How Much Do Astrophysicists Make? (Salary And Career Advice)
Updated 17 March 2023
Astrophysicists seek to understand how the universe works, how it began and what its future looks like. Although this branch of science is very appealing, it is important to understand other aspects of the field before choosing it as a full-time career. Understanding the required skills of an astrophysicist and knowing their salary potential can help you decide whether it is the right job for you. In this article, we answer the question "How much do astrophysicists make?", discuss what they do and share a few steps on how you can become an astrophysicist.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
How much do astrophysicists make?
The answer to 'How much do astrophysicists make?' usually depends on the industry you work for. The average base salary for astrophysicists is ₹686,338 per year. You can find employment in universities, in the research and development sectors of physical and engineering sciences institutes or in government companies. Astrophysicists are usually theoretical scientists or observational scientists and their base salary is generally the same. While theoretical physicists create models to better understand difficult to observe celestial bodies, observational physicists make direct observations to analyse objects and data.
Here are the different disciplines that theoretical and observational physicists work in:
Astrophysics: This subject deals with how the laws of physics and chemistry apply to stars and celestial bodies. They investigate the universe to discover the origins of the universe, the life and death of celestial bodies and phenomena that exist outside of the earth.
Cosmology: Cosmology is the branch of science concerned with the origins of the world, the expansion of the universe and attempting to comprehend the universe's end. To better understand the big bang, modern physical cosmology combines observational astronomy and particle physics.
Spectroscopy: This subject deals with light and its interactions with matter. Astronomical spectroscopy techniques measure the electromagnetic spectrum emitted by stars and reflected by other celestial objects.
Photometry: Photometry deals with the measurement of the brightness of stars and other celestial objects. Scientists who study photometry may use different software and instruments to calibrate and measure the intensities.
Helioseismology: This is the branch of science that uses observations of the sun's surface waves to help scientists better understand the sun's interior, structure and internal rotation.
Asteroseismology: Asteroseismology is the study of oscillations in a star that can reveal information about a star's internal structure that would otherwise be impossible to infer using other observations. Asteroseismology is similar to helioseismology, but it studies all stars rather than just the sun.
What does an astrophysicist do?
Astrophysicists study the universe and conduct research on many subjects, including the big bang, black holes, dark matter, stars and exoplanets. It can be both difficult and rewarding to pursue a career as an astrophysicist. The work in an astrophysicist's life can be very different every day. A typical workday for an astrophysicist may include:
Reading research papers
Astrophysicists need to keep themselves updated on the latest developments, research and findings in their domain. This may also help them with gaining insight and inspiration for their own work. They also read papers to review them and find topics, researchers and collaborators working towards common goals.
Related: How To Become A Scientist In 4 Steps
Writing research papers
An astrophysicist records new discoveries and research. A research paper acts as a mode of communication, using which scientists share the data they have gathered and observations made. This constant reviewing and sharing of articles help the entire subject matter evolve. On a personal level, physicists can keep track of their progress in research through their papers.
Scientists may write proposals to seek collaborations or funding for a new experiment that they wish to carry out. In these proposals, they may describe how they would conduct the experiment, as well as the methodology and resources they would use. Astrophysicists may also have to write a proposal to their place of employment for investing in new equipment and technology and how it can benefit their work and research.
Astrophysicists regularly attend conferences to either present their papers or to listen to the presentations of papers they can review. They may also present their work to get feedback and fresh insight from their peers and colleagues. Through conferences, they can also learn about new tools and equipment.
Astrophysicists may work as a professor at a university, either in a part-time or full-time role. They may also teach various related fields, such as physics, mathematics and computers. They help students gain a better understanding of the field and can connect them to the physicist community. Astrophysicists may act as a guide and mentor for students to help them better understand subjects and how to grow in their careers.
Conducting research and analysis
Astrophysics collect data from various sources for research and analysis. They conduct extensive studies towards the goals of their current project or research using modern tools and software. They may also use sophisticated devices and supercomputers to perform advanced calculations and analysis on the raw data.
How to become an astrophysicist
Here are the steps on how to become an astrophysicist:
1. Earn a degree
The degrees that can help you become an astrophysicist are:
Bachelor's degree: A bachelor's degree can help you start your career in astrophysics, and they typically take up to four years to complete. The degrees that you can opt for include astronomy, physics, mathematics, computer science, electronics or a related course with an adequate focus on astronomy.
Master's degree: If you want to develop your skills in the field further, you can opt for a master's degree in space science, astronomy or advanced physics, which can take up to three years, depending on the course. With a master's degree, finding teaching jobs may become easier.
Doctoral degree: After completing your bachelor's and master's degrees, you can gain work experience and complete your PhD to become an astrophysicist. Doctoral degrees can take up to six years to finish.
2. Publish research work
You can publish your research work in journals and present them at conferences. Publishing research papers help in the following ways:
demonstrate your knowledge base, specialisation and expertise
gain exposure in the community and to potential employers
increase your knowledge on a specific subject
create curiosity and promote a research-oriented mindset
build complex reading and understanding skills
help in finding relevant employment opportunities
3. Create your resume
A resume explains to recruiters why they should recruit you. It is important that you make a resume that aligns with the role you are applying for so that your skills and experience receive the recruiter's attention. Here are some important elements that you should remember to include in your resume:
Education: Mention the last education degree you have received first. You can also mention the scores you have achieved in each degree.
Skills: Add a section explaining your technical and soft skills.
Work experience: Enlist all your professional experience chronologically. If you are a fresher and only have done internships, you can mention the same in this section.
Published research papers: In this section, you can mention all the research papers you have published, along with the links to the papers, if possible.
References: Having references can increase your chances of getting a job. You can ask your professors, mentors, colleagues and peers to act as a reference.
Contact information: In this section, you can include your name, address, phone number, alternate phone number and email ID.
Related: How To Create A Resume PDF
4. Gain experience
Start applying for internships early on in your educational degree programme to secure meaningful and relevant opportunities. The internship experience can help in gaining practical knowledge and in finding suitable jobs. During your master's degree, you can also work as a teaching assistant or a research assistant. Look for job postings and customise your job application for each of them. After you have gained your doctoral degree, you can also apply for a paid research fellowship.
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