Astronomers are scientists who love learning about the universe—and sharing what they’ve learned. They work in many different settings and they are motivated by their passion for space.
- The field of astronomy is small. Only about 6,000 astronomers work in the U.S. Most astronomers work as professors or researchers at universities. Some work in museums and planetariums. A few work for private industries.
- Astronomers almost always have a doctorate degree, which takes 5 to 7 years to complete. After completing their doctorate degree, most astronomers work for 2 to 3 years as research assistants. They work under more experienced astronomers before doing projects independently.
- Astronomers often specialize in one area of astronomy—like studying black holes. They’re good at science and math, but they especially love astronomy. Being able to solve complex problems and analyze data are important parts of their jobs.
- Professors of astronomy earn between $50,000 to $105,000 per year. Many professors supplement their income with summer jobs. Astronomers sometimes travel to give presentations or travel to use specialized equipment.
- Most astronomers work in offices or observatories.
- Astronomers have been studying the universe for thousands of years. Greek philosophers made the first known charts of the stars around 500 B.C. Aristotle proved that the earth is round, although he believed that the universe orbits around the earth, not the sun. Nicolaus Copernicus believed that the Sun was the center of the universe, not the Earth. In the 16th century, Galileo built a telescope and began studying the skies. He discovered moons orbiting Jupiter, proving the idea that the universe did not orbit around the Earth. The church did not like Galileo’s conclusions. He was forced to renounce his ideas and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
Questions and Answers
Question: Do astronomers go into space?
Answer: No, astronomers do the behind the scenes work of studying planets, stars, and celestial bodies. They develop theories about what is happening in space. They do not design spacecraft and they don’t go into space.
Watch a short video on being an astronomer.