Job description

Astronomers are scientists who try to understand how the universe functions. They study planets and the Sun in our solar system, but they also research other solar systems, moons, galaxies, stars, comets, other celestial bodies and the entire universe.

Duties

    • Observe, study and analyse the nature of all celestial matter in the universe
    • Record findings of research and observations performed regarding these entities
    • Collect data from the research using observatories and satellites
    • Assess and evaluate this data and complete reports that outline conclusions
    • Coordinate and cooperate with team members and other agencies on satellite communications
    • Create solutions to space flights navigational systems
    • Write computer programs and models to assist their work
    • Perform tests on these computer programs and models to ensure efficacy
    • Attend industry conferences, meetings and seminars to discuss astronomical discoveries
    • Participate in guest lectures on all things space at colleges and universities

Skills, qualities and knowledge

Patience
Attention to detail
Communication
Concentration
Problem-solving
Decision-making
Methodological
Analytical-oriented

Working hours and environment

Average working hours

40hweek

Typical schedule

Full Time

Night-time working every common

Most astronomers maintain typical 40-hour work schedules rather than sitting inside observatories peering through a telescope all night long. While it does vary on a specific project they might be working on, astronomers usually work in national observatories, laboratories, university offices or at organisations such as aerospace companies and science museums.

Many astronomers will travel across the nation or outside the country to engage with other astronomers, deliver lectures or participate in a research project, which oftentimes requires sitting outside at night and gazing at the stars.

Salary

Bottom 10%

$57k

Median

$110k

Top 10%

$170k

Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.

Qualifications and training

Education level

Postgraduate

DVM / VMD degree

Study time

5–7years

To become an astronomer, you must complete your bachelor’s degree in astronomy or a related subjected at an accredited university or college, which takes four years to finish. If you wish to further pursue this field, then you can commence your PhD., which takes up to seven years to complete.

Once you receive your PhD, you can apply for a postdoctoral research position, which takes three years to finish. During this time, you will be working with senior astronomers on a diverse array of projects – you might even collaborate with astronomers who are employed by the federal government and have security clearance.

Job outlook

Projected growth
The projected growth rate of employment in the US from 2016 to 2026, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme. The national average growth rate for all professions is 7%.

10%

No of new jobs
The number of jobs projected to become available in the US between 2016 and 2026, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme.

200

Automation risk
The probability of computerisation, based on data published in ‘The Future of Employment’, a 2013 working paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne.

4%

Career progression

Many astronomers will first work at a college or university as a researcher or teaching assistant. With enough experience, they will find employment at government departments, national observatories, museums, other postsecondary institutions, and private businesses that specialise in aerospace.