How to become a Astronomer

Astronomers study planets, stars, galaxies and other objects in the observable universe and use this information for theoretical and practical purposes.

Personal requirements of a Astronomer

  • Imagination
  • Patience
  • An inquisitive mind
  • Interested in mathematics, computing and physics
  • Good oral and written communication skills

Education & Training for a Astronomer

To become an astronomer you usually have to complete a degree in science at university with a major in astronomy, physics or astrophysics (preferably at honours level), followed by a postgraduate qualification in astronomy or astrophysics. To get into the degree courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, biology, chemistry, earth and environmental science, mathematics and physics are normally required. Entry to postgraduate courses usually requires completion of an appropriate bachelor degree. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.

Duties & Tasks of a Astronomer

Astronomers:

  • observe objects in space, from the Earth's surface and via orbiting satellites
  • design and attach special equipment to telescopes or spacecraft when necessary
  • make calculations using mathematical and physical principles
  • record, analyse and compare results of observations
  • develop theories to explain recorded observations and make predictions
  • investigate the formation and evolution of the solar system
  • produce star catalogues and tables of measurements for use in navigation, surveying, time determination and other disciplines
  • develop instruments and detectors for all radiation observed from the Earth's surface or via spacecraft
  • present the results of their work at scientific meetings and publish them in relevant scientific journals.

Working conditions for a Astronomer

Astronomers usually perform either observational or theoretical tasks. They have three main areas of study: the movement and position of stars, planets, galaxies and other objects; their physical and chemical properties; and their origins and evolution. Astronomers who need to make observations may need to travel long distances to observatories and may work long hours, often at night. However, more time is spent using computers than personally observing with telescopes.

Employment Opportunities for a Astronomer

Most astronomers work in government agencies, such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO); in observatories, including the Australia Telescope National Facility (for radio astronomers) and the Australian Astronomical Observatory (for optical astronomers); or in universities. These posts usually incorporate an element of teaching, administration or instrumentation design and development. Many astronomers find work in related fields such as physics, applied mathematics and computing, and it is advisable to complete an additional major in one of these fields. Demand for this occupation is influenced by the level of government funding for research, capital investment and the opportunity for overseas research.

Avg. weekly wage:

$1,765

Future growth:

Very strong

Employment by state:

ACT ACT 1.2%

NSW NSW 23.1%

NT NT 1.3%

QLD QLD 25.6%

SA SA 11%

TAS TAS 3.3%

VIC VIC 17.5%

WA WA 16.9%

Hours worked:

39.8

Unemployment:

Lower unemployment

Gender split:

Male 71%

Female 29%

Education level:

Age brackets:

15-19 - 0%

20-24 - 11.2%

25-34 - 36.8%

35-44 - 22.8%

45-54 - 20.8%

55-59 - 5.8%

60-64 - 0%

65 and Over - 2.5%

*The data above is sourced from the Department of Employment’s Job Outlook website.




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