Do you love to observe how things work? If so do the following questions keep popping up in your head quite regularly?
- How the planet earth revolves around the sun?
- What’s the relationship between other planets in the galaxy with our earth?
- What would happen if the speed of earth gets decreased by few milliseconds?
- How the earth and other planets are evolving?
- How many galaxies can be there in the whole universe? How many suns?
- What the other planets are made of?
The questions wouldn’t end. But the more you ask, more you learn. The more you learn, more your curiosity increases. If you are one of those who are fascinated by the celestial body and how things work there, then astronomy and astrophysics are a great career option for you. But even if you are interested in astronomy & astrophysics what is the path through which you can reach the summit? This guide will answer most of your burning questions regarding the career path of astronomy & astrophysics.
In this career guidance you would get to know what astronomy & astrophysics are all about; what would be your starting point if you would like to tread on the path of astronomy; how should you approach your career and how would you actually earn money doing what you love to do; the list of top-notch companies that offer jobs for astronomers and astrophysicist; specific skill sets required for becoming an amazing astronomer and astrophysicist; what would be the salary structure; and lastly what would be the higher education opportunities for astronomy and astrophysics.
How do we define astronomy & astrophysics?
Astronomy & astrophysics are not a science which depends heavily on experiments; rather this science is based upon observations and interpretations. Basically, when we talk about astronomy and astrophysics, the thing you need to remember that it is all about movement of celestial objects. Thus you need to be minute in the observations and interpretations.
To be able to good in the interpretations you need to be master of mathematical analysis and you need to have good knowledge about physics and how things work in physics. As example, astronomy and astrophysics are all about understanding the motions of celestial bodies, both real and apparent, their forms, masses, surfaces and dimensions. The subject matter also deals with the effects the celestial bodies produce upon one another by attractions and radiations.
Along with understanding everything about celestial bodies, you need to be aware of the modern technologies because in modern astronomy and astrophysics, modern technologies like fabrication of modern telescopes, building imaging and spectroscopic equipment to observe and analyse the radiation received from celestial bodies.
Where to start?
As already discussed, to be able to make your mark in astronomy and astrophysics, you need to be very much proficient in mathematics and physics. Proficiency doesn’t mean that you only would be able to do the high level sums and solve only surface level problems. Rather you need to be able to solve complex level problems and would be able to relate the solution with the analysis of physics.
If you do MSc. In Physics you are perfect fit for this career path. But if you do B.Tech or B.E. and you also have proficiency in physics and maths, you can easily choose a career path in astronomy and astrophysics. If you start preparing on your own, you need to concentrate on the following subjects –
- Foundations of Classical and Quantum Physics
- Mathematical Techniques
- Numerical Analysis & Computing
The best place to start after completing your MSc. or B.Tech or B.E. is to become a research scholar which helps you understand the subject matter well and you can also experience it practically. Also you would be able to get the guidance of experienced professors who can guide you and direct you in your career path. Astronomy & astrophysics is very complex subject. Without the help of experienced professors and experts, it would be difficult to master the subject all by yourself. Thus, having a mentor while you observe and interpret what you see using modern technologies would be a boon for you.
How would you approach your career in astronomy & astrophysics and how to get placed?
The career opportunities for astronomy and astrophysics are limited than other career paths. But if you are eager to make a dent in the universe through this career, your area of choice should be focused on the following three areas:
- Research Scientist – If you would like to explore this position, you need to apply in several research institutes and Government organizations that employ research scientists in various academic grades for research oriented programs.
- Industry – In Industry also the demand of astronomer and astrophysicist is prodigious because very few individuals choose this sort of subject. If you would choose to join industry, you need to be thorough with the sophisticated astronomical instrumentation and computer programming.
- University Faculty – If you have flair for teaching, then the best choice would be joining as a University Faculty. The openings for University Faculty positions, you would get especially in the physics departments where having specialization in astronomy and astrophysics is encouraged and revered.
The thing is what’s rare is more valuable. Thus having specialization in astronomy and astrophysics is something which not everyone would choose and remember that is your biggest advantage.
Top notch companies that offer jobs for astronomy & astrophysics
If you would choose to join as a research scientist or University Faculty, then any college of repute would love to have your expertise and skills for honing their internal success factors which often include budding students. If you choose to join as a research fellow, you might consider the following options.
If you would like to join industry, then the following companies you should decide to apply for.
- HORIBA Scientific
- LOT- Quantum Design Ltd.
- INTEGRITY Technology Solutions
- Allied Scientific Pro
- Thor Fiber
- Surface Analysis Consulting
Skill sets required for being a great astronomer & astrophysicist
There are specific skill sets you need to acquire in order to be an excellent astronomer and astrophysicist. The following skill sets you need to consider.
- An ability to solve complex problems
- Proficiency in mathematical analysis and in depth knowledge how things work in mathematics
- Proficient knowledge of physics and how you can relate the concepts with mathematical analysis
- An eye for detailing
- A deep understanding of modern instruments like 2.3M Vainu Bappu Telescope, 2M Telescope, 1M Class Telescope, Radio Array and Radioheliograph.
The compensation for astronomer and astrophysicist are always higher than any career options. The reason is simple. It’s because this career option is chosen by very few individuals because of its complexities and detailed approach. The starting salary is around US $20,000. As you progress in your career your salary would increase by multi-fold. After few years of experience you would be able to earn around US $100,000 per annum.
Higher education opportunities
If you would like to have an edge over others, you must do PhD. In India, to be able to get a good college for your doctorate degree, you need to take Joint Entrance Screening Test (JEST). Once you are through in this exam, you would be able to apply to Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Institute of Physics (IOP), Institute of Plasma Research, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy & Astrophysics (IUCAA) etc.