Although Earth is the most important planet in the universe, it’s interesting to know what else is going on in space and potentially where humans can takeover. As they always do. Astronomers have been around a long time, using scientific techniques to study the universe including stars, planets and celestial objects. There’s still a lot to discover, that’s why there’s still a career for it. Obviously.
There are two main areas of astronomy; observational and theoretical. The observational side of things gets more involved with the collection and analysis of data from satellites and spacecrafts, in addition to developing the necessary software to capture it. The theoretical side on the other hand concentrates on creating complex computer models to develop new theories about space and examining past observations. In your role, you may either specialise in one area or do a bit of both. Here’s a list of the main job responsibilities you could be doing:
- Using a mixture of scientific instruments such as ground-based and space-borne telescopes to collect data from astronomical events
- Analysing the data captured by telescopes and results of past observations
- Developing new theories on the universe based on results and observations collected
- Maintaining astronomy equipment and investing in new instruments
- Raising funds for projects and scientific research
- Composing and contributing to scientific papers and presenting findings to industry experts
Key Skills & Characteristics
An Astronomer should:
- Have excellent verbal and written communication skills
- Possess strong research skills, being able to process information clearly but effectively
- Be patient and show determination through project setbacks
- Show creativity whilst having the ability to solve complex problems
- Have an extremely good attention to detail whilst having an analytical mind-set
Be warned. Becoming an Astronomer is a long process and going through the necessary requirements may not guarantee a role in Astronomy. Competition is fierce, but after saying that, there’s a reason why the role is so popular. To start off, you’ll need to study a degree in Astronomy, Astrophysics or Mathematics and then later complete a Masters and a PhD in your specialist area. That’s the minimum employers will expect.
After completing your PhD, future Astronomers generally take up a few Post-Doctoral positions as a Research Assistant. In total, they usually spend 3-6 years in these roles before finding a permanent position.
As mentioned finding a permanent position can be difficult, so joining a professional body such as the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) or Institute of Physics (IOP) can really help establish your reputation.
Post-Doctoral Research Assistant
Advice From Our Experts
- Status – Being an Astronomer is something to be proud of and not many to this date achieve
- People – You get to work with an extremely talented group of people
- Discoveries – The feeling that you get when you’ve made a breaking discovery is just amazing
- Constant Proposals – Making proposals to fund research can be extremely competitive and can take the joy from doing the work
- High Stress – It’s a constant battle of trying to prove your work is the best in comparison to others to receive funding, otherwise be prepared to lose grants
- Long Hours – It’s not a 9 to 5 job, let’s put it that way