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Science

Astronomer

Astronomers study the origin and make-up of the universe, including its planets, stars, galaxies and black holes.

Annual Salary

£15,000 to £60,000

Average UK salary in 2019 was £30,378
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

39 to 41 irregular

You could work: evenings / weekends / bank holidays; away from home

What's it all about?

Day to day tasks

In observational astronomy, your duties might include:

  • collecting and analysing data from satellites and spacecraft
  • exploring space using radio and optical telescopes
  • designing new instruments and maintaining existing equipment
  • developing software to interpret images and data captured by satellites

In theoretical astronomy, your duties may include:

  • creating computer models to test theories about processes happening in space
  • analysing the results of past observations to make new predictions
  • making observations and developing theories
  • analysing data to help build our understanding of events in the universe

Working environment

You could work in an observatory, in a laboratory or at a university.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
University

You'll need a degree and postgraduate qualification to work as an astronomer. Your degree will usually need to be a first or upper second-class.

Relevant subjects include:

  • maths
  • physics
  • astrophysics
  • geophysics
  • astronomy
  • space science

You can also do an extended 4-year degree to get a postgraduate qualification like a master of physics. These courses include more independent research and can lead directly onto a PhD.

Many employers will expect you to have completed, or be working towards, a PhD in your specialist area of interest.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science
  • 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including maths and physics
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
For more information

More information

Further information

You'll find more advice on careers in astronomy from the Royal Astronomical Society and SpaceCareers.uk.

With experience, you could move into related careers like aerospace or satellite research and development.

You could also use your skills in systems analysis, software engineering, teaching, scientific journalism or accountancy.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • maths knowledge
  • knowledge of physics
  • analytical thinking skills
  • science skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • the ability to think clearly using logic and reasoning
  • concentration skills
  • knowledge of computer operating systems, hardware and software
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
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