Like many scientific technicians, astronomical technicians play an integral role in helping scientists perform successful research projects. They give astronomers all the technical support they need, ranging from setting up telescopes in observatories to recording instrumentation readings. With superb technical skills and a degree in astronomy, this job could be yours.
What Do Astronomical Technicians Do?
The general duties of astronomical technicians include:
- Setting up equipment such as telescopes and refractors in observatories, planetariums and other research sites
- Documenting the results of an astronomy science project and compiling reports on behalf of the astronomers
- Maintaining the equipment and taking those with complex malfunctions to specialists for repairing
- Demonstrating how astronomy instruments are used to students in colleges and universities
- Preparing planetarium shows and guiding students on how to give effective shows
- Keeping an inventory of astronomical equipment and supplies.
Astronomical technicians typically work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. However, since astronomers observe terrestrial or celestial events at night, aspiring technicians must be prepared to occasionally work beyond 5pm and late into the night.
Although they compile reports in their offices, astronomical technicians spend most of their time in laboratories, planetariums and observatories providing technical help.
The average annual salary for astronomical technicians is:
Average Annual Salary
To qualify for employment as an astronomical technician, you must be have a bachelor’s degree in astronomy. The program will enhance your understanding of the universe – just what you require to successfully perform the duties of an astronomical technician.
Some of the popular universities offering this degree include:
- University of Texas at Austin, Texas
- University of Hawaii at Hilo, Hawaii
- University of Kansas, Kansas
If you’re unable to secure an admission into an astronomy program, it is also possible to enter the profession through a related field such as:
Individuals with an associate degree in astronomy or a closely related field can also be hired as astronomical technicians, as long as they possess some experience maintaining or repairing astronomical equipment.
To be a competent and effective astronomical technician you should have:
- Strong technical and practical skills
- Strong analytical and problem-solving skills
- Physical stamina
- An interest in science
- Good teamwork skills
- Good speaking and report writing skills
- IT proficiency
- Multitasking skills
- A high level of attention to detail
- The ability to follow instructions closely
As an astronomical technician, you have a solid foundation to advance and become an astronomer. To reach this position, you must be willing to spend several years in graduate schools. So, how do you proceed?
- Earn a master’s degree in astronomy – Apart from enabling you to pursue a doctoral degree, you can also be hired as a science teacher in high schools and junior colleges
- Complete a doctoral degree in astronomy – With this credential, you are a qualified astronomer. You can engage in science research projects or become a higher education lecturer.
You can also join the American Astronomical Society to engage with other astronomers and gain access to seminars and industry conferences.
As a qualified astronomical technician you could be hired by:
- Independent research centers
- Colleges and universities
- Science agencies, such as NASA
If you don’t wish to pursue advanced degrees and become an astronomer, you could be promoted to a supervisory position, where you will be in charge of other technicians.
What are your chances of finding work after obtaining the required qualifications? Well, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be 61,950 new jobs for physical, life and social science technicians within the next 8 years. This is a good number, meaning employers will be looking to fill this position. However, as you move ahead, you can expect to face strong competition for permanent research positions.
However, if you are passionate about astronomy and are good with your hands then this might well be the career for you.