14 Best Colleges for Astronomy Majors

Discover out-of-this-world colleges and observatories for students who want to study astronomy or physics in the U.S.

By Christa Fletcher | August 26, 2016

Photo: ThinkStock

Are you always looking up to the stars? If you have a passion for science, with a special interest in space and physics, consider majoring in astronomy.

Which astronomy program is the best college match?

There are over 100 colleges where you can major in astronomy in the U.S. and receive a bachelor's degree, master's degree or a Ph.D.

"Physicists and astronomers need a Ph.D. for most research jobs. Many physics and astronomy Ph.D. holders begin their careers in a temporary postdoctoral research position, which typically lasts two to three years."

Whether you're looking for a public or private college, there's a variety of schools that offer this academic program that challenges students to learn about space, its history, and to develop theories and research. To discover more about the different departments at these colleges, check out our list of schools below where you'll find a mix of schools and programs to satisfy your interests in astronomy and physics.

As you consider which is the best college match, think about the location, prestige and cost of the programs. Be sure to consider the cost of the program. You don't want the cost of the degrees you'll need to exceed the expected salary you'll make once you graduate.

Salary Info for Astronomy Majors

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for physicists and astronomers is $105,430 a year, however you'll need a doctoral or professional degree, "Physicists and astronomers need a Ph.D. for most research jobs. Many physics and astronomy Ph.D. holders begin their careers in a temporary postdoctoral research position, which typically lasts two to three years."

Colleges for Astronomy Majors

According to U.S. News, the top five ranked universities for astronomy in the U.S. are:

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
2. Harvard University
3. Stanford University
4. Princeton University
5. University of California, Berkeley (UCB)

While these schools are phenomenal, we thought we'd also give you some other options that are affordable and cool other ways.

Most Affordable Colleges for Astronomy Majors

6. University of Wyoming ($4,404 in-state tuition)

7. University of Florida ($6,263 in-state tuition)

8. University of Hawaii, Hilo ($6,536 in-state tuition)
(University of Hawaii is also near Mauna Kea Observatory.)

9. San Diego State University ($6,766 in-state tuition)

10. Valdosta State University ($6,884 in-state tuition)

Colleges Near Amazing Observatories

11. University of California, Los Angeles

UCLA gets double points for its proximity to Griffith Observatory, however, all UC schools are also partnered with Lick Observatory in San Jose. So, if you don't get into UCLA, there's always one of the other campuses. (UC Santa Cruz is the closest to Lick.)

12. University of Texas, Austin

For students in the Lone Star state, UT Austin has a great astronomy program and the school's association with McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains on Mount Locke and Mount Fowlkes nearby they can take advantage of this valuable research resource through the astronomy department.

13. University of Chicago

Yerkes Observatory is often referred to as the "birthplace of modern astrophysics." It's also home to the University's astronomy and physics programs. It's located on Geneva Lake in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. Yerkes has a historical distinction that bridges scholars of modern and historical studies, making the observatory a highly sought after research facility.

14. Northern Arizona University

Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona is a National Historic Monument. It houses the Clark Telescope Dome on Mars Hill and the new Discovery Channel giant telescope, which is the fifth largest in the world. Students at NAU in Flagstaff can take advantage of this amazing research opportunity.

To find out where more observatories are, check out Go-Astronomy. Best of luck in your search for the perfect school. If you need more help, check out our college matching tool. For more schools, visit the American Astronomical Society's complete list. You can also get more information about popular colleges here.

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