Education & Training

Astronomy Major Jobs; an Overview of Related Careers

Astronomy is one of the most exciting fields of Physics to work in but success requires commitment and a true love for the subject. The majority of astronomy graduates work in colleges and universities whereby they teach along with working on a research project of their own interest.

A lot of astronomers work for the government and other government-supported institutions, like NASA, National Optical Astronomy Observatories, National Radio Astronomy Observatories, U.S. Naval Observatory, Space Telescope Science Institute, etc.

Besides the high profile jobs mentioned above; a small percentage of astronomers work in private institutions focusing space-related projects or other areas where an analytical person with great problem-solving skills is needed. Other than these, there are some opportunities in science centers, planetariums, etc.

What Does an Astronomy Degree Offer?

Most universities require high grades in either physics or maths (or both) to accept you in their degree program with an Astronomy major, however, some universities may not require higher grades. 

Astronomy degrees offered by different universities may have different study programs. For instance, some universities offer a full fledged Astronomy degree, while some may only offer it in combination with astrophysics or physics degrees. However, almost all of them offer a combination of theory and observation, i.e. following previous research about the universe, and spending time observing what’s there in the skies.

The initial phase of an Astronomy degree program generally introduces students to the basic and core principles of astronomy, observational astronomy, the solar system, cosmology, geochemistry, and geology.

As your degree program advances you get to learn about astronomy in greater depth using optical and radio telescopes and specific computer programs. You will get to learn geophysics, astrobiology, and petrology in detail. Then you move to the modules that may include numerical and computational methods, thermal and statistical physics. 

The degree programs are typically three to five years depending on the degree program you selected.

Skills, Knowledge & Expertise You Develop with Astronomy Major

Modern astronomy research is heavily computer-based, and so it involves a lot of data analysis and programming skills. A degree with an Astronomy major from a reputed institution will prepare you for the modern-day astronomy field. Following are some key skills, knowledge, and expertise that you will develop with a degree in Astronomy.

Strong physics, mathematics, and statistics skills.

  • Computer programming skills.
  • Research skills.
  • Analytical skills.
  • Critical thinking.
  • Problem solving skills.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • The ability to make progress without strict deadlines.
  • Teamwork
  • Project management skills.
  • Mentoring skills.
  • Self motivated.
  • Ability to work in isolation.

Career Options & Jobs with Astronomy Major

Before going to pursue a degree in Astronomy, you must know that permanent astronomy research jobs are rare and highly competitive. Even the PhDs and postdoctoral candidates generally do not go on to become professional astronomers for their full careers. Do check the below listed career options with a degree in Astronomy, so you can plan your career in the right direction.

  • Applications Engineer
  • Business Development Manager
  • Chief Systems Engineer
  • Coating Technician
  • Director of Business Development
  • Engineer, Modeling & Simulation
  • EO/IR Systems Engineer
  • Imaging Systems Engineer
  • Laser Engineer
  • Laser Technician
  • Manufacturing Manager
  • Mechanical Design Engineer
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Metrology Engineer
  • Observatory Scientist
  • Optical Engineer
  • Optical Fabrication Technician
  • Opto-Mechanical Engineer
  • Photonics Applications Specialist
  • Program Manager
  • Research Scientist
  • Sales Manager
  • Spectral Software Developer
  • Staff Scientist
  • Systems Engineer
  • Technical Sales Manager
  • Telescope Optics Group Leader
  • Telescope Structures Group Leader
  • Acoustics Physicist
  • Astronomer
  • Astrophysicist
  • Atmospheric Physicist
  • Automotive Designer
  • Biophysicist
  • Chemical Physicist
  • Computational Physicist
  • Construction Consultant
  • Cytotechnologist
  • Hazardous Materials Manager
  • Health Equipment Designer
  • Hydrologist
  • Light and Optics Specialist
  • Materials Researcher
  • Materials Tester
  • Medical Illustrator
  • Medical Researcher
  • Meteorological Technician
  • Metallurgist
  • Molecular Physicist
  • Nuclear Medical Technologist
  • Nuclear Physicist
  • Optical Technician
  • Organic Mass Spectrometrist
  • Paper Product Developer
  • Pollution Analyst
  • Professor
  • Radiation Safety Technician
  • Radiologist
  • Researcher
  • Science Writer
  • Scientific Editor
  • Seismologist
  • Teacher
  • Technical Sales Representative
  • Technical Writer

The Bottom Line

The degree program must be selected based on the job of your interest. Reviewing the possible occupations with an Astronomy degree before pursuing the education will be a wise idea. Analyze the above-listed professions with degrees in Astronomy. Be sure about your line of work and availability of employment opportunities prior to joining a Bachelors’s or Masters’s degree in Astronomy.

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