Most astronomers are employed by universities and colleges either directly or by association through a laboratory or observatory. Other career options include federally funded research laboratories, private businesses and the public industry.
Most astronomers working in a university or college setting take a position as a faculty member, according to the American Astronomical Society. In this position, the astronomer's main job is teaching, but depending on his schedule, he may also invest some of his time on research.
Another option is to work for a laboratory or observatory. In this setting, the astronomer typically spends between 10 and 30 nights a year working with data provided by individual research or spacecraft. The rest of the time is spent going over and compiling the data gathered.
Other potential employment opportunities are with the federal government working in federally funded research laboratories. Some of these include NASA, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and the U.S. Naval Observatory. In these cases, job requirements are dictated by the employer and may leave little time for outside research. Other options include working in a private business with an interest in space-related projects or taking a job with a local planetarium, science center or other informational public outreach program.