Many people sometimes stand outside their house, just gazing at the stars. It can be breathtaking to behold and make one feel incredibly small in comparison. What may follow then is pursuing a hobby in astronomy, in order to learn and see more. Others even think about taking this to the next level – by choosing a career in this field. There can be few jobs as rewarding as those that revolve around our passions, after all.
Having said all this, it’s essential that one goes into this with one’s eyes open. That’s what this article is all about. It’s important to know how long the training will be and the possible working hours. Then there’s the question of job opportunities and what these roles really entail.
The First Steps
To start with, some people just own a few books on astronomy and may possess some basic equipment as well. It can feel daunting, to begin with, but the internet is here to help. The experts at https://www.astronomyforbeginners.com/ believe people don’t want to just want to see products, but to read the reviews too. Some sites are interactive, and people can upload their own photos as well as see other peoples’. The more experience and equipment people have, the more prepared they will be for pursuing their career.
Learning What the Job Will Entail
Astronomers don’t just get paid to gaze into space. That may be partly true but it’s not the whole picture. Some people prefer looking through a telescope to writing reports. Actually, being an astronomer can involve a lot of paperwork. One may be observing or even theorizing. These things have to be documented if they are to be tested and challenged.
Some people are given the job to organize data and then analyze it. The source could be from an exciting satellite or spacecraft, but what happens to the data may feel less inspiring. If someone loves statistics and creating software to process it, however, this could be their dream career. A lot of people are looking for a ‘nine to five’ job. When going into observational work, it is highly likely that it will largely involve night shifts. That’s because the best view of the stars is gained at night. It’s worth knowing that before someone applies for the job.
The most basic necessity for these careers would be in learning maths and physics. Good knowledge of chemistry can also stand one in good stead. If a person hopes to end up processing data, then a grounding in the computer sciences is important too. After school, a Bachelor’s Degree would probably come next. It could be in physics or astrophysics. There’s no need to worry – one can get their chance to cover thermodynamics, electromagnetism, and quantum mechanics too. Most astronomers gain a Ph.D. in physics, astrophysics, or astronomy. The whole educational journey from start to finish could take nine years, so trainees have to be patient and committed.
Most people leave university to take temporary jobs related to their desired profession, and these postdoctoral positions could be at an observatory, another university, or even a laboratory. Both the government and private industry have an interest in the whole field of astronomy. Some research laboratories depend upon being given the funding. Research grants are not easy to gain, so sponsorship can be a challenge. In 2016 it was said that 40% of astronomers work in the field of education and are salaried by universities and colleges. NASA and the Department for Defence also employ astronomers.
Astronomy is a highly specialized profession, and, in the perfect world, there would be lots of jobs and little competition. Sadly the opposite is true. One survey said the employment market for these jobs would grow by 3% before 2024, and that’s not huge. If someone is hoping to become a highly paid astronomer, there could be another shock in store: The starting wage could be only up to £13,500. However, if someone stays the course, their salary could go up to a maximum of £36,000 a year. Senior astronomers stand to gain more than this – anything up to £60,000 per annum. As one can see, it all takes time.
After learning all this, it’s possible to feel either more excited and determined about the dream or to have second thoughts. Not only is it a highly competitive profession, but it is also highly complex. If someone begins the study route, they will slowly discover the specialism they wish to pursue. ‘There’s only one type of astronomer, right?’ Wrong. There are cosmologists and planetary, galactic and extragalactic, stellar and solar astronomers, and each branch is constantly evolving. With each new branch comes a new career path.
People are going to need passion and determination to reach their goal if they so decide. Years of hard work lay ahead, and lots of paperwork and number crunching. Some people never achieve their goals, but some do. Some achievers could be a real success story, people who not only love their job but who never stop chatting about it to others. Whenever a would-be professional astronomer feels discouraged, they should stop and look up – the stars are there, beckoning us on!