Job type

Astronomer

£15k - £60k

Typical salary

39 – 41

Hours per week

Astronomers use scientific techniques to study the origin and make-up of the universe.

More info

  • Observe and study the universe to understand its origins and how it works
  • Requires good powers of observation and a methodical and logical approach
  • May need to work long and irregular hours, including nights

Astronomers are scientists who view, study, and make predictions about the universe, including its planets, stars, galaxies and black holes. This is an exciting scientific field which is always pushing human knowledge further.

DAY-TO-DAY DUTIES

Astronomy is divided into observational astronomy and theoretical astronomy.

In observational astronomy, your work might include:

  • Collecting data from satellites and spacecraft
  • Using radio and optical telescopes
  • Developing new instrumentation
  • Maintaining existing equipment
  • Developing software to interpret the images captured by satellites
  • Analysing data and testing theories

In theoretical astronomy, your duties might include:

  • Creating complex computer models to develop theories on the physical processes happening in space
  • Analysing the results of past observations to develop new predictions
  • Making observations and testing theories
  • Analysing data to help develop our understanding of events in the universe

You'll keep up to date with developments in your area of interest by going to meetings and conferences, carrying out research, writing reports and presenting your findings. 

DAY-TO-DAY ENVIRONMENT

As well as working in laboratories and observatories, you might also work in a museum, planetarium, or university. You may also have to work long and irregular hours.

You'll need

To become an astronomer you'll need a strong interest in space, excellent maths and physics knowledge, and logical thinking skills.

You'll normally need a degree and postgraduate qualification to work as an astronomer. Relevant degree subjects include maths, physics, astrophysics, geophysics, astronomy, or space science - you'll normally need A levels or equivalent including maths and physics to gain a place on one of these courses.

You can also do an extended 4-year degree to get a postgraduate qualification like a master of physics. Some employers will also expect you to have completed, or be working towards, a PhD in your specialist area of interest.

CAREER PROSPECTS

With experience, you could move into related careers like aerospace or satellite research and development. You could also use your skills in systems analysis, software engineering, teaching, or scientific journalism.