Astronomers
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Speciality
Overview
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Observe, research, and interpret astronomical phenomena to increase basic knowledge or apply such information to practical problems.
Titles for this career often contain these words
DirectorProfessorSciencesScientistAstronomyInstituteAnalyticalAssistantAssociateAstronomerAstrophysicistDataLifeObservatoryPhysicsResearchSpace
Education
About 77% of astronomers and physicists have a graduate-level education, and 100% have at least a bachelor's degree.
Education attained by astronomers and physicists
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with graduate degrees
More astronomers and physicists have graduate degrees than 97% of other careeers.
Employment
Workforce size
Astronomers, with 2,400 workers, form a smaller workforce than 99% of careers.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for astronomers are expected to grow by 5%, and should have about 200 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Astronomers are less likely to be automated than 81% of other careers.
Salaries
Context: Median Salary
How do salaries for astronomers compare to other jobs' salaries?
Distribution: What salary can you expect?
See what most astronomers earn.
$115K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Gender
Women account for 19% of astronomers and physicists -- that's a smaller percentage than 67% of other jobs.
Gender of astronomers and physicists
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For astronomers and physicists, the median men's salary was 39% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 19% of astronomers and physicists are minority, and 26% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of astronomers and physicists
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (26%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Astronomers per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. Blue indicates low density, with lighter shades moving to yellow indicating higher numbers working in this profession.
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Benefits
How do benefits for this career compare to other jobs?
Context: Employer offers health insurance
Context: Employer offers a pension plan
Salary and diversity
What do astronomers and physicists earn?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides company-reported job titles and corresonding salaries at the specialty level (astronomers). This data excludes self-employed workers.
Distribution: Salaries for astronomers (BLS Salary Data)
$115K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$115K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
The American Community Survey (ACS) asks individuals to report their occupation and salary, and as such includes self-employed workers. This view of salaries is only available for all astronomers and physicists.
Distribution: Salaries for astronomers and physicists (ACS Salary Data)
$96K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$96K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Astronomers and physicists: Inflation-adjusted salary trend
This job's median $84KAll jobs' median $45K$102K$44K070809101112131415161718$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, giving us a picture of what employers most typically hire astronomers.
Employers of Astronomers and physicists (ACS)
Private for-profit (36.7%)
Private not-for-profit (21.6%)
Local government (2.7%)
State government (11.3%)
Federal government (25.0%)
Self-employed incorporated (0.4%)
Self-employed not incorporated (2.2%)
Working without pay (0.1%)
Distribution: Salaries of astronomers and physicists by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses. These salaries were reported for the larger career group of astronomers and physicists, which combines the 2 specialties for this career.
$96K$105K$112K$84K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000$200,000Federal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of astronomers by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS. Remember that the BLS salaries are for the specialty astronomers, and may differ signficantly from the ACS salary estimates which combine several career specialties.
$115K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000$200,000All

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Salary growth for astronomers and physicists

Is this a job that rewards experience, or is this job most likely a part of a career ladder? The higher a job's experience quotient, the more experience is rewarded with pay increases. Jobs in the green range have the best rewards with experience.

Take a minute to look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working at each age change. Does this seem to be a job for the young or the old, or could it be a career offering steady salary growth for many years?

Salary distribution
$132K$60K$95K$124K$106K$76K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
Number employed
05001K2K2K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Astronomers and physicists and gender

With 19% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 67% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
19%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Astronomers and physicists
Men (81%)
Women (19%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

The median (middle) salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 19%, and the difference for astronomers and physicists tops that, with the median salary for men 39% higher than the median salary for women.

$75K$104K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary for all but about 20 jobs in which women typically earn more than men. Astronomers and physicists have one of the more significant inequity issues, with the increase in men's median salary over women's median salary even higher than that for 92% of other jobs.

39%0%20%40%60%80%100%

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Race and origin of astronomers and physicists

Here we check out the diversity of origin in this career. The percentage of minority astronomers and physicists falls in about the middle of all careers' percentages. This career hires a larger percentage of foreign-born workers than most other careers.

Race/origin of astronomers and physicists
White (80% )
Asian (13% )
Black (4% )
Multiracial (2% )
Other (1% )
American Indian (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
19%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
26%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for astronomers and physicists by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$82K$86K$101K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KBlackAsianWhite
Distribution: Salaries for astronomers and physicists by nativity
$95K$97K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KAll foreign-bornAll native citizens

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Astronomers and physicists and Part-time/Full-time employment

We've found that somes jobs hava a huge number of part-time workers, and that typically most who are working part-time are doing so because they cannot find full-time work or the job they have cannot provide full-time hours. With 4% part-time workers, this occupation has a lower percentage of part-time workers than 83% of careers.

Context: Part-time workers in the workforce
4%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Why workers are part-time
Full-Time is less than 35 hours a week
Retired/Social Security limit on earnings
Could not find full-time work
Seasonal work
Slack work/business conditions
School/training
Health/medical limitations
Child care problems
Other family/personal obligations
Other reasons
Distribution: Salaries by part-time/full-time status

We only have enough data to accuarately show the salary distribution for full-time workers.

$96K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KFull-time workers
Pathways to this career
Education attained by astronomers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), astronomers typically hold a doctoral or professional degree.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as astronomers and physicists as reported in responses to the American Community Survey.

Details: Education and training recommended for astronomers

A Ph.D. in physics, astronomy, or a related field is needed for jobs in research or academia or for independent research positions in industry.

