Jump to content

  •  

CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.

Photo

Professional astronomer - how ?

  • Please log in to reply
68 replies to this topic

#51 John Fitzgerald

John Fitzgerald

    In Focus

  • *****
  • Posts: 10,042
  • Joined: 04 Jan 2004
  • Loc: near Elkins and Pettigrew, Arkansas

Posted 22 May 2021 - 09:52 PM

It would be my guess that S.W. Burnham was one of the last professional astronomers not to have an advanced degree.  AFAIK, he only went through high school.


  • Voyager 3 likes this

#52 rockethead26

rockethead26

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 7,270
  • Joined: 21 Oct 2009
  • Loc: Northern Arizona, USA

Posted 22 May 2021 - 09:59 PM

Awhile back, Lowell posted a job for a telescope operator. My first thought was "that would be fun running a scope for research". Alas, one of the requirements was a degree in astronomy. I guess it helps to know where targets are! I was thinking a more mechanical background would be required for something like that.

It's not so much that a telescope operator needs to know where the targets are as there are computers for that. The astronomy degree is so that they are familiar with details and requirements of taking data with large sophisticated telescopes. An astronomer should not have to explain the reasons for why the data should be captured a certain way on this particular night with this particular target.



#53 dustyc

dustyc

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 747
  • Joined: 10 Oct 2014
  • Loc: Phoenix,AZ

Posted 22 May 2021 - 10:39 PM

True. A pro could setup the instrumentation needed for a particular target and be ready. 


  • rockethead26 likes this

#54 dr.planet

dr.planet

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 113
  • Joined: 06 Feb 2013

Posted 23 May 2021 - 02:51 PM

The AAS Job Register should give a good idea of the range of astronomy-related jobs out there:

 

https://jobregister....rg/jobs/current


Edited by dr.planet, 23 May 2021 - 02:52 PM.

  • AstroVPK, sanbai and Voyager 3 like this

#55 Star Shooter

Star Shooter

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 108
  • Joined: 20 Jul 2019

Posted 28 May 2021 - 09:39 AM

Check out Dr. Becky on youtube. https://www.youtube....h?v=XW_qIqLhPkI


  • BFaucett and Voyager 3 like this

#56 ShaulaB

ShaulaB

    Gemini

  • *****
  • Posts: 3,022
  • Joined: 11 Oct 2012
  • Loc: Missouri

Posted 28 May 2021 - 10:16 AM

I worked in the education department of a planetarium for 11 years. Expect slave wages if you are working for a non-profit, which is what most planetariums and museums are. Even with a masters degree in a science field, do not expect much pay or opportunity for advancement. Unless you are extremely lucky, then rising to a leadership position may be possible.

However,but is rewarding and such fun to interact with and inform visitors. You never know who you will encounter from day to day. I had a supportive spouse who brought home most of our family income, so working at the planetarium was great for me. Your mileage may vary.
  • BradFran and Voyager 3 like this

#57 Star Shooter

Star Shooter

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 108
  • Joined: 20 Jul 2019

Posted 28 May 2021 - 10:28 AM

Another Dr. Becky video "How I became an Astrophysicist" https://www.youtube....h?v=IVQ3yH-Zusg


  • BFaucett and Voyager 3 like this

#58 vsteblina

vsteblina

    Vanguard

  • *****
  • Posts: 2,434
  • Joined: 05 Nov 2007
  • Loc: Wenatchee, Washington

Posted 28 May 2021 - 09:51 PM

I guess , just about everyone in this forum , who knew about astronomy in everyone's golden age ( 5-20 ) wanted to be a professional astronomer/astrophysisist etc . It is interesting to note that there are many numerous branch in astronomy like radio astronomy , astrobiology, planetary sciences and many other fields . I would like to know what are the steps or what sort of education qualifications are necessary ... If you dreamt about professional astronomy , I would love to hear whether you ended up with it or life pulled you into the realistic world , which maybe a sad reality for some of us .

I thought I wanted to be a professional astronomer until my first quarter of college.  Yeah, math.  That was the problem. 

 

That and the fact that I liked learning a LITTLE about a lot.  PhD programs by definition are learning a LOT about little. 

 

When I dropped out of calculus, my college counselor said you need to declare a major so you can take the appropriate classes.  I told her I had no clue and needed to take classes to figure out what I wanted to do, now that astronomy was off the table.

