Qualifications Required to be an Astronomer

Astronomy is regarded as a challenging science as it requires equal measures of analytic thinking and imagination, logic and intuition, to answer the questions about the cosmos. It is generally advisable that those students who plan for astronomy should go for science in high school as it later affects their career. Although most colleges require at least one year of high school science and two years of high school mathematics, this minimum background is insufficient for students planning to major in science. Both chemistry and physics courses are also strongly recommended in high school as adequate preparation for the first year of college.

A student planning to go on to graduate school in astronomy should have had physics courses covering electricity and magnetism, atomic and nuclear physics, thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and quantum theory. For some astronomy specialties, however, studies in geology or chemisty may be more appropriate. Computer science, too, permeates all facets of astronomy today. In recent years, supercomputers have allowed astronomers to processe simultaneously that information which were nearly impossible to study before.

Most astronomy positions require a Ph.D. degree, which can take five or six years of graduate work. This path enables the astronomer to do much independent work, which is what makes astronomy enjoyable: finding a problem and finding a way to solve it. Admission to graduate schools generally requires completing an undergraduate physics or astronomy/physics major with a B average or better and satisfactory performance on the Graduate Record Exam. Once admitted, the astronomy graduate students take advanced courses in astronomy and astrophysics while beginning to undertake some research. The specific courses depend on the requirements of the department and on the student's research interests. After the first two years of course work, the graduate program generally requires research projects to be conducted under the supervision of faculty members, culminating in a Ph.D. dissertation.




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