Astronomers study planets, stars, galaxies and other objects in the observable universe and use this information for theoretical and practical purposes.
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. A number of universities in Australia offer degrees in these areas. 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. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks.
Astronomers may perform the following tasks:
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.
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.