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How to Enter a Career Path as an Astronomer

By Drew Allen

If you are passionate about astronomy, you may have considered making it a career. After all, your career is something you will devote a lot of time to every day, so it makes sense to choose something you love. There are a few ways you can start preparing for a career in this field.

Get a Bachelor's Degree in a Relevant Field
You'll need your bachelor's degree in a field related to science. This is usually mathematics, astronomy, or physics. You could even think about getting it in computer science. Because astronomy-related careers often require master's or even PhDs, you may need to do some research on the programs you are thinking about applying to. Some programs require a bachelor's, but others require a master's as well, so doing your research is important. It's important to be a well-rounded candidate by taking courses in a variety of areas.

Consider adding social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences to your course load. When you take different classes, you can also get a better idea of the type of astronomy you want to specialize in, whether that's planets, solar systems, or black holes. Getting your bachelor's degree can be an expensive endeavor, but necessary if you want to work in this career area. One option is to look for scholarships to pay for your degree. There are scholarships for college that make the process much more affordable.

Understanding the Job Responsibilities
There are many fields of astronomy you could go into, but the different career paths still share some similarities. Astronomers are often responsible for helping others learn about the universe. This involves coming up with possible theories and then testing those out. They will need to know how to gather and work with data. This data can come from computer software, cameras, and telescopes. You may not think research would play a big role in this career, but you might be surprised.

Many times, labs do receive some funding from the government, but this funding may not be enough to research everything the team wants to know about. The funding from the government has to be used in specific ways, which is where writing research proposals comes in. You will also need to be able to write and publish papers. Once you have determined whether a particular hypothesis is true or false, you will need to create a paper that outlines your findings. This can help everyone advance their knowledge about the matter.

What Skills Do You Need?
You'll need to work on developing a variety of skills to work in astronomy. Many labs in this field are extremely competitive, so even if you have the right education, it might be hard to land a position. There are online resources for studying astronomy but you should also work on gaining skills by getting an internship or taking part in research projects with your peers. You could get a postdoctoral fellowship or research position, which can help you gain experience working as an astronomer.

You will deal with a lot of data as an astronomer, including analyzing it and writing papers so you can communicate your findings to the public. You will need to be able to spot patterns to determine whether your hypothesis is true. You will have software to help you, but it takes a human element to add meaning to the numbers. You should have a lot of curiosity. One thing that can set a good astronomer apart from an outstanding one is the fact that they aren't just following instructions on how to complete a process. They come up with questions and then search for the answers. Being curious will help you come up with new questions to ask.

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