I'm a software engineer (a moderately good one). I like programming, mathematics and I love everything about astronomy.

What would be best way to go ahead?

  • $\begingroup$ What is your current profession? Are you a software engineer in industry, or are you still a student? $\endgroup$
    – Phiteros
    Mar 9 '17 at 23:29
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    $\begingroup$ Get a PhD with a hot professor at a top school and write a killer Dissertation: Many publications, lots of High profile collaborators. Do a couple very productive post docs, and prove you can write fundable grant proposals, by doing so repeatedly. Beat all the other candidates in the academic interview process. Write, and get, big grants. Write highly cited papers in major peer reviewed journals. Play department politics at least until they grant you tenure, then repeat the grant, papers, politics thing til age 65. Or, you could stick to doing Astronomy as a dedicated amateur. $\endgroup$ Mar 9 '17 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ @WayfaringStranger you nailed it :-) $\endgroup$ Mar 10 '17 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ @WayfaringStranger: If you're in the US, maybe it is so, but in Europe I thinks there's less tendency to look at who was your supervisor and with whom you collaborate, and look more on what you actually acheived. Apart from that, I agree. $\endgroup$
    – pela
    Mar 10 '17 at 12:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Another good advise if you want to go beyond PhD: Be a male. :\ $\endgroup$
    – pela
    Mar 10 '17 at 12:37

A profession in astronomy can entail various things. Unlike what other people are saying, you don't have to have a PhD in astronomy to do work in this field, to be an astronomer. There are other options, but you will have to work hard.

  1. Study as much physics and mathematics as possible. Astronomy is essentially a branch of physics. If you're still in school, then take classes in these areas. If you're not in school anymore, then there are plenty of online resources to continue your education. This will allow you to understand what people are talking about when they discuss technical things.
  2. Decide what exactly you're interested in. There are lots of different areas of study within astronomy. Decide what appeals to you the most. Do you like planets? Galaxies? Cosmology? All of these different focuses require more specialized knowledge.
  3. Your skills are already marketable. Being an astronomer can mean lots of different things. There are some astronomers who hardly ever look through telescopes, and spend most of their time reducing data. A large part of astronomy is computer programming. As a software engineer, you may already have the skills you need to work with astronomy research.
  4. Keep an open mind. There are lots of jobs in astronomy research where you might not be called an "astronomer". For example, as a software engineer, you could find work with NASA supporting space research. Your job title might not be "Astronomer", but you'll still be in the field.
  5. Be prepared for hard work. Being an astronomer can be difficult, not just because of the subject matter, but also because of the effort you have to put in to get a job. It can be relatively difficult to find an employer looking for people with your particular skillset. My recommendation would be to keep an eye on the NASA Jobs website to see when they're hiring. You can also search for internships on NASA's OSSI site.
  6. Try some amateur astronomy. There are lots of ways you can get involved in astronomy without having it as a job. A quick Google search for "Amateur astronomy projects" yields many different results.
  7. Join a local astronomy group. If you live in a reasonably sized city, there should be an astronomy group near you. Find them and join them.
  8. Don't give up! Having astronomy as a profession can be difficult, but it is also rewarding. If you truly want to do this, you'll need to work at it. Just don't give up!

Considering your conditions and what you've already achieved. You could most likely start by doing a masters degree and then doing a PhD in astronomy if you want to do research. The reason why I say to start out on a masters is because I assume you have a firm understanding of physics considering what you've done as I said. If you don't have enough background in physics, you could probably do a couple bridging courses and then do your masters. That's a simple way to put it. Regards, Ethan

  • $\begingroup$ That the OP has a sufficiently understanding of physics to be able to jump directly into a masters program is not well-based. Moreover, in the US and Canada, one typically enters a PhD program directly. A master's degree is awarded somewhere along the way toward that PhD. If the person "graduates" ABD (all but dissertation, or even worse, all but defense), they'll at least have that master's as a fallback. $\endgroup$ Mar 10 '17 at 16:04

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