An astronomer is generally described as a scientist who focuses primarily on the study of outer space, which includes the stars, the planets and the galaxies. In ancient times, it was described almost as a study of the unknown, as people were curious about what was in the sky and wanted answers for what they considered phenomena. Despite scientific advances, there is still a certain sense of mystery to what is in the skies above us, and astronomers focus on research that both allows us to analyze the stars and planets as well as letting us determine how they can help various causes on our planets as well.
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The bulk of an astronomer's job focuses heavily on research. An astronomer is looking to discover things about the solar system that are scientific breakthroughs - things we may not have known before that can help us in our everyday lives. Astronomers also spend their time teaching courses and putting together instruments that allow them to better their craft, such as advanced telescopes. They also often work in observatories with focus on the study of planets and stars.
An astronomer must have an extensive background in the field of science, as well as a keen interest in mathematics. Most astronomers have advanced degrees in physics or other fields with a similar focus. Many who focus on engineering in college also find themselves drawn to astronomy, as the focus on research in both fields is similar. Those who become astronomers have a thirst for knowledge. There is nothing they do not want to know, nothing that does not fascinate them. Everything provides them with a new opportunity to learn and better their craft. Many astronomers are also dreamers, outsiders who are determined to find their place in the world. It is a tough path to follow, but those who are passionate enough will certainly reap the rewards.
Typical majors that most aspiring astronomers focus on in college are Physics, Applied Physics or Astrophysics. Focus on schools that have good programs in these departments and also schools that have strong mathematics programs. After completing undergraduate education look for a position as a research assistant and pursue a master's degree or a PHD. Most prominent positions in the workplace require this form of higher education in order to move forward professionally.
Workplaces for astronomers can vary. Typical classroom settings are common for those who end up teaching their craft to others. Observatories are also typical and provide astronomers with labs where they can continue their studies while also making a living. The ultimate goal for any astronomer, however, is almost certainly a career at NASA. This workplace is filled with people who share an equal fascination with the world beyond and who are all working towards the same general cause.
According to a recent study done by Salary.com, the average salary for a person working in the field of astronomy is roughly $97,984. This is for professionals who have completed their studies and now have prominent positions in the field. Expect a lower salary when working your way up as a research assistant, but a hefty sum is the reward for following your dreams until the end.
Becoming an astronomer is hard work. It requires a great deal of dedication towards excellence in academics and the workload is hard and plentiful. But for those who are passionate about it, there really is no other route to go.