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Science

Astronomer

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

Annual Salary

£15,609 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

Day to day tasks

Your day to day duties will depend on your area of expertise.

In observational astronomy, you could:

  • collect and analyse data from satellites and spacecraft
  • explore space using radio and optical telescopes
  • design new instruments and maintain existing equipment
  • develop software to interpret images and data captured by satellites

In theoretical astronomy, you could:

  • create computer models to test theories about space activities
  • analyse the results of past observations to make new predictions
  • make observations and develop theories
  • analyse data to help build our understanding of events in the universe

Working environment

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

Your working environment may be outdoors some of the time and you may spend nights away from home.

You can get into this job through a university course.

University

You'll need a degree and postgraduate qualification to work as an astronomer. You'll usually need to have achieved a first or a 2:

  • 1 in your degree.

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

Career tips

Join an amateur astronomy group to share your interest, develop connections and get observation experience.

Look out for summer schools like Space School UK.

Further information

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

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You'll usually start as a post-doctoral researcher before moving on to permanent posts that can lead to becoming a professor.

You can transfer your science skills across lots of careers and sectors, for example:aerospace research and development; satellite research and development; systems analysis; software engineering; teaching and lecturing; science communication; finance

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 have a thorough understanding of computer systems and applications
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