Astronomers study the origin and structure of the universe, including its planets, stars, galaxies and black holes.Job Category:
What you will do:
Your day to day duties will depend on your area of expertise.
In observational astronomy, you could:
- collect and analyse data from satellites and spacecraft
- explore space using radio and optical telescopes
- design new instruments and maintain existing equipment
- develop software to interpret images and data captured by satellites
In theoretical astronomy, you could:
- create computer models to test theories about space activities
- analyse the results of past observations to make new predictions
- make observations and develop theories
analyse data to help build our understanding of events in the universe
- maths knowledge
- knowledge of physics
- science skills
- to have a thorough understanding of computer systems and applications
As well as:
While there are no specific GCSE subjects that are mandatory, certain subjects and skills developed during your GCSE years can be advantageous for pursuing further education and a career in astronomy. Here are some GCSE subjects and skills that can be beneficial:
- Physics: GCSE Physics is particularly important for aspiring astronomers. It covers fundamental principles of mechanics, optics, electromagnetism, and thermodynamics, which are essential in understanding the universe and celestial objects.
- Mathematics: Mathematics is a critical subject for astronomers, as it forms the basis for the mathematical models and calculations used in astrophysics. Take GCSE Mathematics to develop strong quantitative skills.
- Further Mathematics: If your school offers further mathematics courses, consider taking them to deepen your mathematical knowledge. This can be especially helpful for advanced studies in astronomy.
- Chemistry: While not as central as physics, GCSE Chemistry can still be valuable, as it provides insights into the chemical composition of celestial objects and the study of cosmic chemistry.
- Computer Science: Familiarity with computer science and programming can be beneficial, as astronomers often use computational methods to analyze data and create models.
- Biology: While not directly related to astronomy, biology can provide you with a well-rounded scientific background and enhance your understanding of life in the universe, including the search for extraterrestrial life.
- Geography: Geography can help you develop spatial awareness and understanding of Earth’s place in the cosmos.
- English: Strong written and verbal communication skills are important for publishing research papers, presenting findings, and collaborating with other astronomers.
You can get into this job through a university course.
You’ll need a degree and postgraduate qualification to work as an astronomer. You’ll usually need to have achieved a first or a 2:1 in your degree.
Relevant subjects include:
- space science
You can also do an extended 4-year degree to get a postgraduate qualification like a master of physics. These courses include more independent research and can lead directly onto a PhD.
Many employers will expect you to have completed, or be working towards, a PhD in your specialist area of interest.
Join an amateur astronomy group to share your interest, develop connections and get observation experience.
Working Hours and Environment:
Typical hours are 39-41 hours a week however these hours may be irregular.
You could also be expected to work on weekends, public holidays and away from home at times.
You could work in an observatory, in a laboratory, at a university or visit sites.
Your working environment may be outdoors some of the time and you may spend nights away from home.
Career Path & Progression:
You’ll usually start as a post-doctoral researcher before moving on to permanent posts that can lead to becoming a professor.
You can transfer your science skills across lots of careers and sectors, for example:
- aerospace research and development
- satellite research and development
- software engineering
- teaching and lecturing
- science communication