Do you look to the heavens at night? Do you love looking at galaxies and want to know more about them? Then you should consider becoming an astronomer. Taking the proper coursework can lead to going beyond being an amateur. Imagine finding a galaxy or star that no one has seen before or possibly finding a planet that may have life on it. This is an exciting area, however it will take serious study in the field of science.
You’ll need a high school diploma and college entrance exam (SAT/ACT) to start with. Then you’ll need to enroll in a bachelor’s degree followed by graduate schooling (Ph.D.). You’ll be taking courses in mathematics and physics as well as other science coursework. You’ll also have to have classes in computer science, geography and possibly foreign languages. It helps if you are a person who has good reasoning skills, logic and analysis ability.
You’ll need to search down colleges/universities that offer coursework in astronomy and that are strong in the physical sciences. There are not many of these so you may have to move to another place. It is possible to take online coursework for some of this. Whatever you do, make sure that you get all your prerequisites for grad school so you need to determine what grad school you will be going to and find out what they require first.
If you are able to get into a program that offers an astronomy degree that is great. If not, then you have to go for a mathematics or physics degree. Nevertheless, you’ll need to make the very best grades you can as this is a highly competitive field.
Astronomy requires creative thinking that may lead to controversial conclusions that the community may not accept at first. This may be difficult to deal with so you have to stick with it. You must make astronomy your passion.
You’ll need excellent computer skills that involve programming ability as well as the ability to understand the math that goes into programming. If you’re good with math logic this is a plus.
It’s a good idea to join an astronomy club and get involved with their activities as soon as possible. You can do this before you enter college. Make sure to visit observatories and science museums if you can. Visit your local planetarium. See if you can get an interview with an astronomer and see what he/she has to say about the programs they went through and what available options you have in terms of schooling. See if you can get involved with an astronomy project and keep an eye on astronomy forums on the internet.
Try to determine what area of astronomy interests you. Coursework is available in solar astronomy, origin and evolution of stars, formation of galaxies and planetary science.
Your work as an astronomer involves a number of functions including using telescopes, modeling theories on computer, researching the literature, publishing, analyzing data (which can take a long time) as well as attending conferences. Your job specs will vary each day. Are you up to this? If you have a strong interest in the cosmos, then go for it.