 

She was persistent.  She said, "you know, astronomers sit on top of mountains with their telescopes.  Foresters sit on top of mountains in their lookouts, how about Forestry".

 

I had to ask about the required classes in Forestry, lots of science, plus economics, statistics, and biology.  BUT only two quarters of calculus instead of five. 

 

So I said sign me up, based on required classes. 

 

Best decision of my life. 

 

Based on virtually NO INFORMATION, except I liked the required lower division classes that were required for Forestry.

 

I stayed with astronomy as a hobby for almost my entire life.  I have been a forester for 50 years now. 

 

Forestry was the perfect match for me, knowing a little about a lot matched my personality and interests.  The profession spans a WIDE variety of scientific fields. 

 

I don't know if I would have picked forestry on my own.  I liked "natural" places, but we didn't camp, hike, hunt as a family while I was growing up.  It was a learning experience as they say.

 

IF your smart and good at math. Go for it.  Don't get in the position of regrets early in life.  There will be plenty of time for that later in life.

 

BUT, I would spend some soul searching time about what you like doing, what your good at, and your interests outside of astronomy.

 

One thing to remember, is that you will change.  Your education will change you.  Challenge yourself by taking classes in fields you feel uncomfortable (take them pass/fail), but take them.

 

Life is a adventure.  Plan on making yours an adventure. 

 

Don't plan on having a college advisor recommend a career based on professions you find on top of mountain tops.

 

PS...your quote "in everyone's golden age ( 5-20 )"  That is a pretty good observation.  Sure you don't want to be a writer??


Edited by vsteblina, 28 May 2021 - 09:55 PM.

  • weis14, BradFran, sanbai and 2 others like this

#59 Voyager 3

Voyager 3

    Apollo

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 1,318
  • Joined: 20 Jul 2020
  • Loc: Near Bangalore, India

Posted 29 May 2021 - 12:26 AM

I thought I wanted to be a professional astronomer until my first quarter of college.  Yeah, math.  That was the problem. 

 

That and the fact that I liked learning a LITTLE about a lot.  PhD programs by definition are learning a LOT about little. 

 

When I dropped out of calculus, my college counselor said you need to declare a major so you can take the appropriate classes.  I told her I had no clue and needed to take classes to figure out what I wanted to do, now that astronomy was off the table.

 

She was persistent.  She said, "you know, astronomers sit on top of mountains with their telescopes.  Foresters sit on top of mountains in their lookouts, how about Forestry".

 

I had to ask about the required classes in Forestry, lots of science, plus economics, statistics, and biology.  BUT only two quarters of calculus instead of five. 

 

So I said sign me up, based on required classes. 

 

Best decision of my life. 

 

Based on virtually NO INFORMATION, except I liked the required lower division classes that were required for Forestry.

 

I stayed with astronomy as a hobby for almost my entire life.  I have been a forester for 50 years now. 

 

Forestry was the perfect match for me, knowing a little about a lot matched my personality and interests.  The profession spans a WIDE variety of scientific fields. 

 

I don't know if I would have picked forestry on my own.  I liked "natural" places, but we didn't camp, hike, hunt as a family while I was growing up.  It was a learning experience as they say.

 

IF your smart and good at math. Go for it.  Don't get in the position of regrets early in life.  There will be plenty of time for that later in life.

 

BUT, I would spend some soul searching time about what you like doing, what your good at, and your interests outside of astronomy.

 

One thing to remember, is that you will change.  Your education will change you.  Challenge yourself by taking classes in fields you feel uncomfortable (take them pass/fail), but take them.

 

Life is a adventure.  Plan on making yours an adventure. 

 

Don't plan on having a college advisor recommend a career based on professions you find on top of mountain tops.

 

PS...your quote "in everyone's golden age ( 5-20 )"  That is a pretty good observation.  Sure you don't want to be a writer??

 

I worked in the education department of a planetarium for 11 years. Expect slave wages if you are working for a non-profit, which is what most planetariums and museums are. Even with a masters degree in a science field, do not expect much pay or opportunity for advancement. Unless you are extremely lucky, then rising to a leadership position may be possible.

However,but is rewarding and such fun to interact with and inform visitors. You never know who you will encounter from day to day. I had a supportive spouse who brought home most of our family income, so working at the planetarium was great for me. Your mileage may vary.

