“Exotic workplace locales, amazing discoveries, and fame (but probably not fortune)
await those who persevere on the path leading to a career as a professional astronomer.
So how do you join the elite ranks of professional astronomy…?”
— Duncan A. Forbes —
So I got an e-mail from the University grapevine today with a link to a very interesting astro-ph article entitled “So you want to be a professional astronomer!“ This article is a goldmine of good advice for everyone from students to postdocs. If you’re even contemplating a career in astronomy (or, if you’re an enthusiastic amateur who’s wondering what exactly the professionals do), read it. The PDF is free to download (Yay for arXiv!).
The take home message is essentially that astronomy is a very competetive career, but if you work hard enough and you’re cut out for it, it’s definitely worth it. Know your field. Know your peers. Research, publish and talk about what you do. Getting a permanent job isn’t easy, especially as the number of people in sub-fields tends to vary with time.
Sometimes astrochemistry feels a little like a subculture in the astronomy world. There are a lot of us out there, and there’s a hell of a lot that’s not been fully researched yet, but it may be wise to keep my options open. After all, things like dark matter and galactic evolution are currently in vogue, while few people seem quite as keen to solve the mystery of the elusive diffuse interstellar bands. Thankfully, the chemistry side of things gives me plenty of options. Astrobiology is still a fledgling as fields of study go, and planetary science (geochemistry) is pretty interesting too. I guess should I fail in the astronomy world, there’s still the expansive wilderness of chemistry open to me. I have graphic design and scientific illustration on my side, too. Though perhaps that book writing thing would be a sound investment for the future…
Still… I think I have a good shot at being a pro astronomer. Best concentrate on being a postgrad for now though!