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Astronomy As A Career Path

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When you look up into the night sky you can spot thousands of stars, the moon and maybe other planets like Mars and Venus. This is the working place for astronomers and astrophysicists. Their job is it to solve the secrets of the universe, collect information and try to answer important questions (Department of Astronomy University of VIrginia) like “ Where do we come from?” and they try to find out the concept of the universe. But many people are often also very critical about this field of science because nearly everything is based on theories. This paper is about careers in astronomy and what do you have to do to find a way in this very small field.

For astronomers the Universe is the laboratory. Astronomy is a science that seeks to explain everything that humans observe in the Universe, from comets and planets in our own solar system to distant galaxies to the echoes of the Big Bang. Professional astronomers are motivated by curiosity and a deep desire to understand some of the grandest and most beautiful phenomena in the universe, as well as a desire to share these wonders with others. By studying the cosmos beyond our own planet, we can understand where we come from, where we are going and how physics works under conditions which are impossible to recreate on Earth.

When you want to study astronomy/ become an astronomer you have to have a very good science knowledge. That includes math, physics, chemistry and environmental science. That’s why many colleges are offering courses even before the semester started to get on that required level. And of course astronomers do not just use telescopes in their studies of the universe. In recent years powerful supercomputers have been employed. That’s why you have to have good coding skills and you should like working with a computer. Python is probably the most versatile coding language right now (Berkeley University of California).So you should start learning those coding languages early. Also astronomers must apply equal measures of analytic thinking and imagination, logic and intuition to answer the most fundamental questions about the cosmos: What are stars and planets? How did they evolve? Why does the night sky look the way it does? Does life exist among the stars? How did the universe get here? How will it end? If astronomy seems a rigorous science, it is because the objective of astronomers is nothing less than to understand the nature of the universe. It takes a special person to pursue this objective. One who likes to challenge and be challenged.

The decisions that you made in high school can have a big effect on your career as an astronomer. Generally students who take mathematics or science courses after the tenth grade have the best chances of successfully pursuing a science or engineering career. Most colleges require at least one year of high school science and two years of high school mathematics. This minimum background is not enough for students planning to major in science. A better approach is to complete math through pre-calculus in high school. This gives students who plan to major in astronomy or physics the necessary grounding in mathematics needed to start their science courses as soon as they begin college. Both chemistry and physics courses are also strongly recommended in high school as adequate preparation for the first years of college. Many entering students have taken advanced placement calculus and physics, though these courses are not required, but they can help you a lot. Students should also get involved in high school science groups, state junior academies of science and local amateur astronomy clubs. There are a lot of such organizations in the United States.

After you have graduated from High School you have to find a good college. But because of the fact that astronomy and astrophysics is such a small field, you will probably go to college far from home, because there are not many options where you can study. You could go for example to the University of Virginia. This is a college and graduate school of arts and science and they have a big department of astronomy. According to the UVA they are “ world leader in innovative and cutting edge science” and with their over fifteen full time faculty, they have one of the largest departments in Southeast. Other options are the Northern Arizona University where you can do your Bachelor of Science in astronomy and physics and it will take you four years. The Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of Hawaii Hilo are also good places to study astronomy.

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Most astronomy positions require a PhD degree, which can take five or six years of graduate work. This path enables the astronomer to do much independent work, which is what makes astronomy enjoyable: finding a problem and finding a way to solve it. Admission to graduate school generally requires completing an undergraduate physics or astronomy/physics major with a B average or better and satisfactory performance on the Graduate Record Exam. Once admitted, the astronomy graduate students take advanced courses in astronomy and astrophysics while beginning to undertake some research. The specific courses depend on the requirements of the department and the student’s research interests. After the first two years of course work, the graduate program generally requires research projects to be conducted under the supervision of faculty members, culminating in a PhD dissertation.

Astronomers work in many different positions. Those who do concentrate on astronomy typically find themselves employed as faculty or researchers at universities, observatories and government labs. Although most astronomers have advanced degrees, people with an undergraduate major in astronomy or physics can find jobs in support positions at national observatories, national laboratories, federal agencies and sometimes in large astronomy departments at universities. But you can work also in planetariums, science museums or in other public service positions to provide an important information link between the world of professional astronomy and the general public. Just about ten percent of all astronomers work in business or private industry. Astronomy is a small field but very popular. Only those with a strong education, ability and deep passion for the subject are likely to find a permanent position.

In the field of astronomy is a small turnover of positions each year and therefore strong competition for positions. Because it is so hard to get a job, many people are leaving this field. But that should not be a problem because astronomers have much knowledge in many areas. So there are many alternatives for example scientific and educational publishing, software development, consulting (at aerospace, software and other technical oriented firms), scientific translation (translation of scientific or technical texts, according to your area of expertise), engineering (engineering services at government or private sector) and much more (Careers for Astronomers).

There are different kinds of astronomers. Observational astronomers might look for new planets, try to understand stars, galaxies, black holes and other phenomena or try to map the entire sky (International Astronomical Union). There is also cosmology and this is a branch of astronomy that involves the origin and evolution of the universe, from the Big Bang to today and on into the future. According to NASA, the definition of cosmology is “the scientific study of the large scale properties of the universe as a whole.” Astrophysics is a branch of space science that applies the laws of physics and chemistry to explain the birth, life and death of stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae and other objects in the universe. These are the three biggest and most popular fields but there are also much more smaller and specific fields in astronomy. But you can not study most of them. Most of the time students study astronomy in general and they also have courses in more specific fields that they are maybe interested in or they find their field later when they already have a job. But you can also stuck with astronomy in general.

Astronomers have a very important job and it helps us to understand things. But the job is not necessary for our lives and it doesn’t helps us in our daily lives and because of that there aren’t many job offerings and a lot of help have to change their career into a different field. And not everybody can become an astronomer because you have to be very talented in science and you have to be able to understand things fast and easy. But for those people who are able to do that and who are really interested in that topic they should really try it out. Because you have so much freedom as a professor or a researcher in a university and you can work on things and questions that you are interested in and that you are passionate about. And maybe you find the answer of one of those questions or answers. And when you work in a planetarium or as an astronomer teacher you have the joy to fascinate other people with the characteristics of the universe. But if you are not passionate about astronomy you will probably not have a chance.

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Astronomy As A Career Path. (2022, February 24). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from
“Astronomy As A Career Path.” Edubirdie, 24 Feb. 2022,
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