"Stars Я Us" Sarah Bertrand

"Astronomers, like burglars and jazz musicians, operate best at night." — Miles Kington, Journalist

Basic information about your career

  • Research the nature of the entire universe
  • Study radio waves, x-rays, and cosmic rays
  • Some design astronomical instruments
  • Use math and physics to explain the growth and development of objects deep in space
  • Some do consulting work
  • Majority teaches/conducts research
  • Earn approximately $51,270-$165,350 per year (national average)
  • Ph.D. in astronomy required
  • Competition for positions
  • Spend most of their time working at computers
  • Two types: observational and theoretical

Pros and cons of this career


  • Fun for those who enjoy studying space
  • Sometimes travel
  • Good salary
  • Work a good amount of hours per week


  • Have to adapt to being up at night
  • Competition for positions
  • There are a lot of courses to take

What do you need to do to succeed in this career?

High School:

Some courses that may help future astronomers include 4 years of English, 3 years of math, 3 years of social studies, 2 years of science, and...

  • Advanced Calculus
  • Advanced Geometry
  • Advanced Physics
  • Advanced Trigonometry
  • Astronomy
  • Calculus
  • Computer Science and Programming
  • General Computer Applications
  • Physical Science
  • Physics
  • Probability and Statistics

Post-Secondary Education:

College - Astronomers must have at least a Ph.D. in astronomy and/or astrophysics. There are two options as an astronomer: observational and theoretical. If you choose to take the observational route, you need to have training in electronics and/or electrical engineering. If you go with theoretical, you need to have training in mathematics and/or computer science. In the U.S., about 90 colleges offer a bachelor's degree in astronomy, about 50 offer a master's degree, and about 45 offer a doctoral degree. Some colleges may require 2 years of another language.

Graduate Admissions - To get into a graduate program, you must have a bachelor's degree in astronomy, physics, mathematics, computer science, or a related science. You also have to have good grades and good test scores. Some schools may require GRE (Graduate Record Examination) General, GRE Physics, Statement of Research Interest and Personal Goals, and/or letters of recommendation. The undergraduate program includes courses in...

  • Atomic and Nuclear Physics
  • Calculus
  • Classical Mechanics
  • Differential Equations
  • Electromagnetism
  • English Composition
  • General Chemistry
  • Modern Experimental Physics
  • Modern Physics
  • Observational Astronomy
  • Optics and Wave Phenomena
  • Quantum Theory
  • Scientific Computer Programming
  • Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics

When you complete these, you may move into advanced courses in astronomy, such as cosmology, methods of theoretical physics, particles and motion, physics with calculus, solar system anatomy, stellar and galactic astronomy, and theoretical mechanics. Common graduate requirements include required courses, thesis (master's degree), preliminary exams (doctoral degree only), and dissertation and dissertation defense (doctoral degree).

Related Programs - these include 40.0201 Astronomy and 40.0203 Planetary Astronomy and Science.


Associations/Professional organization for this career

American Astronomical Society:

  • Address: 2000 Florida Ave NW Ste 400
Washington, DC 20009-1231

International Astronomical Union:

  • Address: IAU - UAI Secretariat
98-bis Blvd Arago
F–75014 PARIS

Job Advertisement

Help Wanted!

Do you want to be an astronomer? If so, you need to meet all of these requirements. A Ph.D. in astronomy and/or astrophysics is required. You must have background knowledge. You should know that you will be working 30-40 hours a week, and sometimes at night. You also may have to travel occasionally. Your salary will be approximately $85,910 per year, based upon national average. Make sure you know if you are looking to be in the astronomical field or the theoretical field. You will spend most if your time working at a computer, so you need to know how to use one. You also must have taken all the proper courses that this career requires. If you are interested in this career, please contact the American Astronomical Society at or the International Astronomical Union at for more information.