What Is A Planetary Science Degree?
One of Florida Tech’s most prestigious space science degree programs, the planetary science degree option is designed to meet the needs of students intending to pursue graduate studies in space physics, geophysical sciences, and planetary sciences.
The program also provides professional preparation to students who intend to pursue a career in aerospace and related industries. Established alongside the US space program, Florida Tech has one of the oldest and most well-known collections of space science degree programs in the country, including the planetary science degree.
Gain Practical Experience
Whether you want to study the effects of solar activity, examine the properties of planetary bodies in our solar system, or unlock the mysteries of planets around other stars, a planetary science degree from Florida Tech gives you a strong background in physics and hands-on experience with space science technologies.
Home to all physics and space sciences programs, the Olin Physical Sciences Center includes two large multi-use lecture/demonstration classrooms and the Olin Observatory, which houses our 0.8-m Ortega Telescope. Faculty are involved in NASA’s Kepler exoplanet mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Cassini mission to Saturn and Titan, and study solar system objects from Mercury to the Kuiper Belt and beyond.
Through study, independent research, and internship opportunities, students gain practical experience, an enhanced job search portfolio, and the perfect preparation for graduate school or employment.
Why Pursue A Planetary Science Degree At Florida Tech?
Florida Tech students benefit from a close-knit academic community and small student-to-faculty ratio, something not usually found at the average planetary science college.
This is unique when you consider that we are one of the largest earth and space science programs in the US in terms of the number of undergraduate degrees awarded annually. This is high praise from the American Institute of Physics for Florida Tech and an important reason to consider enrolling in our planetary science program. In fact, Florida Tech is one of only a few universities in the world to offer a BS in Planetary Science. The unique program and innovative curriculum make Florida Tech an exciting option for students interested in studying planetary science.
Internationally Recognized Faculty—Personalized Attention
Another reason Florida Tech is a great college is its faculty. Florida Tech faculty members are top research scientists who truly care about student success. Our professors give their highest priorities to both teaching and research, which involve real-world applications. There are many opportunities for research, which give students a chance to develop a strong working relationship with their professors in a hands-on learning environment.
Professors actively encourage students to join one of the various research groups in the department as early as their first year. Students who work closely with professors doing research work with data from spacecraft such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the Cassini mission, or the Kepler Space Telescope. In the planetary science program, professors at Florida Tech work on space weather, solar physics, planetary geology, exoplanets, astrobiology, and the science of human space flight.
As a planetary science college, students at Florida Tech conduct their research alongside faculty working with active NASA missions, such as the Cassini mission to Saturn and the Kepler exoplanet mission. Students have on-campus access to the Ortega 0.8-m telescope, one of the largest research telescopes in the Southeast, allowing students to observe extrasolar planets and other cosmic phenomena. Faculty and students use this telescope as their main training and research instrument, but also have easy access to the Southeastern Association for Astronomy (SARA) 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, and the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.
The Department of Physics and Space Sciences is located in the F.W. Olin Physical Sciences Building, a 70,000-square-foot facility that is equipped with state-of-the-art labs; clean and dark rooms; a 3,000-square-foot high bay area; a rooftop observatory; teaching classrooms with full multimedia; and smart whiteboards. Students also have access to the Space Life Sciences Laboratory at NASA Kennedy Space Center.
Florida Tech’s facilities are what you would expect from the best physics colleges. In addition to students having access to the largest research-grade telescope in Florida, the 0.8-meter Ortega Telescope, students also have access to telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.
Located In The Heart Of Florida’s High-Tech Corridor
Florida Tech is the perfect place for a BS in Planetary Science. The 130-acre campus is located on the Space Coast (so named because of the presence of NASA and the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral just north of us), minutes away from the Indian River Lagoon, the most diverse estuary in North America.
The area has the fifth-largest high-tech workforce in the country, with more than 5,000 high-tech corporations and government and military organizations located nearby. This workforce also provides an abundance of internship and employment opportunities.
Florida Tech is just over the causeway from the Atlantic Ocean with its 72 miles of beautiful beaches, and a short trip to the Florida Keys or the Orlando theme parks. We also have a rich campus life that includes a wide range of intramural and collegiate sports, clubs, and social activities.
Build Lasting Professional Relationships Through Campus Organizations
Beyond the classroom, planetary science degree majors build leadership and professional experience through participation in academic organizations like Sigma Pi Sigma (the national physics honor society), student government, and over 100 other campus-wide student organizations. Campus life offers a wide range of activities for students from intramural and intercollegiate sports, to area events and activities.
Students for the Exploration and Development of Space is a student-run organization that allows members to meet regularly to discuss space news and activism. They also take part in networking to allow them to make the connections to secure planetary science internships and careers after college.
The Student Astronomical Society is another organization that focuses on space; these students peer through high-tech telescopes from around the world and beyond. Utilizing telescopes from Florida Tech and across the globe, they can observe fascinating cosmic events and phenomena.
