Science, Technology & Environment


Astronomers observe, research, and interpret astronomical phenomena to increase knowledge or apply the information to practical problems.

  • Entry-level education

    Post-graduate qualification

  • Job outlook

    1 2 3 4 5

What does an Astronomer do?

Astronomers observe, research, and interpret astronomical phenomena to increase basic knowledge or apply such information to practical problems. Astronomers usually perform either observational or theoretical tasks. They have three main areas of study: the movement and position of stars, planets, galaxies and other objects; their physical and chemical properties; and their origins and evolution.


Work activities

Astronomy is divided into two main areas – observational astronomy and theoretical astronomy.

In observational astronomy, your work could include:

  • collecting data from satellites and spacecraft using radio and optical telescopes
  • developing new instrumentation and maintaining existing equipment
  • developing software to interpret the images captured by satellites
  • analysing data and testing theories.

In theoretical astronomy, your work might involve:

  • creating complex computer models to develop theories on the physical processes happening in space
  • analysing the results of past observations to develop new predictions
  • making observations and testing theories
  • analysing data to help develop our understanding of events in the universe.

You would keep up to date with developments in your area of interest by going to meetings and conferences, carrying out research, writing reports and presenting your findings.


Key skills and interests

To become an astronomer, you would need:

  • good powers of observation
  • a methodical and logical approach to work
  • the ability to work with abstract ideas and do complex calculations
  • patience and determination to see a project through to completion
  • good attention to detail
  • the ability to analyse problems.

Working hours and conditions

Working Hours

You could work long and irregular hours, including weekends, evenings and nights, depending on the project you are part of and the observations you are making.


As well as working in laboratories and observatories, you could also work in a museum, planetarium, or in education - for example, teaching and carrying out research at a university.

Your work is likely to include frequent travel to meetings and conferences, and to visit observatories both locally and overseas. However, more time is spent using computers than personally observing with telescopes.


How to become an Astronomer?

Entry Level Education

To become an astronomer you usually have to complete a degree in science at university with a major in astronomy, physics or astrophysics (preferably at honours level), followed by a postgraduate qualification in astronomy or astrophysics.

To get into the degree courses you usually need to gain your senior secondary school of equivalent. English, biology, chemistry, earth and environmental science, mathematics and physics would be appropriate subjects to study prior to university. Entry to postgraduate courses usually requires completion of an appropriate bachelor degree.


Job outlook

  • 1 2 3 4 5

Employment of astronomers is projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Growth in federal government spending for astronomy research is expected to be more or less flat, but it should continue to drive the need for astronomers, especially at universities, and national laboratories.

Federal spending is the primary source of physics- and astronomy-related research funds, especially for basic research.

You may have to consider international as well as local job opportunities.


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