How To Become An Astronomer In Australia: A Complete Guide

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Students want to know how they can become astronomers in Australia.


Are you fascinated with planets, meteors, and black holes? If yes, a career as an Astronomer might be perfect for you.


Astronomers study celestial objects such as moons, planets, stars, and galaxies to develop scientific theories based on their findings.


To become an Astronomer in Australia, you need an undergraduate degree followed by a postgraduate/doctoral qualification in science, astronomy, astrophysics, or a related field. Having relevant work experience and membership in professional bodies helps.


This blog will show you the steps to realise your goal. Explore astronomers' daily duties, required technical competencies, degree courses, average salary, career prospects, and more.



1. What Are Astronomers?


Astronomers are research scientists who apply mathematics and physics principles to study the properties and behaviour of objects in the universe.


They analyse movement patterns, activity, and planetary systems radiation and use their findings to develop and test scientific theories, compose scientific papers, and present their reports to their peers.



2. What Tools And Technologies Do Astronomers Use?


Astronomers use cutting-edge technology and specialised equipment to take astronomical observations and perform tasks. Some of these include:


  • Optical telescope

  • Infrared telescope

  • Robotic telescopes

  • A millimetre or radio ground-based telescope

  • A range of satellite-based detectors and telescopes

  • Supercomputers

  • Space-related computer programs



3. What Do Astronomers Do?


The general day-to-day duties of an Astronomer are as follows:


  • Develop and attach special equipment to spacecraft or telescopes when necessary 

  • Observe space objects using a range of specialised detectors or telescopes and collect data

  • Examine the creation and evolution of the solar system

  • Analyse data to understand the nature, origin, and evolution of the universe 

  • Perform computations using physical and mathematical principles

  • Record, examine, and compare outcomes of observations

  • Develop theories, scientific papers, and reports to explain observations 

  • Design detectors and tools to observe radiations from the earth's surface or through spacecraft

  • Present the results at scientific meetings, conferences, and seminars and publish them in scientific journals

  • Supervise and coordinate the working of technologists and technicians

  • Teach physics, astronomy, or astrophysics classes



4. Astronomer Skills For Success


Here is the list of desirable skills for an Astronomer:


  • Advanced-level qualifications in physics and astronomy

  • Advanced mathematic abilities

  • Capable of working with abstract concepts and complex mathematical work

  • Strong writing skills for writing research papers, scientific reports, and lecture notes

  • Computer skills to access the web and emails and use software to perform complex computations

  • Capable of analysing trends and patterns in large data volumes to support hypotheses



Soft Skills


  • Passion for stars, science, space exploration, and the universe 

  • An insatiable curiosity

  • Imagination

  • Patience

  • Good oral and written communication skills

  • Meticulous in analysis 

  • Excellent research skills

  • Good written and communication skills

  • A flair for public speaking to orally present their scientific findings to their peers

  • Attention to detail

  • Good problem-solving skills to help crunch the numbers

  • Able to work as part of a team



5. Qualifications To Become An Astronomer In Australia


To qualify for an Astronomer role, you need advanced scientific qualifications in physics, mathematics, and astronomy and relevant work experience.




6. Steps To Become An Astronomer In Australia


Here is the study pathway to landing a job as an Astronomer in Australia:



Step 1: Study Astronomy In High School


Your preparation to become an Astronomer starts from the high school level. 


You can take a few astronomy courses or related courses. These include physics, high-level math, or computer science to improve your entry into a bachelor's degree program.



Step 2: Complete An Undergraduate Qualification In Astronomy


You need a bachelor's degree in science, astronomy, mathematics, physics, or computer science. 


You may consider any of the following recommended degree courses: 



Bachelor of Space Science – RMIT University


The course provides you with a combination of physics, geospatial science, mathematics, engineering, and specialised space studies. You also learn data manipulation using standard astronomical software packages.



Bachelor of Science (Astronomy and Astrophysics) – Macquarie University


Studying for this major, you develop creative problem-solving skills and learn to apply basic physical principles and computational and mathematical techniques.


After completing the course, you can develop analytical solutions to develop customised software to manipulate equations and solve astrophysical issues.



Bachelor of Science (Space Science & Astrophysics) - The University of Adelaide



Step 3: Join A Professional Body


Once you obtain a relevant bachelor's qualification, you become eligible to become a student member of professional organisations such as the Space Industry Association of Australia.


By becoming a member, you can network with other aspiring astronomers and get in touch with industry professionals. Nurturing such professional relationships can help improve work prospects in the future.



Step 4: Earn An Advanced-Level Astronomy Qualification


After you complete your bachelor's degree, you can begin applying for astronomer positions in an office, a space agency, an observatory, or a laboratory.


However, most laboratories look for candidates with postdoctoral research and some relevant work experience. 


Therefore, you should consider supplementing your existing qualification with a Research Master's degree or doctorate program for a PhD in astronomy that showcase your abilities to undertake research.


