Astronomy vs Astrophysics PhD

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Astronomy vs Astrophysics PhD

Post by hopefulastro » Fri Feb 28, 2020 3:44 pm

Are there any reasons to choose to do a PhD program in Astrophysics vs Astronomy? For some context, I’m interested in cosmology research (observational and theoretical). I got into some PhD programs in “Astronomy”, but also one in “Astronomy and Astrophysics”. I know the name itself shouldn’t matter, as long as you are pursuing the research you want and are happy at that school. The only thing I can think of that might matter between the two program labels (if all else is equal) are the required courses.

For example, Ohio State’s Astronomy PhD requires ~7 courses, which are all astronomy courses but do not include things like high energy astrophysics or particle astrophysics. Penn State’s Astronomy and Astrophysics PhD requires 10 courses, which can include high energy and particles (basically, more theoretical astrophysics options, whereas Ohio’s is more observational based). For someone like me who wants to go into cosmology, I can’t help but think the additional theory-based courses such as high energy astro and particles might be useful for me? But of course the disadvantage of having to take more courses is that you get a later start on research, typically after the first year (but Ohio State has people start research right away).

Any thoughts on how much this matters?

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Re: Astronomy vs Astrophysics PhD

Post by scytoo » Sat Feb 29, 2020 8:13 pm

The name of the degree is irrelevant, but the courses offered does matter to you. So check the courses for every degree you're looking at, don't just use the degree name as a proxy because it won't work.

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Re: Astronomy vs Astrophysics PhD

Post by JWilliams » Sat Feb 29, 2020 10:06 pm

It's worth noting that some programs will allow you to fulfill course requirements (with approval) through e.g. physics classes in general relativity.

But every program is different, and the areas on which they focus are partially determined by the specializations of their faculty.

Whether they call themselves "Astronomy" vs. "Astrophysics" (or both) likely isn't the main point of differentiation.

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