How To Become An Astronomer

astronomy is the scientific study of all extraterrestrial objects and phenomena. up to the 17th century, astronomy primarily focused on predicting the positions of the sun, moon, and planets. present day astronomy focuses on the study of distant galaxies, the stars that make up the milky way galaxy, and the solar system.

what do astronomers do?
an astronomer may perform the following during the course of his/her professional life:

  • present research papers and findings at lectures and scientific conferences.
  • write scholarly scientific papers for journals.
  • write proposals and apply for research grants.
  • develop computer software to analyze data.
  • design lasers, telescopes, and other scientific equipment.
  • find new planets in distant solar systems by doing complex mathematical calculations to analyze astronomical and physical data.

how to become an astronomer
most astronomers hold a ph.d. degree in astronomy. the degree program may take 5 to 7 years to complete in addition to earning an undergraduate degree. in the beginning, new graduates are hired for temporary postdoctoral research positions for a period of 2 to 3 years. they may work under the supervision of more experienced astronomers while specializing in a particular area of their interest. with time, they may get more responsibility to carry out complex tasks independently.

who hires astronomers?
the us bureau of labor statistics (bls) reports that the majority of astronomers work for schools, colleges, and universities. fewer work for the federal government. however, the us department of defense and the national aeronautics and space administration (nasa) remain the biggest employers of astronomers for the federal government. the rest may be hired by life sciences research and development companies. it is worth noting here that some federal government jobs in sensitive research areas may require applicants to hold a security clearance and us citizenship.

what makes a successful astronomer?
the following personal attributes and qualities have been found in successful astronomers:

  • critical-thinking skills
  • analytical skills
  • advanced mathematical skills
  • writing skills
  • speaking skills
  • problem-solving skills
  • interpersonal skills

job outlook
the bls predicts positive growth in the sector. between 2010 and  2020, jobs for astronomers are expected to grow by 14%, which is faster than the average for all other occupations. these statistics are heavily dependent upon the federal government's allocation for scientific research. if the federal government increases its budget for scientific research, job outlook for astronomers may get even better. the bls's 2010 statistics show that median salary that astronomers earned was in excess of $85,000 per year. however, those with exceptional credentials may earn more than $150,000 per year.

astronomy is an exciting career. those who make astronomy their lifelong passion are likely to excel in it. astronomers may work long and odd hours, especially at nights to observe eclipses and other phenomena. therefore, if you think you have what it takes to become a successful astronomer, then astronomy may be the right profession for you. it is certainly a profession of the future and the sky is not the limit.


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