Exploring the wonders of the universe, Astronomy is a science involving the stars, planets, and galaxies. Equipped with cutting-edge technology and tools, use their expertise to contribute to this discipline. Astronomers enjoy well-paying and fulfilling careers that make the experience even more rewarding!
If you envision reaching for the stars, a career in Astronomy is worth considering! Astronomers who hold undergraduate and advanced degrees are expected to have a solid background in the fields of Mathematics, Physics, and other sciences. They work in national observatories, national laboratories, government agencies, and Astronomy departments in universities. Full-fledged astronomers are also into teaching, research, science journalism, and related career tracks.
Did you know that there are about 6,000 professional astronomers in North America? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for physicists and astronomers between 2020 and 2030 is expected to increase by 8% or about 1,500 job openings each year.
Will The University You Attend Matter?
Those with the right qualifications, skills, and passion will find a permanent position in this small but popular field. Therefore, you must prepare your education and foundation early on. However, the training in Astronomy emphasizes a wide range of problem-solving skills, which will allow you to land a job in diverse sectors and industries.
The 10 Best Colleges With Telescopes & Astronomy Programs
Students choose from three undergraduate (BA) degree programs centered around physical phenomena and their underlying physics principles. Throughout the Astronomy Department and its affiliate research centers, the Institute for Astrophysical Research and the Center for Space Physics, faculty, students, and researchers pursue a wide range of scientific investigations and mission development.
Astronomy, Astronomy-and-Physics, and Geophysics-and-Planetary-Science are the three Astronomy-related degree programs.
Undergraduates pursuing BA degrees participate in departmental research groups, where they receive hands-on training in research, attend scientific meetings, and get involved in scientific publications. A Bachelor of Arts/Master of Arts dual degree in Astrophysics & Space Physics and a PhD in Astronomy are also offered.
The Boston University Astronomy Department consists of 16 faculty members, ten research scientists and postdoctoral fellows, 30 graduate students, 50 majors at the undergraduate level, and ten technical staff.
The Smith Department of Astronomy is part of the Five College Astronomy Department consisting of these four other Western Massachusetts-based colleges:
- Amherst College
- Hampshire College
- Mount Holyoke College
- University of Massachusetts
It is not uncommon for Astronomy majors at Smith College to double major in Astronomy and Astrophysics. They also usually demonstrate a solid background in computer programming and advanced mathematics.
As permitted by Smith’s Clark Science Center, Astronomy students use the McConnell Rooftop Observatory telescopes for public stargazing sessions throughout the semester. Eight units of 8-inch portable telescopes are set up on rooftop platforms, and eight more devices are in the MacLeish Field Station in Whately.
Eberly College of Science (PennState University)
At Penn State Eberly College of Science, Astronomy majors engage in research involving supermassive black holes, brown dwarfs, astrostatistics, and high-energy astrophysics.
At the helm of the program is the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, which seeks to capacitate students to solve quantitative problems in Physics and Astrophysics and provide a global perspective on the universe and its physical laws.
Degree options include Astronomy and Astrophysics and Planetary Science and Astronomy.
There are no astronomical observatories in the United States older than Hopkins Observatory at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The observatory also houses the earliest and the world’s largest refracting telescope by Alvan Clark.
Astronomy majors at Williams College utilize the on-campus observing facilities, including a 24-inch computer-controlled telescope with CCD detectors for imaging, spectroscopy, and image processing in the school’s computer network. Sun-observing telescopes are also available to students who may opt for Astrophysics or Astronomy.
William’s College is also a participant in the educational programs of Caltech’s Palomar Observatory’s Zwicky Telescope Facility.
University of Washington
The Department of Astronomy at the University of Washington consists of 15 faculty members, 20 postdoctoral fellows, and 30 graduate students. Since 1965, the department has become known for its research contributions to modern astrophysics.
This Astronomy degree program is one of America’s largest. Students participate in faculty-facilitated research programs, some of which have made their mark in professional publications. Students utilize the Manastash Ridge Observatory, actively involved in developing a campus radio telescope. Observation tools and computational devices are at their disposal, too.
The University of Washington offers one of the largest undergraduate Astronomy programs nationwide. Its graduate program was also voted one of the country’s best.
