Careers for Astronomy PhDs

by Guest on October 2, 2013

This guest post is by Nick Lee who is a graduate student at the Institute for Astronomy, U. of Hawaii.

In Spring of 2013, I led a series of weekly seminars for grad students and post-docs at the Institute for Astronomy, UH Manoa, discussing career opportunities available to Astronomy PhDs.  The current state of the job market for traditional astronomy jobs is extremely competitive, and the numbers say that there just aren’t enough jobs for all students who receive a PhD to get a “traditional” (tenured faculty) astronomy position.  The initial plan was to discuss non-traditional careers, but the series morphed to include both “traditional” astronomy careers and professional development skills, in addition to a detailed look at non-traditional career paths.

Being fairly isolated out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, we did not have access to a large number of professionals who could come talk with us, so I had to collect most of the information in order to pass it along.  My source material came from the internet (many helpful websites, including Astrobetter!), informational interviews I did with 15 professionals in various fields, and a professional development class I was taking at the time.  I ended up giving 5 weekly talks, each one split into two sections: 1) Careers, and 2) Professional Development skills.

Ultimately, there were ~20-25 people that attended each seminar, and we had many useful discussions.  I believe that most participants found the series extremely helpful (and I have the surveymonkey data to prove it)!  I am hopeful that this series becomes a regular (either annual or semi-annual) occurrence here at the IfA, and I have hosted the powerpoint slides I used for each seminar on my website (, in the hopes that it will help some of you who are concerned with your future career prospects.  The slides are given in both powerpoint and pdf format, with all the presenter notes included.

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