What Does an Astrophysicist Do? (With Salary and Skills)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 9 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Professionals who work in astronomy have the opportunity to discover new information that can help us better understand the universe and improve space exploration. Astrophysicists study a wide variety of celestial bodies and astronomical events. If you enjoy learning about astronomy, working on research projects and applying physics to solve problems, then you might be interested in pursuing a career as an astrophysicist. In this article, we answer the question, "What does an astrophysicist do?", explore their average salary and common job duties and share the steps you can take to become one.

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What does an astrophysicist do?

An astrophysicist uses their advanced knowledge of mathematics, physics and astronomy to study the formation of stars, planets and galaxies. They often focus on a specific area, such as conducting research about why a galaxy has a certain shape or how a planet formed. Some of their primary job duties include:

  • Observing, analysing and researching celestial bodies and events

  • Developing theories based on the laws of physics

  • Testing theories to better understand the universe

  • Documenting research and writing essays about new discoveries

  • Using telescopes and ground-based equipment to explore space

  • Assessing and reviewing research conducted by other scientists

  • Attending conferences and lectures to learn about new research techniques and discoveries

  • Writing grant proposals to raise funds for research projects

  • Giving presentations to share their research and discoveries

  • Teaching and overseeing PhD candidates

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Average salary for an astrophysicist

The average base salary for an astrophysicist is ₹6,71,957 per year. The amount you earn as an astrophysicist may vary based on your education level, work experience and skill set. Where your job is located and the cost of living in your area may also impact your salary.

Astrophysicist requirements

Becoming an astrophysicist is both challenging and rewarding. Understanding the basic requirements can help you plan your career path. Here are the most common requirements for astrophysicists:


You need at least a master's degree to become an astrophysicist, though many employers require a doctoral degree. Students can expect to take courses in engineering, astronomy and other sciences. Start by completing a bachelor's degree with a major in astrophysics, physics or a similar field. Then, complete a master's degree or PhD in astrophysics or astronomy. Some students may choose to first complete a master's degree, whereas others choose a programme that combines both the master's and PhD programmes.

Students in PhD programmes typically need to create and defend a dissertation. A dissertation is a document that presents all the research a student performed throughout the programme, along with their findings. They typically need to offer a presentation of this document to a panel that accepts it in order to graduate.


Aspiring astrophysicists receive training both in their educational programmes and on the job. Depending on the educational programme, students may complete an internship where they develop important astrophysicist skills. Entry-level astrophysicists can expect to work closely with their supervisors as they gain experience in the industry. Astrophysicists should keep up with the latest findings in the industry through research to apply them to new projects.


There are several exams aspiring astrophysicists can take to begin their careers. While students may choose which exams to take, it is necessary to pass at least one of them to become an astrophysicist. These exams include:

  • Joint Entrance Screening Test (JEST): Professionals often take the JEST exam to improve their chances of being accepted into an MSc, integrated PhD or PhD programme. You can choose to take the JEST test in physics, astronomy or astrophysics.

  • Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE): To register for this exam, you must earn at least a graduate degree in an engineering or science discipline. This multiple-choice exam focuses on a variety of engineering concepts.

  • National Entrance Test (NET): This exam is also the entrance exam professors take to teach at a higher level. When you register for the NET exam, you can select the subject you want to focus on, such as physics or astrophysics.


There are a few hard and soft skills that assist an astrophysicist in their role, including:

  • Analytical skills: Strongly developed analytical skills are important when working as an astrophysicist. Astrophysicists conduct numerous research projects, and analytical skills assist with gathering, interpreting, analysing and reporting data.

  • Reporting skills: Astrophysicists are an important part of furthering the research of astrophysics. The ability to not only test but also report data in a way that other professionals in the industry can use is critical.

  • Mathematical skills: Astrophysicists often use advanced mathematical skills to test theories and report data. Mathematical skills in courses like calculus and physics can help the astrophysicist in their role.

  • Problem-solving skills: Many astrophysicists solve a variety of problems related to their research. Skills in problem-solving allow them to identify the problem, create a hypothesis and take the necessary steps to prove or disprove the theory.

  • Computer skills: Astrophysicists use computers to develop algorithms that help them solve problems and evaluate graphs. Having a basic understanding of computer programming can help you convert data quickly and provide more accurate results.

  • Communication skills: Astrophysicists must have excellent written and verbal communication skills to share their research. Practise using clear, concise language to communicate complex ideas in a way that is easy for other people to understand.

Astrophysicist work environment

Astrophysicists can take either a research or an academic route in their careers. Some astrophysicists may split their time between fieldwork and teaching. Astrophysicists may also work on a research team, often collaborating on research techniques or results. Astrophysicists can expect the following work characteristics:

  • Frequent use of computers and other technical equipment

  • Interpretation of large amounts of data

  • Use of in-depth math and research skills

  • Frequent communication with other researchers

Astrophysicists may work in different industries, which can further affect the expected workday tasks. These are a few of the most common industries:

  • Higher education

  • Research lab

  • Aerospace industry

  • Government agencies

Because of the variety of work you may have in this career and the different industries you may work in, job outlook tends to be positive, making this career a good one for many individuals.

How to become an astrophysicist

Here are some steps you can take to begin your career as an astrophysicist:

1. Complete a bachelor's degree

Completing a bachelor's degree is the first step toward your career as an astrophysicist. It is common for undergraduate institutions to require you to complete the JEST or a similar aptitude test before enrolling. Once you begin your bachelor's programme, you can expect to take coursework in mathematics and science to prepare you for your career as an astrophysicist. Take advantage of any internships or fieldwork experiences that can make you a more competitive candidate when applying for advanced degree programmes in astrophysics.

2. Complete a master's and PhD degree

Some students may complete a master's programme and then a PhD program, whereas others may prefer to complete a course that combines the two. Most postgraduate programmes require students to pass the GATE exam before applying. Once you have been accepted into a programme, major in astrophysics and earn high grades in all math and research classes to prepare yourself for a successful career.

Complete as many internships as possible to gain work experience and meet other science professionals. If you want to work in a specific industry, like education or with the government, consider completing an experienced appointment in this industry during your education. Some of the courses you might take during your graduate programme include:

  • Astrophysics

  • Condensed matter physics and materials science

  • Theoretical and observational astronomy

  • Plasma physics and technology

  • Atmospheric and space science

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3. Prepare your cover letter and resume

Your cover letter and resume are important as you begin your career search. Create a new cover letter with each application and highlight your experience and passion for the industry. Use your resume to highlight experiences that will assist you in your role as an astrophysicist.

4. Apply for astrophysicist positions

After you have completed all educational requirements and prepared your resume, you are ready to apply for astrophysicist positions. Review your educational coursework and prepare for any interviews by completing a mock interview with a trusted friend. There are several space research organisations you can apply to. Consider what type of environment you would ideally prefer to work in and look for positions that meet these characteristics.

Potential employers may also ask you to submit your NET, JEST or GATE exam scores along with your application to assess your skill set, so make sure you have access to this information.

Related: Professional Resume Samples To Help You Land a Job

Astrophysicist job description example

Here is an example of an astrophysicist job description to help you prepare:

Gamma Corp. is looking for an entry-level astrophysicist to join our team. The ideal candidate has previous experience teaching in an academic setting and working in a research lab. A PhD in Astrophysics and a passing score on a NET, JEST or GATE exam is required for this position. The skills needed to be successful in this role include excellent communication, teamwork, research and mathematics.

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