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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 $110,382.00
  • Avg. Wage $58.96
  • Minimum Education 6 years post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
Also Known As

Astrophysicist, Physical Scientist, Research Scientist

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Astronomers (2111.2) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Physicists and Astronomers (C011) 
  • 2011 NOC: Physicists and astronomers (2111) 
  • 2016 NOC: Physicists and astronomers (2111) 
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
Interest Codes
The Astronomer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Astronomers
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 May 14, 2021

Astronomers study both the visible and non-visible properties of the universe and its objects.

Theoretical astronomers use mathematics and physics to produce 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 very sensitive instrumentation that can detect electromagnetic and particle radiation (such as neutrinos) at wavelengths from radio to gamma rays. Their laboratories use the same equipment and techniques as 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 different ground-based and space-borne telescopes and scientific instruments to observe visible objects in space and get data on them. Measurements of basic properties such as composition, mass, size, brightness, motion and distance are used to test hypotheses about the nature of the universe and the matter in it.

Some astronomers work at major observatories and research institutions where, in addition to their own research activities, they are plan and implement new instruments and techniques. They also help other astronomers operate their institution’s instruments. In addition to academic research skills, astronomers in this area need to be experts in using observatory and instrument engineering and computer techniques.

All areas of modern astronomy are highly technical, using state-of-the-art telescopes and detectors, and computers for instrument control, data gathering and 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 May 14, 2021

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

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated May 14, 2021

Astronomers need:

  • 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
  • Finding innovative solutions to problems
  • Using sophisticated instruments and equipment to perform tasks requiring precision
  • Supervising the work of others
Educational Requirements
Updated May 14, 2021

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 Alberta

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.

Certification Requirements
Updated May 14, 2021

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated May 14, 2021

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 (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • 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 May 14, 2021

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

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 $24.56 $58.49 $37.53 $36.25
Overall $28.72 $73.76 $58.96 $64.30
Top $30.90 $92.48 $73.85 $92.48

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
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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Vacancy Rate

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Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated May 14, 2021

Canadian Astronomical Society website: casca.ca

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

National Research Council (NRC) Canada, Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre website: nrc.canada.ca/en/research-development/research-collaboration/research-centres/herzberg-astronomy-astrophysics-research-centre

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

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated May 14, 2021. 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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