Job Description:

Astronomers study the origin and structure of the universe, including its planets, stars, galaxies and black holes.

Job Category:
Aerospace & Defence

What you will do:

Day-to-day tasks

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



You’ll need:

  • maths knowledge
  • knowledge of physics
  • science skills
  • to have a thorough understanding of computer systems and applications

As well as:

  • analytical thinking skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • the ability to use your initiative (adaptability skills)
  • organisational skills
  • the ability to think clearly using logic and reasoning
  • concentration skills
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

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:

  • maths
  • physics
  • astrophysics
  • geophysics
  • astronomy
  • 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.

Career tips
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
    systems analysis
  • software engineering
  • teaching and lecturing
  • science communication
  • finance