The Master of Science (Astronomy) incorporates practical hands-on learning sessions, giving an overall understanding of modern astronomy.


Undergoing this course, you explore everything about extra-terrestrial planets, solar systems, the history and evolution of the universe, and galaxies at some advanced space facilities.


The requisite academic knowledge and communication skills you gain with a Graduate Certificate course enable you to work across various astronomy and astronomy-related fields. 


Besides giving you an extra leg up on the competition, earning an advanced degree lets you pursue specialised roles and opens the door to working overseas as a professional astronomer.


  • Graduate Certificate of Science (Astronomy) – Swinburne University of Technology

  • Master of Science (Astronomy) – Swinburne University of Technology

  • Master of Science in Astronomy & Astrophysics – Australian National University


Resources For Astronomers:





7. How To Become An Astronomer Without A Degree?


Astronomy is a complex field that requires performing high-level physics and mathematics computation. 


Therefore, completing a university qualification is essential as it equips you with a high level of technical skills and personal qualities to perform the job thoroughly, accurately, and efficiently.



8. How Long Does It Take To Become An Astronomer In Australia?


You must complete a 3-year full-time Bachelor of Astronomy or an undergraduate science degree, majoring in physics or astrophysics. 


Next, study a 1.5-year to 2-year full-time Master or PhD in astronomy or astrophysics. Once you have the qualifications, you can apply for Astronomer positions in Australia.


Some astronomy labs are highly competitive workplaces requiring research experience with formal education. 


To become a more desirable candidate, consider earning work experience by working on research projects with professors or working as a lab intern during or between degrees.



9. Working Conditions For An Astronomer


Astronomers usually work indoors in an observatory, or an office to collect, record, and publish their research findings. 


They work in large teams of scientists to study the position and movement, physical and chemical properties, and origin and evolution of cosmic objects.


They may need to travel long distances to observatories to make observations and may work overtime, often at night. As opposed to the general belief, astronomers spend more time on computers than observing using telescopes.



10. Where Do Astronomers Work?


Career opportunities for Astronomers exist in a variety of settings, such as:


  • Government agencies, like the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Bureau of Meteorology

  • Observatories like the Australia Telescope National Facility and the Australian Astronomical Observatory

  • Universities in the area of science/astronomy education

  • National Space Agencies

  • Museums

  • Science centres and Planetariums



11. The Most Common Astronomer Jobs In Australia


Qualified Astronomers can pursue a wide range of roles across the space sector. Some of these include:


  • Space industry consultant

  • Satellite engineer

  • Sounding rocket engineer or scientist

  • Space debris tracking analyst

  • Payload scientist

  • Project manager

  • Launch engineer

  • Flight or mission controller

  • Space weather analyst



12. Specialist Astronomer Jobs


After gaining years of experience and expertise, consider continuing your education in any of the below areas to seek specialised roles in astronomy.


  • Celestial bodies 

  • Stellar phenomena

  • Quantum mechanics

  • The history and future of the universe

  • One or more disciplines of physics, such as luminescent, mechanical, magnetic, electrical, molecular, nuclear, ionospheric, radioactive, atmospheric physics, planetary physics, or signal analysis



The Most Common Specialist Roles For Astronomers Include:



  • Physicists: Use mathematical principles to formulate theories about space and heavenly bodies or work in robotics, mechanics, or fields related to physical laws of motion.


  • Environmental and Atmospheric Physicist: Study the man-made and natural phenomena on earth to understand the different planes of the environment and how they interact.


  • Radio Astronomer: Studies space by detecting radio waves that emanate from external space using a radio telescope.



13. What Is The Astronomer's Salary In Australia?


According to Salary Expert, the average astronomer's salary is $157,180 per year or an equivalent of $76 per hour in Australia. 


They may also earn an average bonus of $6,680 on top of their annual salary. Their earning potential may increase as they gain more experience.



Average Salary Based on Experience:


  • Entry-level astronomers (1-3 years of experience) earn $108,910 per year

  • Senior-level astronomers (8+ years of experience) earn $196,039 per year



14. Job Prospects Of Astronomers In Australia


Demand for this profession depends on the level of capital investment, government funding, and opportunities for overseas research.


Considering the considerable investment of the Australian government and industries in space science technology and the Australian Space Agency's plans to add 20,000 jobs to the space sector by 2030, the future growth and outlook for this occupation seem highly favourable.


In the coming years, several new jobs will be available in communications technologies, ground stations, services, space situational awareness, debris monitoring, Earth observation services, remote asset management, and research and development.



15. Conclusion


Being an astronomer requires several years of education, dedication, and constant skill advancement. 


Working in this role, you get the opportunity to benefit society with astonishing and valuable insights into the universe.


If you are serious about pursuing this intellectually challenging and competitive profession, the above steps will help you.


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