COVID-19 Update: To help students through this crisis, The Princeton Review will extend our “Enroll with Confidence” refund policies to cover students who enroll on or after August 1st. For full details, please click here.

Overview

Think we’ll ever live—or even vacation—on the moon? Do you believe in that “face” on Mars or life on other planets? A major in planetary science will touch on these issues—and then take your studies much, much farther. Needless to say, you’ll distinguish the planets by their properties, sizes, and unique characteristics. You’ll learn how each was formed—from its surface to is interior to its inner core—and you’ll study the processes that continue to change them. You’ll compare and contrast the planets and study how the changes on one planet affect the others. And you’ll explore the universe’s physics, chemistry, and geology. Planetary atmospheres, satellites, orbital mechanics, asteroids and comets, and the very evolution of the solar system will give you and your colleagues a fair amount to ponder.

You’ll also address some pretty big questions throughout your planetary science major, such as Where did we come from and where are we going? What has happened to our planet over the past billions of years, and what will happen to it in the future? What will the effects be of our actions today? You’ll examine how our own planet fits into the solar system and how changes in the universe affect us. (Sort of bizarre to think about, isn’t it?) You’ll learn about the ways in which we’ve explored the solar system in the past and the advancements being made for further—and more elaborate—exploration. And when someone calls you a “space cadet,” you’ll start to lift your chin and stand proud.

Planetary science is an interdisciplinary major, and your studies will involve geology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, oceanography, and many other sciences.

SAMPLE CURRICULUM

  • Astronomy

  • Differential Calculus

  • Earth Materials

  • Earth Physics

  • Earth System History

  • Evolution of a Habitable World

  • Fluid Earth Processes

  • Geochemistry

  • Geophysics

  • Oceans and Atmospheres

  • Origin of the Universe

  • Physics

  • Planetary Physics

  • Science of Life Beyond Earth

  • Solar System Physics


HIGH SCHOOl PREPARATION

To prepare for a major in planetary science, take courses in physics, chemistry, biology, calculus, and any other challenging science and math courses your school offers. Be sure to take a selection of humanities courses as well, including English, history, and languages. A math and science background will be a big help once you begin your major.