Astronomy

What is astronomy? In the most basic definition, astronomy is the study of the sun, moon, stars, planets, comets, gas, galaxies, gas, dust and other non-Earthly bodies and phenomena. As you think about careers in astronomy or astrophysics, the profession is a relatively small community compared to other science career fields. As the American Astronomical Society notes, though it can be a disadvantage in that there is a low turnover rate year to year for those joining the community, it is also advantageous in that it is very close-knit and one can therefore work with very senior people early on.

 

General Career Advice

Those pursuing degrees in Astronomy or Astrophysics have a number of career options available to them, as jobs related to astronomy or astrophysics can be found in colleges or universities, observatories and laboratories, government agencies, businesses or industry, public service and non-profits.

Regardless of your desired career path, each astronomy or astrophysics student should plan to pursue opportunities that provide valuable experiences and skills - such as campus involvement, research, internships, volunteering, and community engagement. Not only are these great experience to add to your resume, but they can also help you determine what type of work environments, activities, projects, and “X factors” are a good fit for you.

Graduate school is often part of the future career trajectory for astronomy and astrophysics majors. Some students choose to enter graduate school immediately after Wellesley, while others may choose to work for a few years before returning to school. Still others may choose to not pursue graduate school at all. There are astronomy and astrophysics related opportunities for those at all degree levels - bachelors, masters, and doctorate - but it is important to understand that some opportunities as well as advancement in certain fields may require additional schooling.

 

Pursuing a Graduate Degree in Astronomy

If you are considering pursuing a graduate degree in astronomy, there are plenty of great resources out there to help you start asking the right questions. Check out the Graduate School resource page in Handshake for a broad overview about graduate school, including the application timeline, asking for references, and financing your education.

The American Astronomical Society has a comprehensive list of colleges and universities that offer astronomy-related degrees. When looking for astronomy or astrophysics graduate programs, you will need to do some in-depth research about those programs to gain a better understanding of their admissions requirements, the focus of their degree, research areas of the faculty, and the curriculum for the degree. While there are both objective and subjective factors that go into deciding what type of graduate degree or graduate program to pursue, some questions to start with include:

  • What are the research specialties/areas of the faculty?
  • What research projects do the current graduate student work on?
  • What are facilities, observatories, telescopes, etc. like?
  • What are the outcomes of the graduates — academia, research, industry, government, or other professional areas?
  • What is the quality of life for a Master’s or PhD student?

If you are looking for an in-person consultation about graduate school, a good place to start would be by meeting with Frances Adjorlolo ’08, who is the Career Community Advisor for Technology, Engineering, & Physical Sciences. Additionally, you should plan to speak with the faculty in the astronomy department, as your faculty (especially your advisor) will be an essential resource in your graduate school application process.

 

Career Resources and Professional Organization

Organizations on Campus
A.S.T.R.O.

Astronomy Career Resources and Advice

Professional Organizations

 

Internships and Fellowships

Brooke Owens Fellowship Program
The Brooke Owens Fellowship Program is designed to serve both as an inspiration and as a career boost to capable young women who, like Brooke, aspire to explore our sky and stars, to shake up the aerospace industry, and to help their fellow men and women here on planet Earth.

Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program - Applications available in September
The Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program is a highly selective internship and mentorship program that provides extraordinary summer opportunities to current college juniors, seniors, and graduate students passionate about commercial spaceflight.

Updated September 4, 2017
If you have additional resources, please feel free to send them to Frances Adjorlolo at fadjorlo@wellesley.edu.