How can I Become an Astronomer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A career in astronomy, the science of studying the universe, can be quite exciting. The best way to become an astronomer is to take coursework through high school and college which will prepare someone for a career in astronomy, although some people start out as adult amateur astronomers and later pursue additional training and certification in the field. Someone who wants to become an astronomer should be aware that employment in the field is quite varied, with most astronomers working in the academic community.

An astronomer must be familiar with the rules of physics that govern motion throughout the universe.
An astronomer must be familiar with the rules of physics that govern motion throughout the universe.

For young aspiring astronomers, preparation for a career as an astronomer can start in high school, with a solid grounding of math and science classes. If a high school offers astronomy classes as electives, they should definitely be pursued, along with advanced math and physics. Some high schools have agreements with neighboring colleges which allow high school students to take college classes, which is another option which can be considered for students who want to get a jump start.

An astronomer must be familiar with the technologies, such as radio telescopes, that are used to study the universe.
An astronomer must be familiar with the technologies, such as radio telescopes, that are used to study the universe.

While in high school, aspiring astronomers may also want to research various subfields in astronomy. People who are interested in extra-terrestrial life might, for example, want to consider a career in astrobiology. For students who live near a major university or observatory, it may be possible to take a tour and meet working astronomers to learn more about the daily life of people in this field.

Many colleges offer astronomy courses.
Many colleges offer astronomy courses.

Someone who wants to become an astronomer, young or old, should pursue a college education in an institution with a good astronomy program. Access to an observatory is also very important, so if a college does not have an observatory, it should have agreements with research facilities and observatories so that students can get observatory time. Students may want to consult lists of national astronomy associations to get an idea of which schools are represented among the leaders of the field; if the same educational institution comes up again and again, chances are that it is a good place to study astronomy.

In college, a student will need to complete basic prerequisite and breadth of knowledge requirements before he or she can pursue specialized classes and become an astronomer. Some students may opt to take summer school to get these courses finished early so that they can focus on astronomy. It is also a good idea to think about graduate school, which will offer research opportunities and the potential to work with leading astronomers. After graduate school, students can pursue postgraduate work, and seek out positions as working astronomers in universities and at observatories.

Access to an observatory is important to astronomers.
Access to an observatory is important to astronomers.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon952187

@anon948151: Learn math and physics, take some courses, find some stuff online, etc. That, or go for something else.

anon948151

What if I don't have solid knowledge of maths and physics, but I really want to work as a astronomer?

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