How to prepare for careers in astronomy: The degrees and experience you’ll need

July 19, 2022 · 3 min read · By ASU Online
Got questions about how to become an astronomer? Learn about educational paths and degree programs that’ll prepare you for careers in astronomy.

Earn a degree in astronomy or a related field

The first major step toward a career in the astronomical sciences is earning a Bachelor of Science degree. A Bachelor of Arts degree may allow you to teach science at the high school level, but any other career will most likely require a BS with a specialized major. Naturally, a Bachelor of Science in astronomy is the most applicable degree, but physics and math majors are also well situated to pursue jobs and graduate degrees related to astronomy.

Each college will have its own set of specific course requirements, but you should be prepared to take at least introductory courses in all the core sciences as well as statistics and perhaps computer science. Coding is a valuable skill for anyone with an eye on astronomy, as just about every major software platform for the physical sciences has a text- and code-based interface for maximum versatility and power.

Learn more about ASU Online's Bachelor of Science in astronomical and planetary sciences, the first astronomy degree to be offered completely online.

Gain astronomy experience

Employers in the private sector and academia want to see that applicants have the skills needed to hit the ground running. In addition to a bachelor's degree in astronomy or physics, applicants generally need some sort of outside experience to supplement their education. This can include anything from helping edit a relevant scholarly journal, to running an astronomy blog, to volunteering at a local planetarium. Gaining applicable experience will help you put your classroom learning into action and get a feel for different aspects of the field.

Co-op and other employment opportunities at school can make a big difference when applying for jobs. Math majors who have worked or volunteered in their school's astronomy lab might seem more dedicated than astronomy majors with no extracurriculars. Related areas of experience can also help. The astronomy major who worked three years at a climate-related nonprofit would do well to apply for careers in orbital climate science.


Graduate school can unlock the highest-level positions

High-level opportunities in astronomy and related industries require a master's degree, or even a Ph.D. Each of these steps focus on an increasingly specific aspect of the field and can unlock the ability to apply for more technical and senior job roles. Earning a graduate degree also allows budding astronomers to take the generalist education of a bachelor's degree and further it by pursuing the subfield that interests them most.

At the highest level positions, most employers will seek a candidate with the precise background they desire. An astronomer who has earned a Ph.D. with a focus in exoplanets is unlikely to get a job sifting through data about black holes, for instance. Until this level of specialization, however, student astronomers have a wide variety of jobs to consider.


Earn your astronomy degree online

Advancements in technology continue to expand opportunities in astronomy, and the study of space (and the study of Earth from space) has never been more diverse. Whether you want to help SpaceX put mini satellites into orbit, work with NASA to map the specifics of climate change, or help physicists probe the deepest secrets of the universe, a career in astronomy can be an exciting, rewarding and profitable choice.

Earning a Bachelor of Science in astronomical and planetary sciences from ASU Online can start you on your way.

The first-year checklist for online college students

Heading into your first year of online courses? Take a look at our checklist for first-year online college students for top tips on how to prepare.


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