What can you do with a degree in astronomy?
Between the years 2014, 2015, and 2016, over half of astronomy bachelor’s recipients entered the job market, and 32% went on to graduate school in astronomy, astrophysics, or physics programs. (Astronomy and astrophysics are largely synonymous.) Of those who went into the job market, over 40% were in the private sector in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) areas, and another 17% were in the private sector working in non-STEM jobs. Other common employment sectors were at colleges and universities, or civilian government, including national labs.
You can find out more about the employment fields of astronomy bachelors and their typical starting salaries on this page. You can also find information about what jobs astronomy PhD recipients work in , as well as their starting salaries.
The full report on astronomy employment statistics, as well as many other statistics, can be found on the AIP Statistics webpage.
What do Astronomy Bachelors do for a living?
Astronomy bachelors are fairly evenly split between entering the workforce and pursuing graduate school. 50% of new bachelors in recent years were employed, and over half of those who were employed went into the private sector.
In the private sector, about two-thirds of astronomy bachelors were working in STEM fields. Common job titles in the private sector are “software developer” and “research analyst.”
About a fifth of astronomy bachelors were working at colleges and universities, typically as a research assistant at the institution’s observatory. Over half considered their employment to be temporary, with plans to enroll in graduate school within a few years.
How much do Astronomy Bachelors earn?
Astronomy bachelors working in private sector STEM jobs had the highest starting salaries. The median starting salary among those jobs in the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 was $55,000, but could be as high as $100,000-$130,000 for positions such as “software engineer” or “software developer.”
Median salaries for astronomy bachelors working at colleges and universities was in the $30,000-$40,000 range, but most bachelors working those jobs expected them to be temporary.
So that’s an astronomy bachelor’s degree, what about a PhD?
Not all PhDs continue in academia! A PhD can be a great starting point for a career in government or industry.
Approximately 60% of new astronomy PhD recipients accept post-doctoral positions, and 40% enter the job market looking for potentially permanent positions. About three-quarters of postdoctoral positions are in academia, and most of the rest are in civilian government positions, such as national labs.
Nearly two thirds of new astronomy PhDs in potentially permanent positions in the years 2014, 2015, and 2016 were employed in the private sector, primarily in the fields of software and data science, engineering, and business. Typical job titles include “data scientist” and “quantitative researcher.”
About a quarter of potentially permanently employed astronomers were in academia, most with the title of “assistant professor.”
What about starting salary?
Starting salaries for astronomy PhDs are higher than for bachelor’s degree holders. Salaries for astronomy postdoctoral positions were similar to astronomy bachelor’s in the private sector, with median salaries for postdocs at academic institutions about $59,000.
Postdoc positions in government and potentially permanent positions in academia held similar median salaries, around $65,000.
Astronomy PhDs in the private sector had much higher median starting salaries, at $107,500, about twice as high as the median salary for bachelor’s degrees in the private sector. If you’re looking to boost your earning potential, a PhD might be a good choice!