Physicists have solved many of the big questions about the universe, but our understanding of space is far from complete.
Astronomy may be one of the oldest sciences, but its practitioners are usually at the cutting edge of computer analysis and astrophysics. Those looking to work in this field are usually highly capable of solving theoretical problems and they enjoy interpreting large amounts of mathematical data, as well as keeping up to speed with the latest advances in the sciences.
Most UK research in astronomy is carried out in universities, and each will have their own areas of expertise such as the early universe, stellar evolution, string theory, dark matter and gravitational physics. As with most academic research, funding for specific subject areas is governed by the main research councils, so you should check availability of funding when deciding on your subject area.
The two main UK research councils for astronomy are EPSRC and STFC. Although it is useful to be aware of wider research themes. Information on these can be found at Research Councils UK, the strategic partnership of the UK's seven research councils.
Astronomy is a truly global branch of physics, with many of the best observatories located in the far corners of the world. Potential astronomers often have a love of travel as well as a curiosity about the biggest questions facing the human race. Popular institutions and career directions for physicists include:
- The Royal Observatory in Greenwich
Its website gives advice on becoming a professional astronomer
- The International Planetarium Society (IPS)
Its website has links to the fascinating workings of the planetarium industry
- The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS)
Its website has a section on careers information and advice, while the RAS's jobs vacancy list can be found here
Astronomy is predominantly an academic research field, so a PhD or Master's degree will help your career prospects. There's more advice about finding suitable courses in the further study section.
If astronomy is an area of work that appeals, take a look at another physicist’s experience in the field.
last edited: April 17, 2013