What Do Astronomers Do?
Astronomy is the study of celestial objects, meaning stars, planets and other things in space. So, an astronomer is someone who studies these things. Much of the job will be researching and learning more about space and the objects in it. The goal is to use the knowledge gained to find solutions to problems and enhance life as we know it. There is expected to be a 10% growth of jobs in this field, which is average. An increase in federal funding for research is expected to create some jobs, but competition for jobs is going to stay strong.
Astronomers Skills and Abilities
Since astronomy is a science, you need to be very scientifically minded. You also need to have strong skills and knowledge in physics and mathematics. You are going to be completing a lot of research, which also requires you to be able to conclude your findings and present them to others, so a good grasp of English is required. Sometimes you may be required to teach about your findings, so the ability to teach others and design curriculum is important. Finally, you want to have excellent computer skills because you may be designing programs and applications to use during your research.
A large part of your job is going to be spent doing research by studying the sky using telescopes and other high powered instruments that allow you to see beyond our earthly boundaries. However, another large portion of your time is going to involve analyzing your findings and trying to determine what, if anything, it means to life on Earth. This naturally leads into other duties, like developing theories, collaborating with other astronomers and scientists and presenting your findings either through written pieces or lectures.You may also be required to raise funds for your research or for your employer, which may include writing grants or giving presentations. To help further your research or improve your methods, you may have to develop instruments or software. To help out the community, you may review the work of others and serve on committees.
Astronomers Tools and Technology
Much of your work is going to involve using computers and computer programs. You’ll also need to use telescopes and other tools that will allow you to see into space, such as interferometers and spectrographs. Working with such instruments is critical to completing job assignments, so it is very important that you understand and know how to work with all of them.
Education and Training for Astronomers
To become an astronomer, you will need a doctorate degree in astronomy or a related scientific field. Typically, you will need to choose a specialization or sub-field to focus on. You may be able to find positions with only a master’s degree in physics, but for full research positions, a doctorate degree is required. Typically, entry-level positions will last for a few years and require that you work under supervision. After this initial period, you can then start working on your own.
There is huge earning potential in this profession. The top 10% earn around $162,600 a year. The bottom 10% isn’t doing so bad either with earnings around $52,200. The median salary is $105,400. So, even though this career requires a lot of education, it is quite worth it in the end with such high earning potential.
Astronomers Jobs by Geography
The best place to find a job as an astronomer is is the state of Maryland. It is by far offering the highest level of employment with California coming in a distant second. The best place to find jobs is with universities and colleges. However, employment may also be found with the government and private companies. It is important to note that this is a small field with only about 6,000 people identifying and working as astronomers, and there are usually only a few openings each year, so getting a job in this field is highly competitive.