Astronomers study the various aspects of the universe and explore the vastness of space through various scientific means. They develop new theories and technologies based on their research. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of astronomers is expected to increase by 14% from 2010 to 2020, as fast as the average for all occupations. If you are interested in solving the mysteries of the universe you should consider working in the field of astronomy.
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Astronomers plan and carry out scientific experiments, write proposals and apply for research grants and design scientific equipment. They also perform complex mathematical calculations to analyze physical and astronomical data and real-world applications, develop scientific theories and models to explain the properties of the natural world.
If you want to become an astronomer you need to get a PhD for most jobs. A PhD in physics, astronomy, or a related field can prove to be quite useful in building up a career in this field, particularly if you want to work in a research-oriented capacity. The PhD program may take 5 to 7 years to complete, and depending on the route that you take it can even take less or longer than that. Doctoral students can take courses in mathematics, such as statistics, calculus and linear algebra. Computer science classes are also useful. They can opt to focus in a particular area within astronomy as well.
Master’s degrees are also available in astronomy. Students who want to pursue jobs that involve applied research and development for manufacturing and healthcare companies should work towards a master’s degree. This program may take 1-2 years to complete. The exact duration of the degree depends on the enrollment status of the students.
Students can also work towards a bachelor’s degree. The bachelor’s degree holders might find it difficult to qualify for research positions but they can work as technicians and research assistants in related fields, such as computer science and engineering.
Online Degree Programs
Aspiring astronomers can also work towards astronomy degrees online. The distance learning route is suitable for the ones who are already in this field and seek advanced credentials to improve the career prospects. Those who want to switch careers without making changes to their current job commitments can also pursue online degrees.
A bachelor’s degree in physics is generally well-suited for enrolling in a PhD in astronomy program. Taking courses in the natural sciences and mathematics can also be useful. In addition, candidates may also have to provide letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose. Other requirements for admissions may vary by school.
Astronomers can work in a number of industries such as research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences, federal government as well as colleges, universities, and professional schools.
O*NET reports that astronomers earned a median salary of $96,460 a year in 2012. Most of these professionals work full time. They may have to work at odd hours to observe celestial events, including eclipses.
Skill Set for Astronomers
Astronomers require strong analytical and advanced mathematical skills as they need to express their research findings mathematically. Problem-solving, writing and speaking skills are absolutely essential to this line of work. These professionals should also have good interpersonal skills as their job involves working within teams.