Why Astronomy?

Ask astronomers when they became interested in the field, and most will tell you about an early encounter with the night sky — comet, a meteor shower, or their first glimpse of another planet. Invariably, a rush of questions followed: Why is the universe organized like it is? How is it evolving? And, of course, are we alone?

For many professional astronomers, the same questions captivate them today. And thanks to advancements in statistics, supercomputers, and telescopes that tap the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum, more and more of these questions are tantalizingly within reach.

In fact, the field of astronomy has exploded in the last half-century. We’ve witnessed the discovery of black holes, giant voids and walls in the universe, and planets outside our solar system. And we’ve devised intriguing theories that require exploration — like dark matter and energy and their role in an expanding universe.

If these questions excite you and you have an aptitude for math and physics, astronomy may be a dream career in more ways than one. In addition to providing the opportunity to do work you love, astronomy has also proven itself a practical path to job security. Data from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce indicate that, even in the current economy, majors in Astronomy and Astrophysics have a zero percent unemployment rate.

What Kinds of Jobs?

Majors in astronomy frequently pursue graduate studies to prepare for careers such as professors or NASA scientists. These graduate programs generally provide full tuition support and a stipend.

However, astronomy lends itself to a number of other career paths, as well. Astronomy majors’ strong training in programming, statistics, and analytical thinking allows students to apply their skills readily to fields like computer science, industrial research, and image processing. Some students also choose to combine their degree with a major or minor in areas like education, museum studies, journalism, or engineering to build careers in teaching, public outreach, science writing, or the aerospace industry.