What can you do with an astronomy major?
My younger sister is really interested in astronomy and I'm encouraging her to major in it. However, when she asked me about career options, all that came to mind were NASA and aerospace engineering. I was wondering if there were any other careers out there and if they are in demand. Also, would she have to move to the east/west coast for a job? She would prefer to stay in Kansas for her career. Would there be any remote job options open for her?
That's awesome you're helping your younger sister and a great major she's interested in. I hope she decides to go for it!! According to indeed.com, in order, these are the Top 10 Popular Astronomy Jobs :
- Senior technical writer
- College Professor
- Research Scientist
- Planetarium director
- Aeronautical Engineer
Earning a science based degree with a focus on astronomy will open up numerous opportunities to pursue an exciting career your sister will love and enjoy. Some astronomy jobs require majority of your time spent in a lab, while others will give her freedom to travel and explore different locations. Your sister can attend school in Kansas and possibly build a career especially if the offer is available. It's going to take networking and hands on experience to build and grow. As far as remote job options, the option can be available but it all depends once your sister decide what career path she want to go down and if that job have that as an option.
Wishing her the best!!
In terms of jobs specific to astronomy, there's a few options beyond NASA and aero-eng. There's a load of physics and engineering-adjacent roles in private companies that are not necessarily aero-eng - things like telecommunications and earth observation satellite design and ground operations. There's also things like public science communication roles in observatories and planetariums; and technician roles operating and maintaining large telescopes and other "big science" facilities. However, the biggest career for astronomy and astrophysics students is to stay in academia and astrophysics research, pursuing a PhD, then post-doctoral research within universities. Some will stay in academia through to lecturing and professorship, while others eventually move into the private sector after spending the first half of their career in academia.
Being from half-way across the other side of the world, I'm not familiar with what institutions exactly operate within the Kansas area, I can't really answer the part about travelling out-of-state for work, but I would imagine there'll still be a bunch of companies in the area looking for people with a physics/astronomy education. Kansas State University has some connections with the DUNE neutrino experiment, for starters (although the experimental facilities themselves are out-of-state).
In terms of remote work opportunities, a lot of physics roles will expect you to be on location some of the time, but many are now offering hybrid working with some on site and some remote - that could give you a bit of flexibility to look out-of-state and commute on occasion, but for a totally remote job from an astronomy background, I'd say software work is probably the best bet- a lot of those types of roles are much more open to full remote work.