The planetary science major is designed to meet the needs of students intending to pursue graduate education in planetary science or careers in aerospace and space science-related industries. The emphasis in the curriculum for the planetary science major is on achieving a broad yet rigorous education in the basic physical and mathematical sciences as a foundation for successful entry into any of the many subfields of modern space science activity.
Fall (16 credit hours)
CHM 1101 General Chemistry 1
COM 1101 Composition and Rhetoric
FYE 1000 University Experience
MTH 1001 Calculus 1 * or MTH 1010 Honors Calculus 1
PHY 1050 Physics and Space Science Seminar
SPS 1020 Introduction to Space Sciences *
Spring (16 credit hours)
CHM 1102 General Chemistry 2
COM 1102 Writing About Literature
MTH 1002 Calculus 2 or MTH 1020 Honors Calculus 2
PHY 1001 Physics 1
PHY 2091 Physics Laboratory 1
Fall (15 credit hours)
MTH 2001 Calculus 3 or MTH 2010 Honors Calculus 3
PHY 2002 Physics 2
PHY 2092 Physics Laboratory 2
Restricted Elective (CSE 15xx) Credit Hours: 3
Select first HUM Core Course:
HUM 2051 Civilization 1: Ancient Through Medieval
HUM 2141 World Art History 1: Pre-History to Early Global Awareness
HUM 2211 British Literature and Culture
HUM 2212 British and American Literature 1
HUM 2331 American History: Pre-Columbian to Civil War Era
HUM 2551 Survey of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy
Spring (16 credit hours)
COM 2223 Scientific and Technical Communication
MTH 2201 Differential Equations/Linear Algebra or MTH 3200 Honors Differential Equations
PHY 2003 Modern Physics
SPS 2010 Observational Astronomy
Select second HUM Core Course:
HUM 2052 Civilization 2: Renaissance Through Modern
HUM 2142 World Art History 2: Early Modern to Post-Colonial
HUM 2212 British and American Literature 1 (may not be repeated for credit)
HUM 2213 British and American Literature 2
HUM 2332 American History: From Reconstruction to the Present
HUM 2552 Survey of Modern and Contemporary Philosophy
Fall (17 credit hours)
MET 4233 Remote Sensing for Meteorology or OCN 4704 Remote Sensing for Oceanography
MTH 3210 Introduction to Partial Differential Equations and Applications
PHY 3011 Physical Mechanics
PHY 3060 Thermodynamics, Kinetic Theory and Statistical Mechanics
SPS 3010 Geophysics or SPS 4045 Physics and Chemistry of Planet Formation **
Spring (17 credit hours)
PHY 3035 Quantum Mechanics
PHY 3152 Electronic Measurement Techniques
PHY 3440 Electromagnetic Theory
SPS 3030 Orbital Mechanics
SPS 4025 Introduction to Space Plasma Physics or SPS 4035 Comparative Planetology**
Fall (17 credit hours)
PHY 4020 Optics
PHY 4021 Experiments in Optics
SPS 3010 Geophysics ** or SPS 4045 Physics and Chemistry of Planet Formation
SPS 4010 Astrophysics 1: Introduction to Stellar Structure and Evolution
SPS 4200 Senior Seminar 1 (Q)
Humanities Elective (HU) 3000-level or higher recommended Credit Hours: 3
Technical Elective or Undergraduate Research Credit Hours: 3
Spring (15 credit hours)
SPS 4025 Introduction to Space Plasma Physics or SPS 4035 Comparative Planetology **
SPS 4030 Physics of the Atmosphere
SPS 4110 Senior Laboratory
SPS 4210 Senior Seminar 2 (Q)
Social Science Elective Credit Hours: 3
Technical Elective or Undergraduate Research Credit Hours: 3
Total Credits Required: 129
*Students should register for SPS 1020 Introduction to Space Sciences. If a student places into MTH 1002 Calculus 2 or MTH 1020 Honors Calculus 2, they are encouraged to take PHY 1001 Physics 1 in the first semester and SPS 1020 Introduction to Space Sciences later in the program.
**Courses taught on an alternate year basis.
Whether you want to study the effects of solar activity, examine the properties of planetary bodies in our solar system, or unlock the mysteries of planets around other stars, a space science degree from Florida Tech sets you up for a wide array of planetary science jobs.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), provides information about specific jobs including median annual pay, working conditions, and job outlook, among other things. The outlook for planetary science careers can be studied by looking at both Earth Science and Space Science industries. According to the Bureau, jobs in space and atmospheric science are expected to increase by 11% through 2020, as fast as the average for all occupations. This growth is expected in both the government at national laboratories and the private sector as weather forecasting and space travel continue to become more sophisticated.
Planetary science jobs can be found at the government level and in education, with many jobs now held at universities. This sector is also expected to grow due to increasing attendance at postsecondary institutions.