Optical and radio astronomers: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more
Optical and radio astronomers use optical or radio telescopes to study motions and evolution of stars, galaxies, and the larger scale structure of the universe.
Growing numbers of physicists work in interdisciplinary fields, such as biophysics, chemical physics, and geophysics. For more information, see the profiles on biochemists and biophysicists and geoscientists.
- Education Required
- A Ph.D. in physics, astronomy, or a related field is needed for jobs in research or academia or for independent research positions in industry.
- Training Required
- Many physics and astronomy Ph.D. holders who seek employment as full-time researchers begin their careers in a temporary postdoctoral research position, which typically lasts 2 to 3 years. During their postdoctoral appointment, they work with experienced scientists and continue to learn about their specialties or develop a broader understanding of related areas of research. Senior scientists may carefully supervise their initial work, but as these postdoctoral workers gain experience, they usually do more complex tasks and have greater independence in their work.
- Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 14% (Faster than average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
- With experience, physicists and astronomers may gain greater independence in their work, as well as larger research budgets. Those in university positions may also gain tenure with more experience. Some physicists and astronomers move into managerial positions, typically as a natural sciences manager, and spend a large part of their time preparing budgets and schedules. Physicists and astronomers need a Ph.D. for most management positions.
- Some positions with the federal government, such as those involving nuclear energy and other sensitive research areas, may require applicants to be U.S. citizens and hold a security clearance.
- Median pay: How much do Physicists and Astronomers make?
- $114,870 Annual Salary
- $55.23 per hour
Careers for Physicists and Astronomers
- Atomic physicists
- Atomic, molecular, and optical physicists
- Condensed matter and materials physicists
- Condensed matter physicists
- Extragalactic astronomers
- Fluid dynamicists
- Galactic astronomers
- Galactic, planetary, solar, and stellar astronomers
- Health physicists
- High-energy astrophysicists
- Mathematical physicists
- Medical physicists
- Molecular physicists
- Nuclear physicists
- Observational astronomers
- Optical astronomers
- Optical physicists
- Optical scientists
- Particle and nuclear physicists
- Particle physicists
- Planetary astronomers
- Plasma physicists
- Radio astronomers
- Research physicists
- Solar astronomers
- Stellar astronomers
- Thermodynamic physicists
- Atmospheric Scientists, Including Meteorologists
- Chemists and Materials Scientists
- Computer and Information Research Scientists
- Computer Hardware Engineers
- Electrical and Electronics Engineers
- Materials Engineers
- Mathematicians and Statisticians
- Mechanical Engineers
- Natural Sciences Managers
- Nuclear Engineers
- Nuclear Technicians
- Postsecondary Teachers