What does a Physicist and Astronomer do?
A physicist and astronomer apply themselves to the discovery and study of the ways that energy and matter interact. They may observe the origin of the universe or study the nature of time or apply their knowledge of physics to other areas, like developing medical equipment and advanced materials.
Sophisticated equipment is sometimes designed by physicists, for instance electron microscopes, particle accelerators, and lasers and used to perform experiments. Although they may work in observatories and laboratories, they also spend time working in an office setting.
How to become a Physicist and Astronomer
This occupation can be obtained with a bachelor's degree in physics which would qualify them to work as research assistants and technicians in similar fields, like computer science and engineering. A bachelor's degree in astronomy would qualify one for an assistant at an observatory.
Those holding a bachelor's degree or master's degree sometimes find employment in the federal government or become teachers in middle or high school. However, to secure jobs in academia or research, one needs a PhD Degree.
A graduate student would normally focus on an astronomy and a physics sub field, like cosmology or condensed matter physics. One also needs courses in calculus, statistics, and algebra along with computer science.
A student of astronomy requires a strong physics background in their bachelor's degree that would prepare them for the astronomy programs for their PhD. Some universities may prefer the undergraduate degree in astronomy.
An undergraduate in the physics program would have a background in mathematics and the natural sciences. Most start out their careers in a 2-3 year temporary postdoctoral research position and work with experienced scientist until they are qualified to begin working more on their own.
Job Description of a Physicist and Astronomer
A physicist and astronomer is curious about the properties of the natural world like atom formations or the force of gravity and develop scientific theories and models that helps them understand and explain it. They test theories and discover properties of energy and matter from their studies and scientific experiments. They gather data from mathematical calculations to analyze information that may point to the existence of planets in distant solar systems.
A physicist may study the evolution of the universe and the fundamental properties of molecules and atoms. In the case of the application of practical areas, a physicist may develop medical equipment and advanced materials.
Astronomers however, would be involved in the study of galaxies, stars, and planets using ground equipment, like optical telescopes and radio, as well as space based equipment. Other astronomers may explore objects in the solar system. Others become curious about the study of black holes, neutron stars, galaxies, or monitor space debris.
There are those astronomers and physicists that do basic research to increase scientific knowledge by working in teams with other scientists, engineers, and technicians. Both the physicist and the astronomer would present their research findings at conferences and lectures and also write scientific reports that are sometimes published in scholarly journals.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth of 7 percent in 2014-2024 for this career field.