7 Career Paths for Astronomy Students

By Bridgette Hernandez

Astronomy is a career choice of people who have a passion for it. However, it is not a typical career direction. What some astronomy students fear is will they be able to find a job in their field of expertise. Another career aspect that can puzzle them is what they can do with a degree in astronomy.

Astronomers may not be as numerous as economists for example, but there are different career paths they can follow. If you are wondering where astronomy majors can take you in the future, here are a few career paths you can consider.

1. Science Museums

Science museums provide a link between the general public and astronomy. Therefore, astronomers that work in science museums are dedicated to present astronomy to the audience. Aside from the broad knowledge of astronomy, this job position requires an ability to communicate effectively and clearly. The relationship with the public is a very important aspect.

Even though most astronomers who work in this field do have advanced degrees, it is not a necessity. If you have an undergraduate major in astronomy, for example, you can find a job in support positions.

2. College or University Professor

Teaching is a rewarding job and working as a college or university professor is one of the most popular choices for astronomers. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) claims that around 55% of professional astronomers decide to work as faculty members at universities and colleges. This position doesn’t just require teaching but research and scientific projects as well.

To pursue this career path you need a Ph.D. and recommendations. In addition to working as a professor in astronomy departments, you can also teach in physics departments. Because of your training, you can cover different courses and be a part of different departments. You might also have an opportunity to teach both astronomy and physics courses.

Carole Haswell, a Professor of Astrophysics, Head of Astronomy and Exoplanet investigator at the Open University explained for writes UK’s Royal Astronomical Society why she loves her job, “Watching and giving presentations on new research results. Helping students succeed, and occasionally feeling I’ve made a difference. Being able to hold up a candle for rationality. Being paid to read and write and to think about beautiful astronomical images and possible new space missions.”

3. Private Companies

The private sector might offer less secure employment, but it offers higher diversity as well as higher compensation. Astronomers that don’t have Ph.Ds. will have more options in the private industries. When you think about private companies who need astronomers your first guess is probably Aerospace companies. The aerospace field needs astronomers to stay ahead of the competition through extensive research. Spaceflight companies can also require astronomers. Besides them, you can also find a job in consulting firms.

A job in consulting firms can demand data processing, management positions, designing and manufacturing scientific equipment, writing software, and others. Working in a private sector can give you more challenging opportunities and a chance for professional growth. That can be a compromise for a lack of job stability.

4. Government Laboratories

Some professional astronomers find employment in government laboratories or federally supported laboratories. These government agencies can be the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the US. Naval Observatory, the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), etc. General requirements include a Ph.D. in astronomy or physics and sometimes a specialized field of engineering.

Governmental agencies can give astronomers time to devote to the research of personal interests, however, their research tasks are usually closely defined by the agency. Employers usually have specific goals and objectives that the employees need to complete so astronomers have to adapt their work to the agency’s interests.

5. Science Writing

Be a part of research teams and take on the role of the writer. If you don’t mind spending your time writing about what you love, science writing may be just for you. The styles of writing you can engage in are:

  • Research proposals
  • Professional journal manuscripts
  • Topical reviews
  • Critiques
  • Articles for Astronomy

Besides transmitting facts, as a science writer, you have to be able to compose a well-woven and convincing story. Anthony Pierce, a science writer at BestEssaysEducation, shared his experience, “I got into science writing when I was an astrology student. I started writing college essays in the fields of physics and astronomy and it led me to a career as a science writer. Now, I contribute astronomy-related articles to different scientific magazines and writing services.”

6. Observatory Scientist

Observatories can be the place that evoked your love for astronomy. If you have dreamed of working in one of those incredible places you can achieve that. As an observatory scientist, you would enhance the scientific productivity of the observatory. You’ll do that through collaboration with guest observers, developing observing projects, and helping in achieving their goals.

Communication skill is a benefit for this position since you’ll:

  • Present scientific results at conferences and workshops
  • Handle communication with guest observers
  • Resolve any issues that occur between the observations performance and publication of results.

This job can be truly thrilling, dynamic, and exciting. If this is what you look for in a career, an observatory scientist can a great choice for you.

7. Scientific Computing

Computer science and Astronomy is a combination that promises numerous employment options. The rise in digitalization is what demands a high need for computer science experts. When you add training in astronomy to that, you’ll get a new perspective in interdisciplinary work.

You’ll be able to use computational expertise and problem-solving skills to uncover the mysteries of the universe. Some astronomy departments offer this combination while in others you might need to seek some computing courses on your own.

Final Thoughts

Astronomy is an exciting field and contrary to popular opinions, it does offer a variety of career paths. You might not be able to recognize your ideal job at first, but knowing what awaits you can be a huge relief.

Some students know right away what they want to do when they graduate while others tend to experiment with different jobs until they find the right fit. Either way, what’s important is that you work in the field that you love.

Bridgette Hernandez is a Master in Anthropology and a freelance writer. She found her purpose in writing as it gives her an opportunity to exchange ideas and share her knowledge with others. Currently, she is working as a contributor writer at GrabMyEssay and TrustMyPaper. She also does some editing at ClassyEssay, and SupremeDissertations. Bridgette likes to expand her fields of expertise by attending international conferences and taking courses on different subjects. In her free time, she volunteers at a local animal rescue.