I know there are similar questions addressed on this site, but the answers are geared to a different skill set to what (I suspect) most astronomers/astrophysicist will have.

I'm currently halfway through a PhD in radio astrophysics (in India) and I'm not too sure that I want to stay in academics, so I'd like to explore what options I have outside of academics.

So my PhD is geared more toward data analysis, so I have a fair knowledge of C & Python for numerical processing but not for more general purpose computing (but I am trying to teach myself some of that).

I'm aware that this is a vague question, but what options do I have if I choose to leave? I understand that data analysis skills are quite valuable, and it would be nice to continue in a research-like climate because I really do enjoy research.

  • Of course you are hoping for responses from people already in such situations; I'm not. However, doing a web search might prove fruitful. Off the top of my head, people developing plans for space travel may need some of your skills. So would science centers and others who wish to "bring radio astronomy to the public"; having a professional help with the development of the material would ensure its integrity/propriety for the purpose. Surprisingly, game designers might also incorporate a simulated version of radio astronomy for their products. Aug 5 '14 at 5:25
  • @NotQuiteAnOutsider - Thanks! I should have specified I'm not looking specifically to stay in radio astronomy, but if I could choose I'd like to stay in data analysis.
    – Kitchi
    Aug 5 '14 at 5:43
  • Here is a site with lots of useful anecdotes from others.
    – Moriarty
    Aug 6 '14 at 9:01

I moved from a PhD in Astrophysics to an industry job some years ago, so I can share my experience, as well as the experience that a number of my fellow grad students had. This was in the United States, so things may be different in other countries.

The basic idea is that as far as most industry is concerned, a PhD in astronomy/astrophysics is the same as physics, so any job looking for a physics background will do. Jobs looking for a mathematics/statistics background are probably close enough as well, and worth applying to.

Your most marketable skills are your ability to code and do math/statistics while working with data. This is EXTREMELY valuable in industry. Your knowledge of astronomy and physics is likely not very valuable except in some very specific jobs.

Some specific fields that aggressively hire people with PhDs in astronomy in large amounts:

1) Quantitative Finance - The financial world hires a lot of people with PhDs in math/physics/stats to be quants. There are a lot of pros/cons to this field, but it pays well at least.

2) Defense Contractors - This is very much a research type environment. However, this almost always requires that the applicant have US citizenship in the United States in order to obtain security clearance.

3) Software Engineering - A background in coding, data analysis, and mathematics is very desirable. You will likely want to brush up on your programming since scientific programming is not usually software engineering, as well as your statistics.

You can try for more specialized fields like medical imaging, but it is often difficult to compete with the physicists with specialized backgrounds in that specific niche in my experience.


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