Rice University’s Physics and Astronomy Department ranks among the nation’s top departments. Rice’s Physics, Astronomy, and Astrophysics majors are some of the top-performing professionals in academic research, medicine, law, and education, thanks to its 50 core and joint faculty members.
Students can opt for a bachelor’s degree or a graduate program related to Physics and Astronomy at Rice University. The curriculum focuses on developing future astronomers’ and physicists’ theoretical, computational, and laboratory skills.
Astronomy and Physics majors at Amherst College are heavily involved in research. By emphasizing theory and experimentation or observation in the curriculum, the Physics and Astronomy Department seeks to establish each students’ solid technical background in mathematics, statistics, and computing.
There are multiple labs dedicated to physics and Astronomy studies throughout the campus, including observatories and computer laboratories.
Undergraduate students at Amherst College either take the Master’s in Physics or Astronomy route or pursue careers in education, journalism, medicine, and data science.
The Columbia University Astronomy Department has 15 faculty members, 30 graduate students, 25 undergraduate majors, and over 1,000 students in core classes. Two administrative staff support them, including research scientists, postdocs, and Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory (CAL) staff.
The department offers roughly 15 courses each semester at all levels and provides undergraduate and graduate students research opportunities in partial fulfillment of degree requirements or as an enrichment experience. Advisory and mentoring services and public outreach and research opportunities are also offered.
Columbia University’s historic Rutherfurd Observatory sits atop the Pupin Physics Laboratory, which houses the Astronomy and Physics departments. It also housed the original labs of the Manhattan Project, a secret project during World War II to develop a nuclear weapon.
Undergraduate students in Astronomy at Dartmouth learn to design or execute astronomical observing programs, understand astronomical literature, gather and analyze astronomical statistics and data, and proficient in Astronomy and physics.
Meanwhile, the Ph.D. in Astronomy program at Dartmouth admits up to 10 students per year. The total enrollment is about 50 students.
Astronomy majors at Dartmouth University have access to experimental labs and computing facilities and state-of-the-art telescopes and observatories. They are expected to emerge as critical thinkers in scientific reasoning, effective communicators, problem solvers with logical, computational and math skills.
University of Florida
The University of Florida’s undergraduate program in Astronomy features the Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Astronomy track that combines the key concepts of Astronomy and Astrophysics, with a strong emphasis on Math and Physics. The Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Astronomy program, when combined with the UFTeach program, is ideal for future certified science educators in the State of Florida.
The Master of Science and Ph.D. are UF’s graduate programs in Astronomy.
Astronomy students at the University of Florida have access to the Gran Telescope Canarias, the world’s largest optical and infrared telescope, and the supercomputer HiPerGator-3.
What You Need to Know About Astronomers
It’s essential to know more about the astronomer job responsibilities, the education needed, and the certifications required to qualify for this position.
Astronomer’s Job Responsibilities
Astronomers aid humanity in learning more about the universe, which means they must develop new scientific theories for testing (and proving).
Astronomers collect data by using telescopes, powerful cameras, or sophisticated computer software to develop and test models, then identify patterns in that data to draw scientific conclusions. Astronomers write research papers and present them to scientists and the general public in Astronomy conferences.
Although many Astronomy labs receive government funding, most teams lack the funds to research their interests on their own. They develop detailed research proposals and pitch them to their leadership for funding.
Astronomers must hold doctoral degrees. They are also expected to have double-majored or minored in Physics, Astrophysics. There is no standard curriculum for master’s degrees, though they may include theoretical courses, such as Astronomy, cosmology, hydrodynamics, observational methods and data analyses.
Candidates who earn a Ph.D. focus on specialized areas of Astronomy. Ph.D. degrees are usually earned after completing a master’s degree and involve extensive research under the supervision of specialists in the relevant field, culminating in a published dissertation.
Certifications are not required in Astronomy as much as other areas of study. However, astronomers are encouraged to actively join professional organizations to exchange ideas, advanced access facilities, and present research.
Undergraduate Degrees for Astronomers
The bachelor of arts in Astronomy degree is designed for students who wish to gain knowledge of Astronomy, mathematics, and physics to ready them for professional settings, including in planetariums and museums, and colleges and universities. Depending on the level of education and specific interest, an Astronomy major can take on several different career paths.
