“Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another”. - Plato.

Have you ever looked up at the sky and wondered about how big the Universe actually is? Astronomers are scientists who constantly attempt to come up with answers to such questions. They try to understand the ways in which this Universe works. Their research is primarily focused on the study of outer space and celestial bodies.

Astronomy is a highly competitive career because many students aspire to join it while the total number of astronomers required in the world is small. Contrary to popular perception, astronomers spend very little time observing night skies through telescopes. They usually sit around offices analyzing data collected and recorded by telescopes in observatories and publishing their analysis and conclusions as research papers.

What do Astronomers do?

In broad terms, Astronomers attempt to figure out how the Universe works. Their research is based on analyzing information captured by satellites and space observatories.

They study celestial bodies and phenomena such as gamma ray bursts and cosmic radiations.

They obtain their data through the use of high quality cameras, telescopes, satellites etc. Sometimes, they create their own instruments. These instruments can be in the form of a new type of telescope or even a new gadget created from scratch.

Astronomical research costs a lot of money. Therefore, Astronomers have to constantly apply for monetary grants to aid their research. The funding can come from space observatories, educational institutions or even big businessmen.

It is one of the main jobs of an Astronomer to interpret existing theories about the universe and come up with new ones. Astronomers should have the ability to use their own understanding of the universe and clearly state their opinions. They critically analyze established and widely accepted theories.

Is an astronomer an astronaut?

An astronomer can become an astronaut with proper training but you don’t necessarily need to be an astronomer to become an astronaut. Astronauts are people who go into space to operate the spacecrafts and to conduct experiments for which the space missions are organized. It’s obviously important that you must live in a country which sends manned missions into space. India doesn’t do so as of now. If you want to be a part of an American space mission you would need to become an American citizen first. To become an astronaut, you would need flying experience or research experience, though other professionals with science backgrounds are also eligible. In the US, you would need to apply to the NASA to be recruited as an astronaut. Read more about becoming a NASA astronaut here.   

How to become an Astronomer?

First, you need to be the best maths and science student in your class and school. Once you finish your schooling, you should complete your graduation, B Sc in Physics or B Tech in Physics or Astrophysics to build your foundation before entering the world of Astronomy. After the Bachelor’s degree you are likely to do a PhD in a field of Astronomy.

By then, you will learn the fundamentals of research, teaching and writing good research papers.

After you’ve completed your Doctorate, you would apply for a Post – Doctoral job in the field of Astronomy or Astrophysics.

To become a full – fledged Astronomer, you will need to find a permanent job. You can do this while you’re working on your Post – Doctoral job. You should be prepared to impress people in interviews and have good knowledge about the current happenings in the field of Astronomy.

As an Astronomer, you will need strong computing skills as Astronomers spend a majority of their time developing algorithms and computer programs that aid their research and analysis.

Networking is very important if you wish to become an Astronomer. Therefore it is advisable that you attend seminars and publish your research papers in popular Astronomical journals.

Astronomers often need to build their own instruments to help them in their research work, as stated earlier. Therefore, it can be useful to have some knowledge about basic mechanical engineering and electrical engineering.

What are the skills required to become an Astronomer?

The first requirement is a highly analytical mind, a love for physics, and the maddening passion to understand how the universe functions. Then you need to have a lot of patience. Patience is necessary because it will take a long time for you to start making real and substantial contributions in your areas of interest. An Astronomer needs to have a lot of belief in himself because most of the times you’re studying bodies that are light years away. Confidence in your opinions can convince other people about the accuracy of your interpretations. Astronomers need to have strong computing skills. Also, they need to be good in teaching as well as writing because most of the times they are teaching students and peers and writing research papers. Astronomers need to be good orators. This can be very helpful as they have to constantly speak in seminars about their research and convince people to fund it further. Astronomers need to be dedicated and passionate towards their work because at times they might have to rely solely on passion for the subject to keep going in spite of all odds and continue their research. They also need to be flexible as they might have to work in remote locations and at odd times.

Is this the right career for me?

The life of an Astronomer is filled with unpredictability. You have to travel to remote locations all across the world for observatory work. A lot of Astronomers end up working really hard all their lives without making any significant contribution to the world of Astronomy. You have to deal with massive competition and constantly work towards collecting money to fund your research.

So if you’re looking for a secure job and settled life and if you do not like constant learning and researching, then this isn’t the right career for you. But if you love the Astronomy and are willing to travel all over the world, and if you can deal with financial insecurities for the sake of research and academics, then this might be the right career for you.

Careers in research, Engineers

Entrance Exam


Steve Jobs, chief executive officer and co-founder of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, urged graduates to pursue their dreams, follow their interests & curiosities and see the opportunities in life's setbacks-- including death itself.