If the physical sciences fascinate you, you may want to consider a career as an astronomer or astrophysicist. If you also enjoy sharing your love of science and cosmos with other people, you should think of following a career in teaching astronomy as a college or university professor. In this article, you will learn more about how to become a college or university astronomy professor. Read on to find out what you need to do to earn an astronomy education research Ph.D. and which are the most important requirements for becoming an astronomy professor.
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies astronomy professors as post-secondary teachers. According to the BLS, college and university professors, adjunct professors, and other post-secondary instructors generally, have to earn a Ph.D. At some institutions, particularly community colleges, a master’s degree may be sufficient, but almost any accredited college or university requires a doctoral degree for a full-time teaching position. You may be able to teach part-time at a 4-year college or university while you’re completing your doctoral program.
To earn your astronomy education research Ph.D., you’ll first need to earn a bachelor’s degree. According to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 76 colleges and universities in the U.S. and its territories offer bachelor’s degree programs in astronomy, astrophysics, or planetary astronomy and science.
It may not be necessary for you to have earned a bachelor’s degree in astronomy in order to be able to apply to a Ph.D. program. Depending on the degree program, a Ph.D. program might accept a postgraduate student with a bachelor’s degree in a physical science field such as physics or chemistry. A degree in mathematics, computational science, or a similar field might also be acceptable.
An astronomy-specific degree will, however, familiarize you with the cameras, computers, telescopes, space craft, spectrographs, and other specialized equipment used in studying the stars and other off-Earth phenomena. Click here to read the full review of some of the best telescope options.
Earn an Advanced Degree
The NCES reports 39 universities in the U.S. and its territories that offer advanced degree programs in astronomy, astrophysics, and planetary astronomy and science. At some universities, you’ll earn a master’s degree as part of the process of working toward a Ph.D.
You’ll then present an original piece of research as your doctoral dissertation. Guided by an advisor or advisory committee, you’ll submit and defend your doctoral dissertation to a committee of faculty members. If all the members of the committee unanimously agree, your doctoral candidacy will be approved and you will have earned your degree.
While you’re working toward earning your Ph.D. you may want to consider working as a teaching assistant. You’ll gain teaching experience by teaching undergraduates or lower-level graduate students at your institution.
At many colleges and universities, there are more applicants for professorial positions than positions available. Competition for these jobs can be intense. In addition to a solid academic record and excellent research, you’ll generally need to demonstrate experience in the field of astronomy to make yourself a competitive candidate to teach at the post-secondary level.
This experience often takes the form of post-doctoral research, sometimes referred to as “post-docs.” These research positions are usually associated with universities (although not always) and are often on a short-term, lasting 2-3 years. You might hold the job title of “research assistant” at these post-doc positions. According to the BLS, post-secondary teachers also generally possess some specific qualities. These include speaking, writing, critical-thinking, and interpersonal skills.
To earn your astronomy education research Ph.D., you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree in a physical science- or mathematics-related field, then apply to a Ph.D. program. To gain teaching experience, it’s a good idea to work as a teaching assistant while attending a graduate program. Once you’ve earned a doctoral degree, you can apply to teach at almost any college or university that has an astronomy program. You may need some addition experience to be a more competitive candidate.
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