduate advisors. A few examples of specific programs are given later in this pamphlet, but they are intended only as guidelines for the preparation of possible courses of study, not as dogma. Your actual program as an astronomy major would be designed in conference between you and the departmental undergraduate advisor.


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