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All India Council for Astronomy & Space Education (AICASE)

Astronomy for Mankind (मानवजातीसाठी खगोलशास्त्र) \\ Deceleration: AICASE is a non-profit organization focused on astronomy. Its registration is currently underway. We do not offer any degrees.

Careers in Astronomy and Astrophysics | Space Science and Technology Careers

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Employment Potential:

As science professions go, astronomy is a relatively small field, with about 6,000 professional astronomers in North America. Because of its size, astronomers get to know and collaborate with many colleagues across the U.S. and around the world. This can lead to an advantageous dialogue among astronomers.

On the other hand, there is a small turnover of positions each year and, therefore, strong competition for positions. In recent years, there have been about 150 job openings for astronomers in North America, while the number of Ph.D.s conferred annually in recent years has averaged about 125. It is common for astronomers to spend from three to six years in postdoctoral positions before finding a steady position in a university department, national facility, or government lab.

In such a small and popular field, only those with a quality education, ability, and passion for the subject are likely to find a permanent position. Astronomy training, however, emphasizes a remarkably broad set of problem-solving skills. With careful selection of graduate school courses and experiences, one may prepare for an interesting and productive career in a related field, such as industrial research, education, and public information.

Where the Jobs Are:

Most professional astronomers (about 55 percent) are either faculty members at universities and colleges, or affiliated with universities and colleges through observatories and laboratories. (Universities require a Ph.D. for a faculty position and hire new people based on recommendations by the astronomy or astronomy/physics faculty.) For these astronomers, teaching is their major activity. Astronomers in academic positions can spend a portion of their time on their research, depending on their teaching schedule.

Often an astronomer will be a member of a physics department or a physics/astronomy department rather than a separate astronomy department. Such faculty members may be called on to teach some physics courses as well as astronomy courses. Because of their training, both undergraduate and graduate, astronomers are well qualified for this expanded role.

Even though teaching is an academic career, astronomers at leading colleges are a major source of astronomical research activity. In addition to the observatories and research institutions operated by individual universities, there are a number of national observatories and research institutes that make research time available to observational astronomers at academic institutions and to others.

Observational astronomers spend between 10 and 30 nights per year working at an observatory or getting observations from spacecraft, and the rest of their time analyzing the data they’ve collected. Others, such as theoretical astrophysicists, may not even work with observing equipment but conduct a great deal of their astronomy research using supercomputers. Much of the astronomer’s work day consists of analyzing data, interpreting observations, or planning observational programs.

Recent university graduates start their careers at universities, colleges, and other institutions with postdoctoral research positions (one to three years of research work for people with new doctoral degrees) and research associateships that allow full time for research.

Median salaries at universities and colleges depend upon the size, quality, and competitiveness of the school. Starting salaries for assistant professors start at about $50,000 for 9-10 months, the range for senior professors is $80,000-100,000 for 9-10 months. Typical postdoc pay ranges between $35,000-45,000 per year. Contrary to popular belief, scientists at national or government labs earn the highest median salary, followed by those employed by business or industry. Many faculty members augment their salaries with summer work at their universities or with summer research support.

In addition, astronomers as a group are striving to encourage a vigorous affirmative-action approach to recruiting. Significant changes have already occurred in the male-to-female ratios. Already more than one-quarter of the young astronomers are women, and this fraction is growing. It is hoped that future years will see a healthy and more equitable balance of men and women of all races in astronomy.

Last Updated on May 28, 2022 by Sonkamble Satish

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