- Astronomy and Physics
Astronomy & Physics (A&P) majors are adept in utilizing the key principles of Astronomy and physics. They are taught to communicate astronomical information effectively through various media and techniques as they prepare for research-oriented careers. A student can opt to enter the workforce immediately or continue to study Astronomy at the graduate level.
- Geophysics And Planetary Sciences
Geophysics and Planetary Sciences students have in-depth knowledge of astronomical and geophysics principles and planetary sciences topics. G & PS bachelor’s degrees prepare students for careers in science education, management, geotechnical consulting, computing, scientific writing, and research careers in geophysics and planetary science.
- Atmospheric Chemistry and Climatology
Atmospheric Chemistry and Climatology focuses on atmospheric characteristics, reactions, measurement techniques, and processes. Students become experts in climate dynamics by applying the principles of physics, chemistry, chemistry engineering, and ecology. Atmospheric chemists can be actual chemists or physical scientists.
Skills That Astronomers Should Possess
(Exceptional) Skills in Math
Many astronomical facts and theories are based on mathematical calculations, which determine the age of space objects. Mathematics helps scientists solve the puzzles of modern Astronomy.
A Love for Lifelong Learning
After completing their formal academic studies, most astronomers continue to research and study. They are lifelong learners who are always open to exploring and discovering.
Usually, astronomers are part of a team that works with them physically or operates in places halfway around the world. Project collaborations are typical in studies and research relating to Astronomy.
Flexibility And Open-Mindedness
New information is constantly being found or calculated in Astronomy, which continually updates the body of knowledge. Being open to discoveries and challenging existing theories is part of any scientific career. It pays a lot to be flexible and to have an open mind.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an Astronomy major?
Astronomy students learn how the elements of the universe evolve and the theories behind their origins. Astronomy majors conduct research projects and formulate new questions using the scientific method.
Some schools offer Astronomy and astrophysics as majors, while others divide the two into separate degrees. The two fields may provide a foundation for graduate or research work.
Astronomy majors study a flexible curriculum that combines their coursework with other areas of interest. They are also more likely to pursue medicine, journalism, law or education. Research is a significant focus of Astronomy and Astrophysics majors.
What are your chances of acceptance to an Astronomy program?
Astronomy is one of the most rigorous majors there is. As you apply to programs, check your academic performance (GPA and test scores) to see if they match those previously accepted students. Many selective schools use the Academic Index to evaluate applicants.
The qualitative components of your applications, including extracurricular activities and essays, should also demonstrate your fit with the school and program. For aspiring Astronomy majors, it is recommended that they take AP Physics and AP Calculus BC. Also, take part in extracurricular activities that can enhance your soft skills.
Do you need a telescope to study Astronomy?
Because expensive equipment is required for Astronomy, many people are hesitant to pursue the program. The truth is, a dark viewing location, your eyes, and some patience are all you need to enjoy the night sky and study the stars.
Binoculars provide an excellent view of getting a closer look at things. Your choice of university or college can provide you with the equipment and tools necessary to earn your degree.
Does an astronomer’s level of education matter when pursuing a job?
Physicists and astronomers who study the interactions of matter and energy typically require a Ph.D. for research and academic work. Meanwhile, entry-level physicist positions in the federal government usually require a bachelor’s in Physics.
What is the coursework to expect when majoring in Astronomy?
Calculus and Linear Algebra are prerequisites to the Astronomy coursework. Students usually study electricity, magnetism, optics, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and statistics. In the second year, the coursework may focus on cosmology, stars and star formation, planetary systems, and high-energy astrophysics. Computer programming courses may also be available to Astronomy majors depending on the program.
An Astronomy major’s education includes research as a critical component. As part of their graduation requirements, students can take laboratory classes and complete a research project. Students majoring in Astronomy can work on group projects, be a part of a larger research project, or do their research, which involves writing a thesis.
Meant for the deeply curious, Astronomy is the gateway to understanding the universe. Astronomy programs emphasize knowledge of math, physics and computer concepts so that students become particularly skilled critical thinkers who qualify for numerous career options. That said, the Astronomy program and college you choose will certainly matter!
Apart from pursuing and landing the obvious astronomy job, graduates can go after top-paying careers in engineering, mathematics, computer science, and environmental science. They also become successful business or education professionals. after studying law or medicine.