All of my life so far has been about becoming an astronomer. This career choice I picked back in fourth grade when I took Mr. Schrall's Astronomy class. I absolutely loved the subject. Now that I have graduated college for Physics and am heading on to graduate school, however, I am not so sure that this is the career choice I want to follow. The job market for an astronomer is next to zero. Was it just a subject that I've been passionate about, not a career choice? I've told everyone since then that I'm going to become one and yet, all I've done is finished four years at a University and looked at salary of an astronomer back in sixth grade (just two scant years after making my choice). When searching for a college, my father recommended that I go to PTI, a two-year techical school to get certified for being a programmer. Looking back, I'm wondering if that should have been my choice. Hopefully, by the end of this, a choice for the future will be made.
"Was it just a subject I've been passionate about, an interest?" This thought has crossed my mind for not the first time today. Why did I want to be an astronomer in the first place? Looking back now, I remember Mr. Schrall explaining how the possibilities are endless in space while showing a picture of the Horsehead Nebula. I remember thinking how beautiful the picture was and how he explained that images like those came from the Hubble Space Telescope. He said that in order to work daily with images like those that one would need to be an astronomer. I really took this information to heart and, in the years that followed, told myself that no matter what, I would be an astronomer. My idea of becoming one however, was simplistic at best.
When fifth and sixth grade came around (even seventh grade), I started to dig around with the idea of becoming an astronomer. I can't even remember what ranked as second. Nonetheless, in my research, I found that (back between 1999 and 2001) astronomers made just under what an air traffic controller made. The thousands of dollars had boggled my mind. I had checked my people skills and such with the survey they had us do in seventh grade. My ranking was good. I excelled in most of my math courses, especially when it came to long division, geometry, and trigonometry. Calculus was a little harder for me because it introduced concepts that I had very little understanding of, but my english courses were top notch every time. I also took electronics courses at the local Votech in Meadville. I loved the courses there too. I explained to the teacher, Mr. Burchill, that I was taking Electronics Tech as a hobby. I told him I planned to be an astronomer. The courses there were easy enough; I found friends in my fellow classmates. I also worked on people skills.
When it came to college, I had my heart set on one school it seemed: Clarion University Main Campus. I filled out the FAFSA and sent my application in a little later than most. I was worried about getting accepted. During this time of waiting for my application to be accepted or denied, my parents and I went to look at PTI, a two-year tech school. My contingency plan was to become a programmer and to work where I could. PTI would have placed me into a job immediately after schooling and offered refresher courses every six months free of charge. If one lost a job, the school would automatically place them in another. It seemed like a good deal. I remember my father making the suggestion to go to PTI and get the degree in programming and get a steady paying job. Once all that was accomplished, he told me, then I could go back to Clarion (using the programming job to pay for it) and gain my degree for Astrophysics. It sounded like a smart plan, but I was sure my heart was set on Clarion from the start. I filed out all of the paperwork for PTI, but when the acceptance letter came for Clarion, I politely turned down the offer for PTI and went straight into four years of Physics.
My grades at Clarion weren't really anything to write home about. I worked my butt off but at the same time I messed up a lot. I got 2 Ds in my Astronomy courses due to absences in my first year there. I passed Pre-calculus with a B-C, but failed Calc 1. Anything outside of Math, I was good at. I did okay with my physics courses until getting into my third year, I struggled often then. I was terrible at conceptual ideas and my Calc grades just weren't where they needed to be. I missed out on my Geology courses, preferring to take a Matlab/Mathematica course instead. I breezed by it no problem. I enjoyed writing the code. Granted, whenever I made a mistake (even within 10 lines of code) it was annoying to find and fix. Fourth year came and went: Electronics-a breeze, Seminar- annoying (I didn't know half of what we were talking about and was assumed to know so), and Physics - not so well (once again, concepts and such really hurt me).
Coming to the close of my fourth year at Clarion, I started to think really hard about going to graduate school for astronomy and about research opportunities. As my boyfriend and I had broke up, and I was now dating a guy (Cameron) from New Hampshire (NH), I thought it best to find a school in the NH area. There was only one college doing graduate programs for astronomy in NH: Dartmouth. It was two hours north of Keene State College where Cameron was doing his studies to be a Calculus teacher. One of my classmates informed me, however, that most graduate schools require at least one GRE. I had never heard of a GRE before and therefore was forced to take a year off in order to take the general and physics GRE's. While visiting Cameron, his mothr mentioned that Dartmouth was an Ivy League school. From what I understood, only the best students got in there.
During my year off, I went full-time at Sperry Farms Inc., the local egg -processing plant down the road. My pay was good and for a while, I forgot all about college. When fall rolled around, however, I was wanting to go back. I published my first book, The Mystic Charm, during this time as well. However, the quality of the book was not anywhere near that of J.R.R. Tolkien or even Dr. Seuss. I planned to rewrite it before the beginning of summer. Back to the astronomy stuff though, I haven't taken out the new telescope my grandparents have gotten me for Christmas and my mother currently tells me all of the space-related things going on. Just last night (04/13/13) the Aurora Borealis was visible in the night sky. I missed it. I didn't even know it was going on until she told me.
There are two main problems I'm having with deciding. One- I don't want my degree from Clarion to go to waste, but two- I don't want to go for my master's or Ph.D and be stuck without a job. I've also thought about getting a Bachelor's degree in programming and coupling it with my physics degree to program the big telescopes or being a technician for the equipment at NASA. I've not wanted to go into space. I mean maybe one day, but for now I want my feet planted firmly on the ground. I think that this would be Aerospace engineering though. I do like the idea of working out programs, but at the same time I'd be content from working at home. With the idea of Cameron and I having two kids running around while we are working, the idea of staying at home does seem to be the better option. The only problem is: what can I do to accomplish this? What job would allow me to be a stay-at-home working mother? I really don't like the idea of Camero providing everything for the house. It (to me) just doesn't seem right.
The question I keep asking myself is: do I really want to start fresh and what is it that I really want to do with the rest of my life? I already have family taken care of, but what do I want to do? The problem is: I've never been the type to make strong decisions. I still plan on taking the Physics GRE this Saturday, that much is certain. That way if I decide to go on to graduate school, I have my GRE's out of the way. I also plan to do the FAFSA, so even if I go back for a different BS degree, I have the funds to attempt it.
Another problem I keep facing is my loan payments. I should be able to defer them if I go back to school, but it will accrue interest and I will be stuck paying more. Right now (and all throughout summer) I am paying almost $300 a month. I will have to find a job when I go to Cameron's for the summer, but I need to figure out the fall. That is Madre's, Cameron's, and my biggest concern right now.
I suppose the first step is taking a look at what the job markets are in the New England (NE) area for the types of jobs I'm thinking of. I may have screwed up in the past, but it's time to learn and move on.