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

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

  • 2111.2: Astronomers

2006 NOC-S

  • C011: Physicists and Astronomers

2011 NOC

  • 2111: Physicists and astronomers

2016 NOC

  • 2111: Physicists and astronomers

2021 NOC

  • 21100: Physicists and astronomers

2023 OaSIS

  • 21100.01: Physicists
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
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

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.

Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.


2006 NOC: 2111.2

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group

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


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


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

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

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 for this NOC group 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 About Interests


Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Traits & Skills
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

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Physicists and astronomers

2016 NOC: 2111

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 10 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Nov 02, 2021 and May 21, 2024.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Construction Specialization: Excellent written communication
Construction Specialization: Excellent oral communication
Art or Fashion Design Experience: Medical and health physics
Work Setting: Hospital/medical facility or clinic
Construction Specialization: Accurate
Construction Specialization: Team player
Tasks: Participate as a member of a research or development team in the design and development of experimental, industrial or medical equipment, instrumentation and procedures
Health benefits: Vision care benefits
Health benefits: Dental plan
Health benefits: Health care plan
Educational Requirements
Updated May 14, 2021
  • Minimum Education 6 years post-secondary

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.

Related Education

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

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated May 14, 2021
  • Certification Not Regulated

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.

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

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 2111: Physicists and astronomers occupational group, 77.9% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 2111: Physicists and astronomers occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 2.2% from 2021 to 2025. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 9 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2021-2025 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

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

Related Alberta Job Postings
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).

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Physicists and astronomers

2016 NOC: 2111
Average Wage
Per Hour
Average Salary
Per Year
Average Hours
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 2111 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

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.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

C: Lower Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Lower Reliability, represents a CV of between 15.01% and 33.00% and/or if fewer than 20 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 33% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $36.25 $62.72 $41.86 $39.45
Overall $49.52 $69.74 $64.69 $67.87
Top $52.12 $92.48 $78.71 $77.10

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.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

Health Care & Social Assistance
Public Administration

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
Vacancy Rate
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated May 14, 2021

Canadian Astronomical Society website:

Canadian Space Agency website:

National Research Council (NRC) Canada, Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre website:

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada website:

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

Updated Mar 31, 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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