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Website Title: Gigniks: Astronomer (Spitzer Science Center)
Description: Interview with an astronomer. WHAT YOU DO: An astronomer collects data about planets, stars, and galaxies and presents it to other astronomers, then analyzes the astronomical data to make discoveries about space and how it works. EDUCATION: Extensive knowledge of physics and math, plus an understanding of astronomical research and the equipment necessary for it. You'll have difficulty finding a job with anything less than a PhD in astronomy and astrophysics, or physics. USEFUL SKILLS: Research skills, computer skills, analytical skills, writing skills (for grants), teaching skills, the ability to work well with others, creativity, and concentration. Astronomers need to be able to not only collect information, but also share it with others and work together to figure out what it means. HOW TO GET IN: Get involved with research projects run by professors at your school as an undergrad. CAREER PATH: Stay involved with research projects throughout the years you're in college. After you graduate with a PhD, you look for a "postdoc" position, where you can keep conducting research. Postdocs usually last around two years, so you may have to go through a few before you've done enough research to be a recognized astronomer. Then you can find a job at a university, where you'll run your own research projects, publish them, and share your discoveries with others. Alternatively, you could support an independent telescope or astronomy-based mission, doing your own research while also helping run the mission. Here, you might be an expert on a particular astronomical instrument, a software designer who writes the code for controlling the telescope, an outreach worker who interprets data and distributes it to the public, or any number of other specialized jobs. PAYBACK: Median annual salary: $95,500. DOWNSIDES: You'll need many years of education and experience to find a job. NETWORKING: NASA's astrophysics website has information about astronomical research: Video produced by students at LACES (Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies) working with Gigniks' career media program.

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03.03.03 Astonomy & Astrophysics

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