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Astronomy Jobs and Career Options
According to the American Astronomical Society, there are about 6000 professional astronomers. To get an astronomy job and build a career takes serious time and dedication to obtain the educational credentials necessary for this competitive profession.
Like a fair number of majors in college, a large percentage of astronomy jobs are in academia. Around 55 percent of all those with an astronomy career are on the faculty of a university or otherwise work for a university in a lab or research facility.
With such a thin job market out there for aspiring astronomers, one can pretty much expect to have to get a Ph.D. in astronomy to get employed in this field. However, some astronomy majors may find positions teaching physics even without a Ph.D.
After getting an astronomy doctoral degree, graduates usually get some kind of research position with a university. Bear in mind that, as you are going through college, establishing a relationship with the professors can be a good way to differentiate yourselves from future competition. For example, try to get on as an assistant if you can. This is one way to set yourself up for possible employment as an astronomer in the future.
The federal government hires a number of astronomers for its labs and observatories. There are close to 2000 such job positions for those seeking an astronomy career with the federal government. However, this career path also generally requires a doctoral degree.
Corporations hire only a few hundred astronomers. These could be for product development or similar tasks. A relatively small number of astronomers also get jobs in museums or other public places.
In short, those with a passion for astronomy can certainly seek a career in this challenging field. But the passion should be strong enough to want to complete the Ph.D. level for employment purposes. Astronomy has relatively few jobs for those with only an undergraduate degree, and aspiring astronomers should also have a passion for teaching, as well.
American Astronomical Society: Brochure on Careers in Astronomy Close