D. Varied Career Paths
Many, if not most, professional astronomers in the U.S. are employed in
positions other than tenure-track positions at major research universities.
Examples are employment at national or private observatories, NASA centers and
contractors, science data centers, colleges that do not grant Ph.D.s,
planetaria, industry, or in various roles in science or university management.
The paths to these roles typically are not well understood, nor are the
opportunities available to develop skills that are useful in these various
types of positions.
Follow-up Suggestions for Implementation:
- Academic departments should encourage outside training in non-research
fields, such as program/project management or science policy, in order to
prepare their students for the possibility of future careers in managing a
variety of scientific endeavors. This may include, for example, courses
outside the academic department or department seminars given by people
in various related careers.
- Educational institutions that are co-located with related industrial
employers, research institutions, or observatories should establish specific
programs that enable students to "cross-train" between the university and the
other organizations. Likewise, informal and formal science discussions,
mentoring groups, seminars and colloquia, etc. at these professional
institutions should have an open door policy and encourage student
- Mentoring programs such as that recommended in the section on "Career
Advancement and Recognition" should include discussions and explorations of
options outside the traditional faculty progression; astronomy departments
should work with their university's career development centers, and with their
own graduates, to provide information about these options to their
undergraduate and graduate students.
- Create a network of former students/alumni that
have followed non-academic career paths.
- Schedule informal talks from this network of people with the graduate
students, set-up a website or email listing, find ways for student to connect
with this network, offer opportunities to ask questions, etc.
- Offer colloquia on non-astronomy topics, and from non-academic
- Advertise that scientific conferences often have many attendees
(and sponsors) from non-academic institutions.
- Options exist in other fields, or even other countries;
promote opportunities when they appear.
- Be open to students that do not want to become academics - this is not
failure on the part of the student nor the department!
AAS Employment Committee
AAS Non-academic Career Network