Should You Choose Astronomy As A Career?

From The Eyes Of A Bangladeshi Applicant: Would I Really Choose Astronomy For My Career?

Yes, I would. But maybe not directly. In this blog, I’ll provide you with a few insights that I found during fixing my major, which I think might help you a bit as well. 

What Is Astronomy To Me? 

If there’s something I want to pursue my career in, it’s astronomy. It’s a subject that, in a way, has helped me find a few of the most important people in my life. The best will happen if fate allows it!

Would I Choose Astronomy For My Studies And Future Career?

The fields of astronomy and astrophysics are undoubtedly some of the most leading ones in the modern world. But there’s a catch. The scopes for this field are still quite limited, a few of which I will state below

"A word of caution: Astronomy is not a high-profit business. Our 'product' is knowledge about the universe, something you can't own or sell. Salaries are reasonable, but competition for jobs is stiff and the hours are very long. If you are considering a career in astronomy, you must be motivated by a love of discovery and the pursuit of knowledge."
Joe Harrington

National Observatories and Government Laboratories:

First up comes the national organisations like NASA and Roscosmos. This is one of the largest employment sectors in the field of astronomy.

  • **You must be a citizen or permanent resident of the USA or Russia to even apply to NASA or Roscosmos.
  • **For an internship at NASA, you have to be a US citizen or be nominated by any of the partners of NASA.

Despite the restrictions, there are Bangladeshi-born US permanent residents working at NASA, who certainly are idols to look up to.

Mahmooda Sultana and Mahjabin Haque are the two I know of. 

However, I lack adequate information about the rest of the national agencies, like the CSA, ESA, and others. Most of them have separate requirements. For instance,

Private Industries

Speaking of privates, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin are the first to come to mind. 

It’s the same for these ones as well. You must be a US citizen to join or even be considered for an internship.

So Does That Mean You’ve Got No Hope At All As An International Student?

Of Course Not! 

Many countries, like Russia, take an extremely low amount of time in comparison to the United States for PR allowance, so Roscosmos or agencies around the world might be an option for you. There’s another thing you can do, and this is what most international students do-the field of research. 

In The Field Of Research

This might be one of the most popular fields for international students in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics. This sector requires an ample amount of time, dedication, and the will to continue your research in the pursuit of knowledge.

I’d like to cite two of the most famous students from Bangladesh working in this field:

  • Lamiya Ashraf Mowla, who’s currently working as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Dunlap Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics at UofT, Canada. She was a member of the team working for the success of the most powerful telescope out there, the James Webb Space Telescope.
  • Tonima Tasnim Ananna, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Dartmouth College, who topped Science News Magazine’s “Top 10 Scientists to Watch” list in 2020.

And last but not the least, I am familiar with another Bangladeshi researcher currently completing her PhD at Leiden University, Netherlands in the field of astronomy- Syeda Lammim Ahad. 

These are just a few of the countless Bangladeshi students who are or will be studying astronomy in the future.And so, as you can see, the fact that they won’t be able to work in the major space organizations right now isn’t holding anyone back, and it shouldn’t hold you back either!

So, The Bottomline: Would I Prefer To Major In Astronomy For My Undergraduate Studies?

I wouldn’t. And there are a few reasons for that:

  • I am not yet sure if I would like to pursue a PhD right after my honours and masters or if I would like to continue in the field of astronomy research.
  • I would rather study STEM subjects, or specific engineering courses, or computer science, or data science—fields that will let me pursue my dream and keep a lot of other doors open as well.

Let me give an example.

If I end up pursuing data science, I’ll have the scope to work almost anywhere, from multinational business companies to my dream job—space organizations. And even if somehow I can’t join the space agencies in my later life, I’ll still have a lot of paths open.

Because there’s no one who doesn’t need data analysts in this modern era of data and information.

Hear it right from NASA itself, just how much they value these IT specialists-

And the cons of this decision?

I won’t be able to pursue my studies in my dream subject-the fields of astronomy and astrophysics. 

So, in the end, the choice is yours.

If your love for astronomy is so deep that the god of astronomy (if there is any) will come down and kill you if you don’t study astronomy, go for it!

Maybe you’ll have to put in an extra bit of effort, but it will be worth it for you!

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