Astronomy Degree

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Astronomy Overview

Astronomy is the study of space and celestial objects. Individuals in this field are responsible for identifying such objects, determining their mass, composition, orbit, and any other factors that are interesting or relevant. Astronomers provide study and research in order to better understand how the universe work.

What is Astronomy?

Astronomy is the study of galaxies, planets, starts, and the universe.  The purpose of astronomy is the expand our understanding of the universe around us, educate the general public, and share new information with students in the field.  Astronomy is an observational science unlike an experimental science such as chemistry.  Astronomers rely on the radiation from space via a range of electromagnetic waves from radio waves, ultraviolet waves, gamma rays, x-rays, visible light, microwave, and infrared light.  Astronomers collect information through the use of space-based and earth-based telescopes in conjunction with technology and tools of modern physics.

Top Astronomy Degrees

Individuals may pursue a master’s degree, though a doctorate is typically required for positions relating to astronomy research. The field of astronomy is closely tied to physics, requiring the use of physics to better determine the movement, composition, age and other information regarding celestial objects. Additionally, individuals will learn about machines and tools used for identifying and examining such objects. A strong background in mathematics is required.

A curriculum may include:

Schools that maintain or are near observatory’s that allow for viewing of space and objects allow students to experience astronomy principles and practice firsthand. Practical experience is in important tool for education to become realized, and assists in the students development. Some schools may have active research projects regarding astronomy, which can be very desirable, as such experience may assist in obtaining a permanent position after completion.

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Employment Information & Opportunities in Astronomy

Employment growth is expected to remain steady for astronomers. This is due to the expected funding over the next decade that allows for such employment through research project, often in conjunction with agencies and universities. Increased interest in space, particularly travel and phenomena will result in the creation of newer projects that may extend for several years. Given the relatively small number of individuals in this field, employment should be readily available.

Where Do Astronomers Work?

The bulk of astronomers work at a college or university in a research or teaching capacity.  Other astronomers find themselves employed in private research facilities, observatories (NOAO or NRAO), science museums, planetariums, laboratories, or government agencies (NASA).  A master’s degree or PhD in astronomy is generally required to find employment within the field given the degree of specialty required.

How Much Do Astronomers Make?

The median annual income for an astronomer in the United States is $114,870 which equates to $55.23 per hour.  The expected job growth for astronomers is 7% in coming decade which is above the national average for all occupations during that timeframe.

States with the Highest Employment of Astronomers

  1. Texas
  2. Arizona
  3. California
  4. Hawaii
  5. Massachusetts

Top Paying States for Astronomers

  1. Maryland            $124,020
  2. Massachusetts   $123,760
  3. Hawaii                 $120,980
  4. California            $117,730
  5. Colorado              $112,550

The American Astronomical Society is a professional organization that works to advance the cause of astronomers, as well as to compile research and to share resources in order to advance humanities understanding of the universe.

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Related Areas of Study

Career Summary: Astronomy Major




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