Graduate students usually concentrate in a subfield of physics or astronomy, such as condensed matter physics or cosmology. In addition to taking courses in physics or astronomy, Ph.D. students need to take courses in math, such as calculus, linear algebra, and statistics. Computer science classes also are essential, because physicists and astronomers often develop specialized computer programs that are used to gather, analyze, and model data.

Those with a master’s degree in physics may qualify for jobs in applied research and development for manufacturing and healthcare companies. Many master’s degree programs specialize in preparing students for physics-related research-and-development positions that do not require a Ph.D.

Most physics and astronomy graduate students have a bachelor’s degree in physics or a related field. A bachelor’s degree in physics is often considered good preparation for Ph.D. programs in astronomy, although an undergraduate degree in astronomy may be preferred by some universities. Undergraduate physics programs provide a broad background in the natural sciences and mathematics. Typical courses include classical and quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, optics, and electromagnetism.

Students may choose to complete an internship during their undergraduate curriculum in order to gain additional hands-on experience. The American Astronomical Society has a directory of internships for astronomy students, and the American Physical Society lists internships for students in physics.

Jobseekers with only a bachelor’s degree in physics usually are qualified to work as technicians and research assistants in related fields, such as engineering and computer science. Those with a bachelor’s degree in astronomy also may qualify to work as an assistant at an observatory. Students who do not want to continue their studies to the doctoral level may want to take courses in instrument building and computer science.

Some master’s degree and bachelor’s degree holders find work in the federal government. Others may become science teachers in middle schools and high schools.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for astronomers

Some positions with the federal government, such as those involving nuclear energy and other sensitive research areas, may require applicants to be U.S. citizens and hold a security clearance.

Education attained by astronomers and physicists
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Doctorate
Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for astronomers and physicists? Below we see the distribution of astronomers and physicists salaries based on the education attained.

$74K$96K$109K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KBachelor's Degree (23%)Master's Degree (26%)Doctorate (49%)

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

College majors held by astronomers and physicists

This table shows the college majors held by people working as astronomers and physicists.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Percentage of Astronomers and physicists with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate/Professional
Gender
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
Men
Women
The link between degrees and careers

With the following sankey diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as astronomers and physicists, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. We hope this provides ideas for similar jobs and similar fields of study.

Postsecondary TeachersSoftware DevelopersSpecialized Physical Scie...Specialized ManagersSpecialized EngineersElementary and Middle Sch...Computer ProgrammersPhysiciansAstronomers and physicist...Computer and Information ...DentistsRegistered NursesSpecialized Life Scientis...Medical and Clinical Labo...PharmacistsChemists and materials sc...Secondary School TeachersElectrical and electronic...Architectural and Enginee...Civil EngineersChief executives and legi...Aerospace EngineersManagement AnalystsFirst-Line Supervisors of...Accountants and AuditorsWholesale and Manufacturi...Medical and Health Servic...Computer Systems AnalystsActuariesPolice OfficersProbation Officers and Co...Security Guards and Gambl...Lawyers, and judges, magi...Correctional Officers and...Specialized Social Worker...Detectives and Criminal I...First-Line Supervisors of...Power plant operators, di...Industrial and Health/Saf...PhysicsBiologyChemistryElectrical EngineeringAstronomy andAstrophysicsMultidisciplinary or GeneralScienceMathematicsCriminal Justice and FireProtectionNuclear and IndustrialRadiology TechnologiesBiochemical SciencesAll other degreesThis jobTop 10 majorsEach major's top ten jobs
What college major is your best entry?

Almost all of people working as astronomers and physicists have at least a bachelor's degree. Each dot represents a college major leading to these jobs, with the dots to the right representing the majors sending the most of their grads into this career. The dots at the top are the majors who earn the most working in this career.

Darker colors have a larger percentage with graduate degreesOverall median salary0.0%5.0%10.0%15.0%20.0%25.0%30.0%35.0%40.0%45.0%50.0%Percentage with this major$70,000$80,000$90,000$100,000$110,000$120,000$130,000$140,000$150,000$160,000Median salary with this major
Switching Careers
The most common next careers for astronomers and physicists

What jobs will most astronomers and physicists hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of astronomers and physicists reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Astronomers and physicistsSpecialized Physical ScientistsPostsecondary teachers and assistantsData Entry KeyersSpecialized Religious WorkersSpecialized Life, Physical, and Social Science TechniciansArchitects, except navalEnvironmental scientists, geoscientists, and HydrologistsSpecialized Life ScientistsSchool bus monitors and protective service workersSpecialized Health Technologists and TechniciansPhysicians and surgeonsCooks
Lateral job transitions for astronomers and physicists

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 4 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as astronomers and physicists as well as 1% of respondents after working as astronomers and physicists. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Employed
How many people have this job?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
No degree
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate/Professional
Gender
Men
Women
Prior and next careers for astronomers and physicists: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as astronomers and physicists? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of astronomers and physicists surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Variation by state
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most astronomers? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as astronomers. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

One important factor in the differences between ACS and BLS data is that the ACS numbers are for all astronomers and physicists, comprised of all specialities listed in the menu bar, and you can choose to view the BLS at the specialty or full career level.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Number of Astronomers per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
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0.00.10.10.10.2
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where astronomers earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for astronomers and physicists compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for astronomers and physicists.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information. The ACS salaries are for all astronomers and physicists, which combines the specialities from which you can choose at the top of the page.

Choose the metric to review
Location-adjusted median salary
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Location-adjusted median salary for Astronomers (BLS for this specialty)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which astronomers earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
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$0$50K$100K$150K
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the tabs and education selector to find other careers that might be a good fit for you.

How should the career similarity be computed?

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?