Astronomers are scientists who research the behavior, composition, and origins of regions and objects beyond the earth, including near and distant planets, stars and galaxies, and astronomical phenomena such as neutron stars and black holes. They utilize both ground and space-based equipment in their research, including telescopes and the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as mathematical and computer models. Some of the general job responsibilities of astronomers include:
- Planning and conducting research and experiments to learn more about astronomical phenomena
- Using mathematical and computer models to analyze physical and astronomical data
- Applying the results of astronomical research to solve practical problems
- Presenting research results to colleagues and the general public
Continued federal funding for astronomy research is stimulating the demand for astronomers at colleges and universities and national laboratories. The BLS reports that employment of astronomers is expected to increase 11% from 2010 to 2020. Colleges, universities, and professional schools will continue to offer astronomers the most opportunities for employment.Read More
Job Growth for
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Becoming an Astronomer
Astronomers need a Ph.D. for most research positions. Earning a bachelor's degree in astronomy or physics can prepare you for a master's and doctoral program in astronomy. Given the nature of the field, the required lab work, and necessary access to sophisticated equipment such as telescopes, there are few, if any, accredited bachelor degree programs in astronomy or astrophysics.
Students should look for a bachelor's degree program that provides opportunities for professional research, as this is something potential employers will want to see as a part of a candidate's resume. Some typical classes one may take in a bachelor's of science in astronomy or astrophysics degree program include:
- Introduction to Space Sciences
- Scientific and Technical Communication
- Thermodynamics, Kinetic Theory and Statistical Mechanics
Astronomers with a Ph.D. begin a professional career with short term jobs called "postdocs" that typically last two years. During each postdoc, they continue doing research and publishing papers in order to establish a reputation in their field. After several postdoctoral appointments, an astronomer can advance to a faculty position at a college or university or a position at a research institution.