When it comes to careers, it doesn’t get any more exciting than astronomy. Who wouldn’t want to spend the bulk of their professional life studying the birth of stars and planets? Not to mention uncovering the mysteries of the universe such as the absorption of material by black holes and the evolution of galaxies!
Did you know the study of astronomy is the oldest of natural sciences? It also happens to be the only science in which you can observe physics at work throughout the universe and yet not physically be able to touch anything you are studying.
Those students who obtain a degree in astronomy will often go on to fulfilling careers as educators and researchers, or a combination of the two. Many professional astronomers will decide to work for the government, industry, observatories, museums, and more.
If you like the idea of having your head in the stars and getting paid to unravel the universe’s greatest mysteries, then a career in astronomy is calling!
What is An Astronomer?
Astronomers are scientists that study the planets, stars and galaxies above us. Much time is devoted to understanding how our sun and solar system were created and what will happen to them as they age.
On any given day an astronomer will analyze data, write research papers, or create computer programs that allow a more effective search for the data they have collected. Astronomers also get to use a lot of fun, technical equipment such as telescopes, spectrographs, cameras and yes, even spacecraft.
As with other scientific careers, there are different fields of astronomy and most students will decide to focus on only one. Some examples of specialized areas of study are solar astronomy, planetary astronomy, stellar astronomy, galactic astronomy, extragalactic astronomy, and cosmology.
Since astronomy can also be linked to other branches of science, as it can be applied to biology, geology and physics, it can then also be divided into the subfields of astrophysics, astrometry, astrogeology, and astrobiology.
Demand for Astronomers and Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median wage for astronomers in May 2018 was $105,680. The lowest 10% earned less than $57,490, and the highest 10% earned more than $165,770. Annual salary is dependent on location, hours worked, and degrees obtained.
The BLS also projects 9% growth of employment for astronomers between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the average for all other occupations. This growth is in part thanks to an uptick in Federal spending for astronomy-related research.
Competition for certain positions, especially permanent research appointments at colleges and universities, is expected to be strong. The higher degree obtained, the more likely candidates will be able to land a lucrative job.
How to Become an Astronomer
If you’re ready to get started on one of the most exciting careers, here are the steps you’ll need to take:
Step 1. Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree
You’ll need to start your journey by earning a bachelor’s of science degree with a focus on astronomy or physics. You may also be interested in a degree specialization in astrophysics, which is a combination of astronomy and physics.
Step 2. (optional) Earn Your Master’s Degree
Depending on which specialty you want to go into, some employers may require you obtain a Master’s Degree in the physics/astronomy field. In these additional two years you will focus on specialized courses, research opportunities and will write your master’s thesis that explores your preferred topic.
Step 3. (optional) Earn Your Doctorate Degree & Ph.D. Dissertation
If you believe you will eventually want to teach astronomy at a college or university, then you will need to complete a Ph.D. in a specific area of astronomy such as radio, solar, cosmos, or galactic astronomy. Your studies will include internships and fellowships that will give you invaluable experience in the field.
Step 4. (optional) Your Postdoctoral Fellowship
If you really want to be a competitive job candidate, then you need to see your higher education all the way through. Once you’ve earned your Ph.D. you will be able to qualify for university research positions. Now’s the time to gain experience in the profession and focus on your area of expertise. Sometimes these fellowships can lead to fulltime positions, often in academia as a professor of astronomy.
Getting Started on Your Astronomy Career
With the first step being obtaining a bachelor’s degree, here are a few additional resources to check out to get started on your path to becoming an astronomer:
- Why Online Education Might Be Best- If you’re like a lot of working adults, you don’t have a lot of free time or extra money to put toward your higher education. An online degree offers flexible scheduling for adult students who have other work/life commitments. This means, even if you’re a parent that also works full-time, an online program can work around your schedule to help you reach your dream career.
- Salary and Other Career Data for Astronomers-
- How OnlineDegree.com Can Help-To make college a reality for everyone, we provide free courses that could apply toward your degree, tuition discounts at universities across the country, and much needed guidance. All free.
If you’re ready to get started toward becoming an astronomer, enroll with us today!