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The Question

(Submitted October 28, 1997)

I am planning on majoring in Astronomy/Astrophysics. Do you have any information on which institutions are offering the best programs in this field.

The Answer

Your question is a good one, but it would be easier to answer it if you told us what your long term goals are. This is because, if you are interested in a career in astronomy, you will probably want to attend graduate school after college and get a Ph.D. If so, then the choice of graduate school is more important to your future career than is the choice of college. In fact, many students in graduate schools in astronomy have undergraduate degrees in fields other than astronomy, such as physics or mathematics. My list of the top graduate schools in astronomy includes: Princeton, Caltech, UC Berkeley, and University of Chicago as the top few.

For undergraduate astronomy, I think you can get a good education at many colleges or universities. As with many things, what you put into your education can determine what you get out of it. I think that you would find that if you polled the students entering the top graduate schools that they come from a wide range of college backgrounds, including both public and private institutions, liberal arts colleges and large universities.

I hope this helps!

Tim Kallman
for the Ask an Astrophysicist Team

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