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How do you become an astronomer?

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Quick Answer

To become an astronomer, you must complete an undergraduate, graduate and a PhD program in astronomy, physics or a related subject. After obtaining a PhD, aspiring astronomers typically undertake a postdoctoral position, which focuses on research and writing within a specialty topic.

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Full Answer

  1. Earn an undergraduate degree

    Enroll in a four-year course in astronomy, astrophysics, physics or a related field. Complete coursework that's attractive to graduate institutions, such as atomic physics, nuclear physics, quantum theory and statistical mechanics. Consider a minor in computer science, as the bulk of astronomy work is done via computer platforms.

  2. Enroll in a PhD graduate program

    Upon successful completion of a bachelor's degree, enroll in an astronomy graduate program, which results in a PhD in your chosen specialty. Generally, the first two years of an astronomy graduate program involves advanced-level coursework. The remaining years consist of research projects under the supervision of working astronomers.

  3. Secure a postdoctoral position

    After obtaining a PhD, most students enroll in a postdoctoral position at a university or private institution. These positions allow freshly graduated students a chance to further their specialty by conducting research and publishing papers. There is no standard time frame for this position.

  4. Establish professional association membership

    Due to the highly competitive nature of this career path, join a professional association, such as the American Astronomical Society, to solidify your credentials. Membership enhances networking, internship and career opportunities.

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