Astrophysics is a profession where physical science, astronomy and a high starting salary collide. While studying the way the universe works and interacts, astrophysicists entering the profession enjoy a healthy starting salary that only increases with further education and experience. Astrophysicists work in several industries, which opens a variety of opportunities for making even more money.
What is an Astrophysicist?
Astrophysicists are scientists, a blend of astronomers and physicists. They study space, solar systems and the extraterrestrial universe at large by observing the physical properties, behavior and interactions of comets, stars, planets and other celestial bodies. Astrophysicists must hold a master's degree or doctorate to get research positions, although those with only bachelor's degrees in astrophysics may find work as research assistants, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Occupational Employment Statistics, a division of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, places astrophysicists under the general category of "physicists" for salary ratings. Typically, starting salaries for any profession are in the 25th to 50th percentile ranges, which in May 2009 was listed as $79,740 to $106,390 per year for all physicists. Astrophysicists are specialized physicists, which means they can expect at least a slightly higher wage starting out than the average physicist.
Astrophysicists starting out in their profession should know their earning potential as they progress through their career by knowing the profession's salary range. The lowest wage listed for physicists by the Occupational Employment Statistics was the 10th percentile at $56,210 per year. The highest pay listed was the 90th percentile at an impressive annual salary of $165,750. The middle 50 percent of physicists, which includes astrophysicists, made between $79,740 and $138,560 per year.
As with nearly all professions, astrophysicists in different locations and industries earn different average salaries. The average lowest-paying industry for physicists, including astrophysicists, was at colleges, universities and professional schools at $82,790 a year while the professional, scientific and technical services industry paid an average annual salary of $128,670. Location makes a difference, too. The lowest-paying state for average physicist salaries was Virginia at an annual salary of $109,620 while Kentucky paid the highest mean at $139,810 per year.
2016 Salary Information for Physicists and Astronomers
Physicists and astronomers earned a median annual salary of $114,750 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, physicists and astronomers earned a 25th percentile salary of $81,680, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $153,060, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 19,900 people were employed in the U.S. as physicists and astronomers.
- universe image by Svetlana Romanova from Fotolia.com