Did that title get your attention? That was our plan! While it is a fun hobby for a lot of people, some of us think it would be pretty great to get paid to look at the stars. Perhaps we’d like to talk about them for a living. Maybe we’d like a job designing rockets and spaceships. Or even go up into space ourselves! In this post, we wanted to talk a little about what you can do with a degree in astronomy.
A little over half of the people with astronomy degrees stay in the academic field. They work at universities and colleges, or observatories that are affiliated with schools. Mostly, they teach students in astronomy or physics. They also can perform their own research using the school’s facilities. Schools like this because if you discover something or your research is published, it looks good for the program and the school itself. As a result, much of the academic research available in the field is by faculty at higher education facilities.Those two reasons, plus the relative job security of tenure,make this a good career option.
You can also be hired at a federal level. There are national observatories and government laboratories that will hire astronomers or physicists to help conduct research. National observatories typically encourage personal research in addition to other duties like operating large scale telescopes and working with other scientists. If you are working for the federal government, however, your field of interest will likely be controlled by your employer. NASA, the Naval Observatory, and places like that have precise purposes. You won’t have as much freedom, but you will probably have better benefits and job security than if you’re working at a national observatory or somewhere that is federally-funded.
Some of the equipment used in places like the space program are made by outside industries. There are several private aerospace companies that need astronomers to help them conduct research and design equipment. Astronomers are also appealing hires in this field because they are critical and logical thinkers who to be experienced in mathematics and physics in addition to astronomy. While your job might not be as secure as with some of the other options we’ve discussed, the pay tends to be better in the private sector.
You can also work somewhere like we do, at a planetarium or at a science museum. You might give tours or demonstrations, or even conduct classes on the proper use of telescopes. Although you may not receive notoriety like you may at a big research facility, or make the big bucks like if you were at a private aerospace company, you interact with the general public more and may just inspire someone to one day make the next great space discovery!