Great ! So many of you go in the direction of life rather than living in the direction of yours ! It is what will happen for lucky chaps .. I've seen many bachelors who say if life doesn't smile at you , you gotta make your life smile . Vladmir - I've sometimes thought about it . It's the time of life at which when you cry , someone comes . It's the time of life where you don't work but still get food . It's the time of life which shapes your future too ! I'm pretty sure I'm weak at poetry or writing in English Lol . Gotta improve it .

 

I will try my best . IF I didn't achieve it , I will take it as a hobby ! Nothing wrong when it makes you happy and that's what hobby is . 



#60 vsteblina

vsteblina

    Vanguard

  • *****
  • Posts: 2,434
  • Joined: 05 Nov 2007
  • Loc: Wenatchee, Washington

Posted 29 May 2021 - 09:15 PM

. .............................Vladmir - I've sometimes thought about it . It's the time of life at which when you cry , someone comes . It's the time of life where you don't work but still get food . It's the time of life which shapes your future too ! I'm pretty sure I'm weak at poetry or writing in English Lol . Gotta improve it ......................

 

I am not sure poetry is that important, but writing in English is a important skill.

 

I did grow up in the US so learning English was important.  BUT since English was my FOURTH language it took me a long time to learn how to write in English.

 

The state of California, was pretty concerned about my accent when I moved there at the age of 11.  So they sent me to a speech therapist to get rid of my accent.  You actually have to retrain your tongue to speak English without an accent.

 

They did an outstanding job.  It took two years, but the accent was gone!!!  Unfortunately, they pulled me out of English grammer class to get rid of my accent!!!

 

Writing well in English didn't happen until my junior year at college.  The school did a survey of employers and their reviews of the students they hired.  Everybody was happy with the skill set, EXCEPT for English writing skills.  The professional school then set up a one-unit credit class to teach its students to write technical papers and letters.  It was where I learned to write!!!

 

I noticed in my career those folks that could write and write well and quickly did much better professionally that those that struggled with basic writing skills, no matter their level of professional skills.

 

I wish I would have learned to write earlier.  It is a skill set that is important for any profession or scientific field.  Unfortunately, most of us since we are not naturally good at it tend to underestimate its importance.

 

Good luck in becoming an astronomer.  I think you will do well no matter you choice of professions.



#61 sabersix

sabersix

    Vostok 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 124
  • Joined: 28 Oct 2019
  • Loc: Midway GA

Posted 29 May 2021 - 09:40 PM

I guess I see this differently than everyone else.  There is no real reason to become a traditional astronomer, except you limit yourself to that.  I see a coupe non traditional paths to becoming a professional astronomer.

  1. Become a youtube astronomer.  There are several astronomers that post vidoes on youtube that bring down a chunk of change.  Look into this path.
  2. Start up a remote observatory company. With the internet, you can set up a telescope and sell "telescope time".

While these are none traditional roles, they are close enough to not be discounted.

 

Maybe I am full of crap, but these seem like valid pathways to me.  Plus, no MATH.


Edited by sabersix, 29 May 2021 - 09:40 PM.

  • weis14 likes this

#62 VNA

VNA

    Messenger

  • -----
  • Posts: 433
  • Joined: 13 Nov 2009
  • Loc: Northern California

Posted 29 May 2021 - 09:53 PM

Here's one example:

 

 

Emily Levesque

 

"Levesque grew up in Taunton, Massachusetts. 

 

Hello, an excellent and vivacious orator, with at least one Youtube video.

Some how, I thought she was French-Canadian?

 

In any case, from what I understand, it takes a lot of work--it is pure passion.

I from time to time  read this same question on French astronomy forums. From what I gather, it is much harder to secure a position. Fewer  research outfits and a professional environment ossified and p├ędantesques! (. . .sorry)



#63 weis14

weis14

    Messenger

  • *****
  • Posts: 445
  • Joined: 26 Oct 2007
  • Loc: Midland, MI

Posted 29 May 2021 - 10:10 PM

That and the fact that I liked learning a LITTLE about a lot.  PhD programs by definition are learning a LOT about little. 

 

This is the best observation in this entire thread.  I have two graduate degrees (JD and MS), but I never considered getting a PhD because I didn't want to be that specialized in anything.  I'm not quite a decade out of graduate school and have found a challenging career that makes use of skills that I am good at, while also being interesting enough that I'm not bored.  

