Are you fascinated with planets, meteors, and black holes and interested in physics, mathematics, and computing? 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 generally require 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 is highly regarded in this role.
Whether your interest lies in knowing how to become an astronomer at NASA or working at a local laboratory, this blog will show you the steps to realize your goal. Read to explore their 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 analyze 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 specialized equipment to take astronomical observations and perform tasks. Some of these include:
A millimetre or radio ground-based telescope
A range of satellite-based detectors and telescopes
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 specialized detectors or telescopes and collect data
Examine the creation and evolution of the solar system
Analyze 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 co-ordinate 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 to write 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
Passion for stars, science, space exploration, and the universe
An insatiable curiosity
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, astronomy and relevant work experience.
Gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education certificate preferably in English, maths, physics, chemistry, biology, earth and environmental science
Complete a university degree in science with a focus on astronomy, physics, or astrophysics (preferably at the honours level)
Follow it up by completing a postgraduate qualification in astronomy or astrophysics like a Master’s or PhD in astrophysics or astronomy.
Join a professional organization like the Astronomical Society of Australia to build your professional network and stay updated with industry developments
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 such as 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 specialized 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 get the ability to develop analytical solutions to develop customized 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 organizations 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 specialized 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 an advanced level 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's or PhD in astronomy or astrophysics. Once you have the necessary qualifications, you are ready to apply for Astronomer positions in Australia.
Some astronomy labs are highly competitive workplaces that require research work experience with formal education.
To become a more desirable candidate, you can 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
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
Sounding rocket engineer or scientist
Space debris tracking analyst
Flight or mission controller
Space weather analyst
12. Specialist Astronomer Jobs
After gaining years of experience and expertise, you can consider continuing your education in any of the below areas to seek specialized roles in astronomy.
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:
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 are expected in communications technologies, ground stations, services, space situational awareness, debris monitoring, Earth observation services, remote asset management, and research and development.
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 prepare for an impactful start.
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