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Occupational Profile

Astronomer

Astronomers conduct observational, experimental and theoretical research to broaden our knowledge of energy, matter and natural processes throughout the universe and particularly beyond Earth.

  • Avg. Salary $106,952.00
  • Avg. Wage $55.19
  • Minimum Education 6 years post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
Also Known As

Astrophysicist, Physical Scientist, Research Scientist

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

N/A
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Astronomer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Astronomers
NOC code: 2111.2
INNOVATIVE

Interest in synthesizing information to design observational surveys and to conduct detailed analyses, observational studies and theoretical research

OBJECTIVE

Interest in precision working to develop, or participate in the development of, instruments and software for astronomical observation and analyses

DIRECTIVE

Interest in supervising technologists and technicians; and in preparing scientific papers and reports

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Feb 20, 2017

Theoretical astronomers use mathematics and physics to formulate explanations for the observed properties of the universe and objects in it, and make predictions by solving mathematical equations or using sophisticated computer simulations. Predictions are tested through further observation.

Experimental astronomers design and build exquisitely sensitive instrumentation that enables the detection of electromagnetic and particle radiation (for example neutrinos) at wavelengths from radio to gamma rays. Laboratories of experimental astrophysics use equipment and techniques used in other physics-related disciplines. For example, the next generation of far-infrared detectors are based on superconductivity and require instrumentation commonly found in a low temperature physics laboratory.

Observational astronomers use a variety of ground-based and space-borne telescopes and scientific instruments to observe astronomical objects and obtain data on them. Basic properties such as composition, mass, size, brightness, motion and distance may be measured to test hypotheses about the nature of the universe and the matter in it.

Some astronomers are based at major observatories and research institutions where, in addition to their own research activities, they are involved in the planning and implementation of new instruments and techniques. They also help other astronomers use instruments operated by their institutions. In addition to academic research skills, astronomers in this area need to be experts in aspects of observatory and instrument engineering and computer techniques.

All aspects of modern astronomy are highly technical involving the use of state-of-the-art telescopes and detectors, and computers for instrument control, data gathering and subsequent processing and analysis.

Most astronomers connected with universities have teaching responsibilities and are expected to produce original research work for publication in scientific journals.

Working Conditions
Updated Feb 20, 2017

Astronomers work in a variety of settings. Observational work may require unconventional hours and a considerable amount of travelling. Sometimes astronomers work at high altitudes in remote areas where weather conditions can be extreme.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Feb 20, 2017

Astronomers need to possess:

  • imagination and a capacity for reflection and contemplative study
  • patience
  • curiosity
  • an aptitude for physics and mathematics
  • the ability to pay close attention to detail
  • the ability to work with others as members of a team
  • public speaking, writing and computer skills.

They should enjoy synthesizing information and finding innovative solutions to problems, using sophisticated instruments and equipment to perform tasks requiring precision, and supervising the work of others.

Educational Requirements
Updated Feb 20, 2017

A 4-year bachelor of science (B.Sc.) degree in astronomy, astrophysics or physics is the minimum qualification to work in technical positions in observatories, planetaria and science centres. Knowledge of chemistry and biology can be helpful in many areas of modern astronomy.

A master of science (M.Sc.) degree is required for most research assistant positions. A doctoral (PhD) degree is needed for university teaching and most federal government research positions. Most astronomers who have doctoral degrees work as post-doctoral fellows before finding permanent employment.


Required Education

The following schools offer programs and courses that meet this occupation’s educational requirements. Other eligible programs and courses may be available.

University of Lethbridge


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Feb 20, 2017

Astronomers may work in:

  • post-secondary schools
  • government agencies and observatories
  • planetaria and science centres
  • the space sector.

Industries employing astronomers include aerospace, communications, computer and other high-tech fields.

Like many disciplines, competition is keen for faculty positions. However, opportunities exist for 2- to 3-year post-doctoral positions at universities and research institutions around the world.

Astronomers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 2111: Physicists and Astronomers. In Alberta, 80% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook (PDF) in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions)
  • size of the occupation.

Note: University professors are classified in a different occupational group.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Feb 20, 2017

Salaries vary widely depending on the requirements of the position and the qualifications of the individual.

If working in a university setting, the starting salary for assistant professors range between $75,000 and $100,000. Senior full professors can earn more than $160,000 a year (2011 estimate).

Physicists and astronomers
NOC code: 2111

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $33.62 $51.07 $39.04 $40.50
Overall $34.95 $70.76 $55.19 $55.14
Top $40.27 $89.83 $65.71 $55.14

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
Health Care & Social Assistance
ALBERTA, ALL INDUSTRIES
Public Administration

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

N/A

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

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Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

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2015 Vacancy Rate

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Related High School Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Feb 20, 2017

Canadian Astronomical Society website: casca.ca

Canadian Space Agency website: www.asc-csa.gc.ca

National Research Council (NRC) Canada, Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics website: www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada website: www.rasc.ca

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Feb 20, 2017. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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