 

Astronomy is a diversion from work.  Would it be interesting to find a way to make a few dollars off of my hobby?  Sure, but it would never be as a professional astronomer.  If I ever did anything astronomy related as a money-making venture, it would have to serve the amateur community in some way.  I have no idea what that would be.  Maybe I should buy Willmann-Bell? thinking1.gif



#64 jcj380

jcj380

    Vanguard

  • *****
  • Posts: 2,419
  • Joined: 08 Jul 2014
  • Loc: Hellinois

Posted 30 May 2021 - 02:28 PM

Haven't read the whole thread but a masters in astro can get you teaching jobs either at coco's or as a lecturer at some four year schools.  Not sure how much scope time you might be able to get for research without a PhD, but most research / grant applications are done by groups anyway.

 

Also, many astro programs have been subsumed into physics departments, so one might have to do a bachelors in physics with a concentration in astro before applying to grad schools.

 

My undergrad degree is in astro, but I went rogue and got an MBA so my knowledge could be outdated.  I do however work down the hall from our Physics and Astronomy Dept.



#65 laurelg9

laurelg9

    Mariner 2

  • *****
  • Posts: 223
  • Joined: 23 Nov 2020
  • Loc: Dayton, OH, USA

Posted 30 May 2021 - 03:31 PM

This is a great discussion.  

 

I've worked in higher ed as an advisor (and you had a great advisor, vsteblina!) and an assistant professor of English. I've written a lot, published a few things, and worked as a tech writer and web content developer.  My love of astronomy comes through nighttime observation and, of all things, meteorites.  I wouldn't have been able to do a Phd in physics anymore than I could fly to the moon on my own power.  However, working at a university means I get perks like right now being able to take the intro astronomy and space physics course for non-majors and I'm loving it. 


  • jcj380 likes this

#66 jcj380

jcj380

    Vanguard

  • *****
  • Posts: 2,419
  • Joined: 08 Jul 2014
  • Loc: Hellinois

Posted 30 May 2021 - 07:23 PM

However, working at a university means I get perks like right now being able to take the intro astronomy and space physics course for non-majors and I'm loving it. 

waytogo.gif  And maybe audit some higher level courses.  wink.gif

 

(Astro seminars and colloquia should be starting back up this fall too.)



#67 Tom Polakis

Tom Polakis

    Vanguard

  • *****
  • Posts: 2,209
  • Joined: 20 Dec 2004
  • Loc: Tempe, Arizona

Posted 31 May 2021 - 01:06 PM

I got all the way into my second year of college thinking about pursuing an Astrophysics degree.  Two things made me change my major to mechanical engineering.  The first was pragmatic: I was raised in a lower middle class house, and I was attracted by a high starting salary.  Secondly, I don't have the right stuff to be a professional astronomer.  All of them I've met over the years are exceedingly smart people, and good at disciplines in which I struggled.  Most professional astronomers love what they do, and I'm envious of those who have been able to make it a successful profession.

 

Tom


  • jcj380, BFaucett, dustyc and 1 other like this

#68 Voyager 3

Voyager 3

    Apollo

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 1,318
  • Joined: 20 Jul 2020
  • Loc: Near Bangalore, India

Posted 02 June 2021 - 09:35 AM

I got all the way into my second year of college thinking about pursuing an Astrophysics degree.  Two things made me change my major to mechanical engineering.  The first was pragmatic: I was raised in a lower middle class house, and I was attracted by a high starting salary.  Secondly, I don't have the right stuff to be a professional astronomer.  All of them I've met over the years are exceedingly smart people, and good at disciplines in which I struggled.  Most professional astronomers love what they do, and I'm envious of those who have been able to make it a successful profession.

 

Tom

I like your pragmatic approach . Taking risk is just not possible in middle class . 


  • John Fitzgerald likes this

#69 ALman

ALman

    Sputnik

  • -----
  • Posts: 42
  • Joined: 16 Oct 2019
  • Loc: Christchurch NZ

Posted 07 June 2021 - 12:19 AM

I think what a lot of people think of as being a professional astronomer is more of an optical engineering role making, maintaining and upgrading image acquisition hardware or software. I think training as optical engineer would be more fascinating for me. But the big data stuff and the big data physics would be a bit dull for me. 




CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.


Recent Topics






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics