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How many now living individuals have a PhD in astrophysics, or by some other definition can be reasonably classified as astronomers? I think Richard Feynman once said that only one in a million is an astronomer, I would think there are many more today.

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  • $\begingroup$ Would you consider me an astronomer? I'm a software developer by trade, with no formal astronomy education besides university physics. I'll tell you the names, distances, masses, and other information of most celestial objects with an absolute magnitude 3 or higher. I'll teach you quite a bit about theories including orbital mechanics, astrophysics, gravitation, and also about practicalities such as historical and current spacecraft and missions. If you consider me as an astronomer despite no formal training, then any estimate of amount of astronomers goes way up, there are many more like me. $\endgroup$ – dotancohen Sep 16 '14 at 6:54
  • $\begingroup$ I am a Physics / Astronomy Major. I switched to Computer Software ended up designing and writing Software for Celestial Mechanics. I am retired and have no interest in either. I lived a very hectic but extremely rewarding life. The problem with Astronomy is that it is extremely frustrating and very little to show for the work Astronomers do. Besides, they are not well paid. Most Astronomers spend their entire life not getting anywhere, whereas, Amateurs, quite often, beat them hands down. Would I repeat if I get another life? Most definitely yes. Astronomy is a Mental Voyeurism. The Brains hur $\endgroup$ – Dr Cornelius Vanderbilt Dec 4 '18 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ t yet you continue. As Dawkins said to Tyson, rather in awe: you people are a different breed. Stargazing is not easy. $\endgroup$ – Dr Cornelius Vanderbilt Dec 4 '18 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ @DrCorneliusVanderbilt: Amateurs beat astronomers in... what? Astronomy? That's wishful thinking. Astronomy is a science, not just science fan-boyism. Also don't forget Astrophysics, which belongs to Astronomy. $\endgroup$ – AtmosphericPrisonEscape Dec 4 '18 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ Astronomers are professionals with an expert level of understanding of math and physics. Amateurs mostly focus on observing and imaging objects of interest; a few also have high levels of scientific understanding, and have even made significant, documented contributions to science. But really, in most cases, they're just two different endeavors. I see no reason to view them as being in competition. $\endgroup$ – Alphecca Dec 5 '18 at 2:09
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"The worldwide community of professional astronomers is only about 10,000; most are located in the us (with about 1,000 in the UK and 250 in Australia)." From So You Want to Be an Astronomer by Duncan Forbes.

Another source stated that the number of professional astronomers is about the size of a small town.

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  • $\begingroup$ I didn't know your source, but I would have estimated the same number. However, there are many more (about the same number) with a PhD in astronomy who didn't follow it up with an academic career. $\endgroup$ – Walter Sep 11 '14 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ There are at least 10 times as many PhDs in astrophysics as practising astrophysicists. Certainly I have supervised >10 PhDs. $\endgroup$ – Rob Jeffries Dec 4 '18 at 21:35
  • $\begingroup$ In the 1970's, the worldwide number was about 2000. $\endgroup$ – Wayfaring Stranger Dec 4 '18 at 21:51

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