Education and Training Required to Become an Astronomer

Posted in Career Blog

Those who plan to become astronomers will spend between two to three years pursuing a doctorate degree after having already completed their bachelors and masters. Individuals who eventually complete this astronomy degree can expect to work in this field for a few years before going on to mentor new scientists in this career field.

Preparation before Entering College
Those who wish to become astronomers should focus a great deal on science while in high school. Any classes that deal with the planets, stars or weather are all good choices. Physics is also important, as the work of an astronomer is closely related to that of a physicist. Advanced math courses such as trigonometry and calculus should also be taken, ideally at the advanced placement level.

Two-Year Associate of Science
An Associate’s degree is the beginning astronomer education offered. This two-year program requires courses such as cosmology, planetary science and the solar system. It can cost between $19,850 and $25,500 for tuition and fees, while books can add an additional $1,300 to $3,000 to that total. Students must generally maintain a 3.0 or better grade point average in order to be accepted into a Bachelor’s degree program.

Bachelor’s Degree in Astronomy
A four-year degree in Astronomy will focus on subjects such as celestial mechanics, stellar physics, interstellar medium and optical astronomy. A student’s time is mostly spent in the classroom during the first two years, but may be split between the classroom and outdoor labs during the last two years. It typically costs between $40,000 and $43,800 each year for tuition, fees, and housing. Books can add an additional $1,000 to $2,500 to that number.

Graduate Degree-Master’s in Astronomy
Obtaining a Master’s degree in Astronomy can take up to two years after graduating from a Bachelor’s degree program. During that time, students will have the chance to specialize in certain areas such as space science, planetary studies, radio astronomy or radio physics. Some classes that might be taken include space vehicle instrumentation, atmospheric and ionospheric radio investigations, and infrared and optical astronomy. A cumulative research project is typically required before graduation. The cost of this degree can be between $45,100 and $67,700 per year, which includes fees, books, and room and board.

Astronomy Doctorate
Most professionals elect to earn a doctorate in astronomy before working in this field. It can take between two and three years to earn this credential. Some classes that could be required in order to earn this degree include stellar atmospheres, galactic astronomy, statistical mechanics and radiation astrophysics. Students must pass a comprehensive exam before graduating as well as complete a research dissertation project. It can cost between $10,400 and $14,800 per semester, which includes the cost of tuition, books and fees. Health insurance can cost an additional $1,000 to $1,400 annually. Tuition costs can reduce substantially if one completes a fellowship program or works in a research lab or as a teaching assistant.
Astronomer training often takes place at night. Students who are pursuing an astronomy degree should plan on studying during the day and performing practical hands-on exercises once the sun goes down.

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