Although you will need a Doctorate degree to obtain the highest-paying and most lucrative jobs within the astronomy and astrophysics fields, a Bachelor’s degree is a great way to get started with an entry-level position, particularly if you plan to earn a graduate degree later. You will likely be working in a research facility alongside an astronomer or astrophysicist; you may even be assigned to your own projects. Most of the time, you will be working as a technician or assistant in a field very closely related to astrophysics, such as engineering or computer science. These jobs will not only provide you with additional knowledge, but will prepare you for a lifelong career after you have earned your graduate degree.
Duties and Responsibilities
As an assistant to an astronomer or astrophysicist, your duties will vary somewhat based upon the project to which you are assigned. You will likely be responsible for the same duties as your superior, which will include planning and conducting scientific experiments in order to test theories, processing complex mathematical calculations to process data that may lead to discoveries like new planets or solar systems, designing scientific equipment that will be used in the astrophysics field such as telescopes or lasers, developing computer software that can better analyze data and writing papers that may be published in various journals.
Salary and Career Outlook
With only a Bachelor’s degree in astronomy and astrophysics, your salary will be relatively low when compared to the salaries of those who have earned Doctorate or even Master’s degrees. For example, as a research assistant, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that you will earn an average of $42,410 per year. Employment is only expected to climb by about 4% in the years between 2010 and 2020 and the number of jobs that will be added is very small, making this a highly competitive field. However, once you have earned your Doctorate degree, you could earn an average of $106,370 per year and employment is expected to climb by 14% during the same time frame.
Although it only takes one to three years to earn a Bachelor’s degree in astronomy and astrophysics, you can expect to spend another three to five years obtaining a Doctorate degree. While there are also Master’s degrees in the field, these typically do not provide the education necessary to acquire the most lucrative positions. Even after you have earned your PhD, you will need to remember that the number of available positions within this field is small and the competition is fierce. You will likely need to work through several postdoctoral projects, which are typically temporary, before you will be able to find a permanent position.
A Bachelor’s degree in astronomy and astrophysics is a great way to get started within this potentially high-paying career field. Keep in mind that acceptance into colleges and universities that provide doctoral degrees is limited, so fantastic grades in high school as well as undergraduate school can make all of the difference.