Astronomers use optical telescopes and other specialized pieces of equipment to collect information about space. If you have a passion for science, and you want to know more about what lies in space, then this could be the career for you.
1. What Do Astronomers Do?
Their duties include:
- Using both ground-based and space-borne equipment to make observations about space
- Determining the sizes, shapes, colors, brightness and motions of various celestial bodies
- Writing grant proposals to secure funding for research projects
- Developing astronomy theories – For instance, they can study the planet Jupiter and form a theory of its formations
- Predicting changes in outer space – They know the exact time eclipses are going to occur
- Compiling reports detailing their observations and making presentations in science seminars
- Supervising astronomy technicians
Astronomy is a wide field, so astronomers specialize in either observational astronomy or theoretical astronomy.
2. Work Environment
While theoretical astronomers have regular, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday schedules, observational astronomers work long and irregular hours, because they have to make observations in the wee hours of the morning, during the day or even late into the night.
Theoretical astronomers typically spend their days in an office or lab environment, and observational astronomers – as you can guess—largely work outdoors.
According to the National Careers Service, beginning astronomers earn between £13,000 and £14,000 annually, while established astronomers earn up to £36,000.
Senior astronomers make up to £60,000.
4. Entry Requirements
The first step to becoming an astronomer is to earn a bachelor’s degree in astronomy, astrophysics, space science, math or physics. Some of the universities offering suitable undergraduate degrees include:
- University of Kent, Kent
- University of Nottingham, Nottingham.
With a bachelor’s, you are be able to find employment as an astronomy technician.
The next step is to pursue a master’s degree, like the one offered at the University of Sussex. At the graduate level, you will gain an in-depth understanding of astronomical concepts, as well as develop independent research skills. A master’s degree can help you secure employment as an astronomer’s assistant.
Finally, pursue a PhD in astronomy to ready yourself for employment as an astronomer. Some of the best universities for a doctorate in astronomy include:
- University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield
- University of Nottingham, Nottingham.
5. Important Qualities
To be a competent astronomer, you need:
- Excellent observation skills
- A love for science
- Strong research skills
- Strong analytical skills
- Strong practical and technical skills
- Strong computer skills
- A keen attention to detail
- Good teamwork skills
- Good project management skills
- Good report-writing and presentation skills.
6. Career Advancement
After getting hired as an astronomer, undertake the following activities to improve your professionalism, competence and career progression prospects:
- Secure membership in the Royal Astronomical Society and British Astronomical Association to access research publications and training workshops
- Attend conferences and seminars organized by other associations, such as the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
Besides, you should also focus on publishing your observations in the platforms provided by these associations. This will help you grow your professional reputation.
7. Job Opportunities
The employers of astronomers include:
- Research facilities
- Private observatories
- UK Space Agency
- Space museums
With experience, you can advance to become the manager of an astronomical research facility. If you are also passionate about teaching others, then you can move into academia and become an astronomy professor in universities.
See Also: How to Become an Astronomer in the US
Lastly, the National Careers Service forecasts that there will about 175,000 new jobs for science and engineering professionals between 2015 and 2020.
So if you are crazy about science and space, astronomy is one of the best careers that can cure you!