There are many careers you can pursue after graduating with a degree in astronomy/astrophysics. (People use either ‘astronomy’ or ‘astrophysics’ to indicate the same fields of study.) Nationally, over half of astronomers (58%) who earned their bachelor’s degrees in the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 entered the job market. They established careers in the private sector, education, government, the military and others.
Fewer than half of astronomers (42%) who earned their bachelor’s degrees in those years went on to graduate school, and about three quarter of those were in physics or astronomy. Many of those pursuing graduate studies also eventually find jobs in the private sector. Our employment statistics page gives more information about astronomy careers, and we have assembled career profiles of astronomers with a range of academic degrees from which you can learn about specific career trajectories. Some of these profiles are of our own alumni.
If you’re interested in a specific career but don’t know how to get started, we have several resources available, including career center resources and job listings from APS, AIP, and AAS.
Featured Astronomer Profile
Paul Edmon (Astrophysics PhD, UMN Alum)
Research Computing Associate, Harvard Institute for Theory and Computation
Paul loved space and stars, and wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up. He discovered a knack and love for physics in high school, and knew that you needed a PhD to be an astronaut, so off he went to the University of Washington to study physics.
As an undergraduate, Paul worked in a cosmic ray group running a local cosmic ray detector in high schools. In graduate school at the University of Minnesota, he became interested in the origins of the cosmic rays he studied in college, and worked on numerical simulations of particle acceleration. Through this work, he got to use the supercomputing assets at the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute
“I found that I really enjoyed using the largest machines in the world to simulate the largest explosions in the universe, which accelerate the fastest particles we know of.”
After working as a postdoc at University of Manitoba, Paul applied for a job as a liaison between the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Center for Astrophysics (CfA), and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Research Computing at Harvard. Now he runs the Cannon cluster, a high performance computing cluster.
“While I don’t do day to day work as an astronomer anymore, the knowledge I gained in my PhD work has allowed me to think at multiple scales, as well as understand that the astronomers at CfA are trying to accomplish.”