How To Become An Astronomer

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How Long Does It Take, What Degree Do You Need, and More

Astronomers

Astronomers observe, research, and interpret astronomical phenomena to increase basic knowledge or apply such information to practical problems.

Salary
$126250
Becoming One
Very Hard
Education
Doctoral degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality
Interest Match




Table of contents
  1. Summary
  2. Steps to become one
  3. Popular degree levels
  4. How long does it take

Summary

Degree Doctoral degree
Degree field Astronomy, Physics, or Astrophysics
Duration to become one 10 years
Difficulty to become one Very Hard

An Astronomer is someone who studies the stars, the planets, and space using telescopes to gather information. There are five different fields in Astronomy, including Planetary Astronomy, Stellar Astronomy, Solar Astronomy, Galactic Astronomy, and Cosmology.

Astronomers need a Doctoral Degree to work in this field. You will first earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Astronomy, Physics, or Astrophysics. This is followed by a Master’s Degree in one of these specialties, and then you will specialize during your PhD program.


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Astronomers Requirements

Step 1: Take Science Classes in High School

While you are in high school, you can take classes to prepare you for college. You should focus on science and math classes, and you should take Astronomy if your high school has it available. Other helpful classes include computer science and computer applications. You also take probability and statistics. Make sure that you meet your high school requirements for graduation and participate in any extracurricular activities that will help to prepare you for college.

Step 2: Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

When you go to college, you will need to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Astronomy, Physics, or Astrophysics. You can also earn a degree in Mathematics. You will take courses in algebra, calculus, statistics, and sciences, such as physics, astrophysics, and astronomy. You will apply physics and mathematics courses to the study of galaxies, stars, planets, and the universe. Your studies explore the past, present, and future of these bodies, and you will gain a solid background in laboratory work along with a fundamental understanding of physics and math.

Step 3: Earn Your Master’s Degree

Next, you will earn your Master’s Degree in Astronomy, Physics, or Astrophysics. This program usually lasts around two years, and you will take more specialized courses and conduct research. The final step in the Master’s program is to write a thesis on a topic in this field.

If you decide to complete your education with a Master’s Degree, you will be able to get a job teaching at the middle or high school level. You can also get a job as a research assistant. If you know that you are going to move on to your PhD, you can often apply for a program where you earn your Master’s as part of your PhD program.

Step 4: Earn Your Doctorate Degree

When you earn your PhD in Astronomy, you will choose a specific area to study. You can choose between Planetary Astronomy, Stellar Astronomy, Solar Astronomy, Galactic Astronomy, and Cosmology. The PhD takes three years beyond your Master’s, and you will be able to learn everything you need for success as an Astronomer. You will do internships, and you will write a dissertation. After you defend your dissertation, you will take exams to earn your PhD.

Step 5: One Year Postdoctoral Fellowship

Once you earn your PhD, you will be able to spend one year in a Postdoctoral Fellowship where you can gain experience in a university research position. This will give you an opportunity to focus on your area of expertise. This can also help you get a full-time position in a University.

Step 6: Apply for a Job

As an Astronomer, you have different job options. You can become a professor and researcher at a University. Many Astronomers choose this career option. Another choice is to apply for a position at an observatory. Observatories normally need a resident Astronomer, and you will curate astronomy exhibits and write books or papers on various topics in your field.

You can also choose to apply for a job in the aerospace or computer science field. You can also get a job working with a space agency such as NASA. This provides opportunities to collaborate with some of the top Astronomers and Scientists in the world.

Step 7: Join the American Astronomical Society

Once you become an Astronomer, you should join the American Astronomical Society. They have meetings every year, and they publish scholarly journals and work together as advocates of the astronomical sciences. Another association is the International Astronomical Union, which allows Astronomers from all over the world to collaborate. This organization is responsible for defining astronomical nomenclature, and it serves as the authority for naming celestial bodies and their features.

What degree do most Astronomers have

Doctoral degree

We did a survey to ask other Astronomers what degree they had when they first became one. Here are the results.

Post-Doctoral Training
60.61%

Doctoral degree
30.3%

Master’s degree
9.09%

How long does it take

10 years

After you finish high school, it will take about 10 years to become an Astronomer. You will spend five years in college earning your Bachelor’s Degree. Afterward, it will take about two years to earn your Master’s Degree, followed by three more years to earn your PhD. Once you earn your PhD, you will be an Astronomer, but you may want to spend a year in a Postdoctoral fellowship before you get a permanent position. You have different career choices, and your studies and experience in research will help you determine the best path to take.


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