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Career profile Astronomer

Also known as Astronomer, Astrophysicist, Data Scientist, Research Scientist, Scientist

Astronomer

Also known as Astronomer, Astrophysicist, Data Scientist

Interests Profile
  • Investigative
  • Artistic
  • Realistic
Pay Range
$62,410 - $189,690 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Science
  • Critical Thinking
Knowledge Areas
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Computers and Electronics
Core tasks
  • Mentor graduate students and junior colleagues.
  • Present research findings at scientific conferences and in papers written for scientific journals.
  • Collaborate with other astronomers to carry out research projects.
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What does an Astronomer do?

Astronomers observe, research, and interpret astronomical phenomena to increase basic knowledge or apply such information to practical problems.

What kind of tasks does an Astronomer perform regularly?

Astronomers are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Mentor graduate students and junior colleagues.
  • Present research findings at scientific conferences and in papers written for scientific journals.
  • Collaborate with other astronomers to carry out research projects.
  • Analyze research data to determine its significance, using computers.
  • Study celestial phenomena, using a variety of ground-based and space-borne telescopes and scientific instruments.
  • Supervise students' research on celestial and astronomical phenomena.
  • Raise funds for scientific research.
  • Teach astronomy or astrophysics.
  • Measure radio, infrared, gamma, and x-ray emissions from extraterrestrial sources.
  • Develop instrumentation and software for astronomical observation and analysis.
  • Review scientific proposals and research papers.
  • Develop theories based on personal observations or on observations and theories of other astronomers.
  • Calculate orbits and determine sizes, shapes, brightness, and motions of different celestial bodies.
  • Serve on professional panels and committees.
  • Develop and modify astronomy-related programs for public presentation.

The above responsibilities are specific to Astronomers. More generally, Astronomers are involved in several broader types of activities:

Working with Computers
Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
Analyzing Data or Information
Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Thinking Creatively
Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.

What is an Astronomer salary?

The median salary for an Astronomer is $119,730, and the average salary is $126,250. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Astronomer salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Astronomers earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Astronomers earn less than $62,410 per year, 25% earn less than $79,930, 75% earn less than $166,710, and 90% earn less than $189,690.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Astronomers is expected to change by 4.8%, and there should be roughly 200 open positions for Astronomers every year.

Median annual salary
$119,730
Typical salary range
$62,410 - $189,690
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
4.8%

What personality traits are common among Astronomers?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as an Astronomer are usually higher in their Investigative, Artistic, and Realistic interests.

Astronomers typically have very strong Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Also, Astronomers typically have strong Artistic interests. Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.

Lastly, Astronomers typically have moderate Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as an Astronomer tend to value Achievement, Recognition, and Independence.

Most importantly, Astronomers very strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Second, Astronomers strongly value Recognition. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious.

Lastly, Astronomers strongly value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Astronomers must consistently demonstrate qualities such as analytical thinking, initiative, and achievement/effort.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Astronomers, ranked by importance:

Analytical Thinking
Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
Initiative
Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
Achievement/Effort
Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.

What education and training do Astronomers need?

Many Astronomers have earned a graduate degree. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D..

Astronomers may need some on-the-job training, but most candidates will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.

Educational degrees among Astronomers

  • 19.8% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 19.5% earned a Master's degree
  • 60.8% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Astronomers

Astronomers may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as mathematics, physics, or computers and electronics knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Astronomers might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Mathematics
Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Physics
Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub-atomic structures and processes.
Computers and Electronics
Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
Engineering and Technology
Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.

Important Abilities needed by Astronomers

Astronomers must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Astronomers need abilities such as oral expression, deductive reasoning, and inductive reasoning in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Astronomers, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Deductive Reasoning
The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
Inductive Reasoning
The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
Mathematical Reasoning
The ability to choose the right mathematical methods or formulas to solve a problem.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.

Critical Skills needed by Astronomers

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Astronomers frequently use skills like reading comprehension, science, and critical thinking to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Astronomers, ranked by their relative importance.

Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Science
Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Writing
Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

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