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Computational Astronomy career advice please?

  1. Jan 29, 2012 #1
    Hi All! My name is bergw, I'm new here and I'm looking for some advice.

    I'm a software engineer in the CAD business who is dying for more interesting work! I'd really like to get back to the interests I had back from college(Astronomy) but I'm finding it difficult even finding software engineer jobs in Astronomy and the few out there seem to put an obscene importance on a few comparatively niche languages that I haven't used.

    I've got about 15 years worth of generic software experience with 10 specific to C++/perl/shell scripting, 4.5 in php/mysql/Adobe Flex. From what I can tell, python is pretty standard and a few places really like QTToolkit both of which I've played with but can't convince my current job to use.

    So here I am, looking for advice.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 30, 2012 #2
    If you (or anyone else) can find software engineering jobs in astronomy, then please send me a link to them so that I can apply for them. Most people in astronomy (including myself) go in the other direction and get computational jobs that have little obviously to do with astronomy.

    Astronomical programming is something that you can do as a hobby, but I don't know of many jobs for it, and the reason they put an obscene amount of emphasis on obscure languages is that they have to have some rational way of sorting through the resumes.
  4. Jan 30, 2012 #3
  5. Jan 30, 2012 #4
    Twofish-quant, the sites I visit most often are NRAO, NOAO, Lowell, and STSCI.

    Mal4mac, yeah definitely not holding my breath for anything. Thanks for the link to the UK position! I'll take a look.

    What about freelance type work or even doing something for free just to get exposure to whatever languages and problems or is this bordering on desperation?
  6. Jan 30, 2012 #5
    The problem with those types of jobs is that are looking at a stack of resumes from people with astronomy Ph.D.'s. If you don't have an astronomy Ph.D., then you almost certainly are not going to get the position. If you do have an astronomy Ph.D, then you *probably* aren't going to get the position.
  7. Jan 30, 2012 #6
    Lot's of people do amateur astronomy as a hobby, and if you have time it's not hard to do amateur astronomy programming as a hobby. There are a ton of open source astronomy packages out there that you can work on. (Celestia to name one.)

    The other thing is that if you make even small amounts of money on the side, you can start using that money as a tax write off. If you make $300 making educational telescope software, and then spend $299 on a telescope, you can deduct that via Schedule C.

    Also, you might be better off if you try something a little different. For example, there are people that make decent amounts of money with educational or hobby software, and you might try building something for the iPad. For that matter, you could apply to Google or Microsoft and see if they have positions open working on Google Sky or Google Moon.
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