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Career profile: Astronomer

Career profile: AstronomerGot your head in the clouds? Why not go even further and reach for the moon? Find out about the scientists who make a living out of star gazing.

A what?

Astronomy is an ancient profession. The job of the astronomer is to study celestial bodies, like stars, comets and planets.

On the job

We may have had astronomers since ancient times but their jobs have changed a lot since then. Modern astronomers have the benefit of cutting edge technology to gather information about the way stars and planets behave, what they are made of and how they originated.

A big part of an astronomer’s job is using powerful telescopes and the information collected from space missions to find out more about space. They then use (and sometime create) complicated computer programs to make sense of the data they’ve got and to develop theories on how large objects in space work.

The astronomer will then have to share and compare their findings with other people working in the same field, so they will have to write up their discoveries and maybe present their work in meeting and conferences.

Salary and future prospects

An astronomer who has just finished their education could earn around £22,000 a year and the most senior astronomers (with management responsibilities) could earn up to £55,000 a year. Salaries do vary according to employers.

It is quite a specialist field, so there aren’t that many astronomers in the UK – probably around 1000. However, it’s a growing area with job opportunities in universities and research laboratories.

How do I get there?

Most astronomers have a degree in maths or physics, or in a specialist course in astronomy, astrophysics or geophysics. They then often go on to take more post-graduate courses.

Entry requirements for these degrees are usually three A-levels, including physics and mathematics, plus five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3). Always check what each university says though, as they are all different.

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