Astronomy Bookshelf

Astrophysics Student Employment

Lower Division Majors

Because of the extensive preparatory courses that fill the first two years, freshmen and sophomores are generally not hired by the Institute for Astrophysics for teaching and research positions. The University does, however, have a considerable number of on-campus jobs. Students who need to work are encouraged to find on-campus employment. This greatly increases the time students have to study and work on their courses with fellow physics and astrophysics majors on campus.

The number of hours a student works each week can have a strong impact on their academic performance. A general guideline that has been well established over the past several years is as follows:

5-10 hours per week
will not adversely affect academic performance. In fact, 10 or less hours of work per week will likely benefit your academic career. This is particularly true if the job is on campus and related to the chosen major.
10-20 hours per week
will place a measurable strain on your studies. Take at least 4 fewer credits (3 instead of 4 classes) per term if you work more than 10 hours per week.
Over 20 hours per week
is a prescription for disaster. It is impossible to take a full academic load and work more than 20 hours per week. Although reducing the course load will relieve some pressure, it will still be very difficult to meet the academic demands of the Astrophysics major. It will also extend your tenure at the University to an excessive length of time.

Upper Division Majors

Most upper division Astrophysics majors, in particular those doing well in their course work, can find employment within the Institute. A typical work load is 10 hours per week. The most common options are:


UROP: (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program) is a source of funds for the support of upper division majors in CSE engaged in research within an academic department. Astrophysics majors have been very successful in the past at obtaining UROP funds. Applications are solicited twice a year. Check the Undergraduate Bulletin Board outside room 355 or check with the DUGS for information. The student is responsible for initiating the UROP application process. A quick guideline is as follows:

  • Decide to apply for a UROP. Contact the faculty member you want to work with and discuss the prospects.
  • Get an application and in consultation with the faculty member, develop the proposal for the research. Faculty input is important at this point to develop a polished proposal.
  • Settle on a budget, preferably with an equal match from the faculty member's research grant.
  • Send in the application.


Faculty often directly hire undergraduates to work with them on their research. This is particularly true during summer months. Consult with individual faculty. Keep in mind that some of the faculty are engaged in very exciting research, but are not always around the Institute offices. Seek them out if you are interested in their research. This is particularly true for an interest in Computational Astrophysics.

Teaching Assistant

The Department usually hires several upper division majors to work as teaching assistants in our introductory courses. This work falls into several areas.

Supervising Labs for Ast 1001
The duty of the TA is to introduce the the Lab topic at the beginning of the time period, monitor the progress of the students during the hour and provide help when necessary, and grade the work they hand in.
Various grading assignments from 1000 level courses to Ast 2001.
Curriculum Development
Occasionally upper division majors are hired to assist in the development of a lab, an active learning session, or similar tasks.

Contact Information

MN Institute for Astrophysics

University of Minnesota
John T. Tate Hall, 116 Church St. SE, Minneapolis, MN, 55455

P: (612) 624-4811