Wednesday, November 9, 2011

You WIll *Not* Be Unemployed If You Go Into Astrophysics!

The Wall Street Journal has compiled a list showing the average salary and percent unemployment for people who major in various fields. To my surprise, the unemployment for people who major in an Astronomy or Astrophysis is zero percent!

Here is the breakdown: (major,unemployment, 25% earnings, 50% earnings, 75% earnings)
ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS    0.0%    $56,000    $62,000    $101,000

Compare that with physics science in general:
PHYSICAL SCIENCES    2.5%    $36,000    $51,000    $68,000

And a few other majors:
NURSING                                                           2.2%   $48,000   $60,000    $80,000
MATHEMATICS                                               5.0%    $42,000    $63,000    $95,000
ACCOUNTING                                                  5.4%   $41,000    $61,000    $94,000
COMPUTER SCIENCE                                     5.6%    $50,000    $77,000    $102,000
GENERAL ENGINEERING                             5.9%    $47,000    $73,000    $101,000
PRE-MED PROGRAMS                                   5.2%    $40,000    $60,000    $86,000
BUSINESS MANAGEMENT                            6.0%    $38,000    $56,000    $85,000
ECONOMICS                                                    6.3%    $42,000    $69,000    $108,000
HISTORY                                                          6.5%    $34,000    $50,000    $81,000
ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE   6.7%    $32,000    $48,000    $75,000
PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES    7.2%    $30,000    $42,000    $65,000
PRE-LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES                  7.9%    $32,000    $45,000    $69,000

And... the worst is clinical physcology:
CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY   19.5%   $25,000   $40,000   $61,000

But seriously why?!?!
Look, as cool as it is to look at stars, galaxies, the CMB and other stuff related to the cosmos all day, why in the world do people who do so find themselves with zero unemployment?  It's not like we put bread on the table for anyone in any direct way or anything of such practical value.  And yet there seems to be plenty of jobs to go around.  But why?  And it is more then just zero unemployment.  We seem to make more money then most on top of it.

But I'm not complaining.  I am happy to find a high paying job waiting for me.  I guess the occupy Wall Street people need to start occupying the planetariums.  :)


  1. I think we astrophysicists may be benefiting from small sample size a bit here.  A quick look at the data shows that there are 6 majors listed with 0% unemployment and all six of those rank below 150th in popularity out of 173 options.  Also, a high fraction of astro majors go on to grad school, so that might artificially drive down the unemployment numbers.

    That's not to say that astronomy and astrophysics grads don't do well getting jobs, but in reality I would expect our numbers to be more in line with those of our physics siblings at about 4.5%.

  2. It may be a small sample size, but small or not... Apparently if you look at astrophysicists they all have jobs. (Which for most people is all that matters.) 

  3. I think this just looks at B.S. degrees (I haven't verified that because I haven't looked at the source material - from Johns Hopkins), which is why this is a list of majors and not careers (note that there are no professional degrees in the list; no doctors, lawyers, etc.). I believe this because my particular field is listed as having huge unemployment with low median salaries (salaries much lower than reported stats). But you are unemployable in my field without a PhD (which could explain the high unemployment rates and low salaries). Basically, this is a list of what jobs look like if you have a B.S. (or B.A. or equivalent) in one of these majors and want to get a job right out of undergrad. At least, that's what it seems like. It's quite misleading. It's also not really possible to have 0% unemployment.

  4. Here's evidence that what I posted earlier is correct:

    That's the official response from the American Psychological Association. The data are just for B.S./B.A. degrees. There are very few people with a bachelor's in clinical psychology and, as I wrote earlier, you can't do anything with that degree other than try to get more schooling or do something unrelated. Further, having poked around the web, I think it's safe to say that colleges/universities that offer undergrad degrees in clinical psychology are sub-standard in general.

    People with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology (recent grads) have unemployment at 3.8%, which is in line with other advanced degrees.

    So these data are only as good as the sample size of the individual majors and even then are misleading because a number of the degrees require further education to have a career in that particular field.

  5. Any idea what happens when you separate philosophy from religious studies?  Are the two majors roughly equally employable or is one group dragging the other group down?


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