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How to become an astronomer in Australia: careers in astronomy

Astronomers use the principles of physics and mathematics to understand more about the universe. They measure and interpret the patterns of activity, movement and radiation of stellar phenomena and planetary systems. Astronomers gather data about characteristics of moons, stars, planets and other objects using specialised equipment such as telescopes and computer programs. They may develop and test scientific theories, and also may spend time composing scientific papers and presenting their findings to others in their field.
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Being an astronomer: daily duties

The day to day working life of an astronomer can be varied. They use telescopes to make observations and collect data. They may also spend time analysing their data, writing research papers as well as research proposals. They may also have to write and give presentations on their findings to others in their teams, and publish scientific findings.

Tasks:

  • Operating telescopes and related equipment
  • Formulate theories for observations
  • Analyse data
  • Submit research papers for publication

Being an astronomer: skills for success

Astronomers need advanced qualifications in physics and astronomy. They must be capable of abstract thought and carrying out complicated mathematical work. Excellent research skills are also necessary, and the ability to collect and analyse large volumes of data to support hypothesis. A rigorous, meticulous attention to detail is necessary, as well as the ability to produce scientific papers, reports and other material.
Skills/attributes
  • Able to solve problems and analyse data
  • Excellent maths and science skills
  • Able to work as part of a team
  • Knowledge of space-related software
  • Meticulous in research and analysis

Specialised roles within astronomy

There are a number of related roles and lateral career choices that you might consider pursuing if you are interested in a career in astronomy.
  • Physicist
    A physicist works to develop a better understanding of the physical world. They may use mathematical principles to speculate on theories about space and celestial objects. They may also pursue careers in robotics, mechanics or other fields that study motion and physical laws.
  • Radio astronomer
    Radio astronomers study space using radio telescope dishes that dissect radio waves coming from outer space.
  • Atmospheric and environmental physicist
    These physicists create an understanding of the different facets of the environment and the way they interact. They use an interdisciplinary approach drawing on physics, chemistry, geosciences and engineering to study the natural and manmade phenomena on earth.

Educational pathways for astronomers

There are many different pathways that you can pursue to becoming an astronomer, but you will generally need to have advanced scientific qualifications in mathematics, physics and/or astronomy.
  • Start your career
    Get on your way to a career in astronomy with these study options.
  • Strengthen your skills
    Reach your career goals by undertaking these targeted study options.
  • Build your resume
    Build the research and methodological skills you’ll need to further your career in science
  • Industry requirements
    Astronomy is a relatively small but highly competitive field. Extensive tertiary training is necessary as well as working at an observatory as a student.
  • Finding Work
    Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your astronomy career. Emphasise your personal strengths and achievements in your resume and target your cover letter to the job description listed.
  • Employment Prospects
    Strong growth in employment opportunities for physicists is expected over the next five years.
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