What does an astronomer do?

Astronomers contribute to our understanding of the universe, our galaxy, our solar system and the origin of all life. Using telescopes, astronomers make observations and collect data with the aim of widening our knowledge of physics, chemistry and mathematics. Their day-to-day working life can entail using telescopes and similar detectors, designing equipment for spacecraft, making observations and comparing with previous reports, hypothesising the behaviour of stellar phenomena, compiling reports and publishing scientific findings. 

Tasks:

  • Operate telescopes and related equipment
  • Analyse observational data
  • Formulate theories for observations
  • Design observational equipment
  • Submit research papers for publication

What skills do I need to be an astronomer?

An astronomer must be highly capable of abstract thought and complicated mathematical work in order to succeed in this profession. A passion for science, stars, space exploration and the universe are often what draw people into this demanding field of research. Astronomy involves a large amount of data analysis to support hypotheses, meaning you’ll need to be rigorous and thorough in your work to ensure results are correct.

Skills/attributes
  • Advanced mathematic abilities
  • Able to work with abstract concepts
  • Naturally curious
  • Meticulous in research and analysis
  • Good written and oral communication skills

Specialisations

If you are considering a career as an astronomer, there are a number of related roles and lateral career choices you might consider.

Physicist

Physicists work to develop a better understanding of the physical world and how its laws operates. There are physicists who use mathematical principles to speculate on a theoretical level about space and celestial objects, while others pursue careers in robotics, mechanics or other fields that deal with motion and physical laws.

Radio astronomer

Unlike optical astronomers who use the lensed telescopes we’re all familiar with, radio astronomers study space using radio telescope “dishes” that detect radio waves emanating from outer space. They work across a wide range of projects, including space exploration, the search for extraterrestrial life (SETI) and the detection of astral phenomena.

Atmospheric and environmental physicist

Atmospheric and environmental physicists create an understanding of how different facets of the environment interact with one another. Using an interdisciplinary approach that draws on physics, chemistry, engineering and geosciences they study natural and manmade phenomena on earth.

Study pathways for astronomers

There are a number of educational institutions that will provide you with courses that are relevant to your career outcomes. 

Getting Started

Get a head start on your career with your chosen study options

Skill Building

With targeted study options you can get closer to reaching your career goals

Professional Development

Learn research and methodological skills crucial for a career in science

Industry Recognition

Astronomy is a relatively small field of employment. In order to work in this field you’ll need to complete extensive tertiary training and work at an observatory as a student to gain experience in the field.

Getting a job after graduation

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.

Job Prospects and Salaries

There is expected to be strong growth in employment opportunities for physicists over the next five years.