Astronomy and astrophysics involve studying and investigating the science of the Universe. It is an unusual science because it deals with extremes. Extreme sizes. From massive galaxies, light-years across to tiny atoms that power the stars. Extreme temperatures. From millions of degrees in the centre of the Sun to 3 degrees above absolute zero in the vacuum of space. This means that astronomers need to understand lots of different science topics.
There are many ways to end up with a career in astronomy or astrophysics, though most people follow the same path.
It is important to get good school qualifications in science and maths. Physics is particularly important, and chemistry could be very useful.
You usually need a university undergraduate degree in either astronomy or physics to become an astronomer. Since astronomy contains a lot of physics, many universities now offer degrees in astrophysics, which combine both. Visit the Institute of Physics for help and guidance. They also have information about which courses are accredited by the Institute of Physics. The LJMU Personal Statement Workbook can help you to write a personal statement for a UCAS application.
As well as an undergraduate degree, most astronomers have advanced academic qualifications. This may include a postgraduate degree, which is sometimes known as a master’s degree. They are very likely to also have a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), which is a research degree and the highest academic qualification you can achieve. Many astronomers will have spent more than 8 years studying at university for these qualifications.
Once you have a PhD, you apply for jobs as a professional astronomer. Astronomers work in all sorts of places including universities, observatories, and space-agencies. Astronomy is popular all over the world. Most astronomy groups are made up of people from many different countries and backgrounds.
Thinking about Apprenticeships?
If you're thinking about an apprenticeship or degree apprenticeship, the space sector needs the technical skills gained during a practical apprenticeship.
The simplest way to get onto an apprenticeship scheme is often to email a company directly. The spacecareers website has help for finding an apprenticeship. The UK Government also has a large database to help you find an apprenticeship.
Our careers resources provide the opportunity for pupils to develop knowledge and understanding of the different jobs available to people who enjoy space and science through class games, quizzes, and discussion.
Register as a Teacher to access careers guidance and resources.
Visit spacecareers.uk for information different jobs to do with space and search for vacancies and internships.
The IOP's Limitless booklets can help you understand the huge range of opportunities that studying physics beyond the age of 16 can open up.
The IOP's Your future with physics: A guide for young people features information, advice and inspirational, real-world stories.