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Prospect of an astronomer?

  1. Dec 11, 2009 #1
    Just wondering. What would it be like if you obtained a doctorate in astronomy. What would be your option for the future? Remain in school as teaching staff? Find a position in a research institute? Get a job in an observatory? Or something else?

    Can anyone please tell me a little (or a lot)? I can really use some real-life examples/experiences.

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 11, 2009 #2


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    Astronomers working in astronomy work for colleges and universities, national labs and observatories, and NASA. Many jobs expect you to do a post-doctoral research appointment for a few years after getting your PhD before they'll hire you. Getting a faculty job can be hard - that's what most people want to do, and there aren't as many open as there are people looking for one. Especially at the moment. So it really helps if you have a degree from a top school for your PhD.
  4. Dec 12, 2009 #3
    Well I'm getting my PhD in physics, but my research topic is particle astrophysics. With an astronomy or astrophysics PhD, your options are basically the straight research route (post-doc followed by professorship), pubic service-ish jobs (working at a planetarium or something of that nature), or industry (usually computer programming, engineering, medical physics, or something else that has nothing to do with astronomy). It's easy to get an astrophysis postdoc, but as Eri said, getting a faculty job is hard. There's somewhere on the order of 50 faculty positions available nationwide every year, and hundreds of people competing for them. The public service/education type things are sort of fun, but not so lucrative. I know someone who got his astro PhD, and then became a middle school teacher. Sadly it doesn't pay well. Industry will pay well, but you don't get to do any science.

    One random note. When you get a job at an observatory, you're still usually working for a university or national lab, so this sort of job will effectively be a post-doc.
  5. Dec 12, 2009 #4
    The standard advice that I give is not to expect to become a tenured faculty professor, since those jobs are rather uncommon. People with astronomy doctorates ends up doing a lot of different things.

    In my case I became a computer programmer, and I'm currently working writing computer simulations for a large investment bank on Wall Street, and it turns out that there are dozens of physics Ph.D.'s on staff. The curious thing is that I'm doing more or less the same work that I did in graduate school because the simulations that large investment banks use to do derivatives calculations happen to use exactly the same mathematics as those used to simulate particle interactions and radiation hydrodynamics in astrophysics.
  6. Dec 13, 2009 #5
    We still haven't moved on from Einstein in fundamental physics, and the world is in the biggest recession since the wall street crash. Keep up the good work guys :)
  7. Dec 13, 2009 #6
    How competitive would a quant job be with an astronomy Ph.D?
  8. Dec 13, 2009 #7
    I dont know this for a fact, but if you dont mind teaching at a community college (or several of them when you first start out), Im sure there is always a need for an Astronomy professor.

    Astronomy at the CC level is a very popular subject, with alot of non-science majors choosing to take this class to fill up phys science G.E. requirements over the traditional chem and physics options.
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