Astrophysicists primarily study outer space and its components.

Who is an Astrophysicist?

Astrophysics is a branch of astronomy that applies the laws of physics and chemistry to study the nature of celestial bodies. It focuses on more than just their positions and motions in outer space. It actually proposes theories on the workings of the universe.

As an astrophysicist, you may typically work in an office or observatory on theories and research papers. Your primary role will be to observe celestial bodies using a telescope and other instruments. You will also study radio and gamma waves, infrared light and X-ray signals from various extra-terrestrial bodies. Based on your findings, you will be required to write research papers and form theories on the operations of the universe.

What will you do?

Developing astronomical theories

Astrophysics applies the principles of physics and chemistry to study the nature of astronomical bodies. As an astrophysicist, you will explore the physical properties of objects like stars, planets, and galaxies. By investigating the properties of dark matter and black holes, you will form hypotheses on various subjects – from time travel to multi-verses – and determine the origin and future of the universe.

Implementing research techniques to test theories

An astrophysicist spends a lot of time observing celestial bodies. You will have to keep up with astronomical research, and contribute your own data and research. Based on your findings, you will be able to propose theories on the operations of the universe. Your job could also involve raising funds to facilitate your research.

Developing instruments and tools for research

To study celestial objects, astrophysicists use telescopes and other scientific instruments that radio and gamma waves, infrared light and X-ray signals from various extra-terrestrial bodies. Your job could also involve creating and developing tools and software that aid in astronomical observation and analysis. For this, you need to have an acute understanding about the kind of research involved in the field.

Writing papers for scientific journals

You will be contributing your data and research to further astrological research and formulate new theories. Thus, you will be required to present your research findings to other astrophysicists and astronomers through conferences and forum discussions, or write papers for numerous scientific journals. Additionally, in order to fund your research, you may also be required to write proposals to scientists to aid in your theories.

Working with astronomers on research projects

You might not always work on your own astronomical theories alone. There are times when you will be assigned to help a senior or fellow astrophysicist with their research. Here, your job could be limited to observing celestial bodies and recording your findings for the person in charge. You may have the additional task of formatting your own theories on the basis of your findings.

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Where would you work?

Research Laboratories

Several government affiliated and private organisations such as the BARC, ISRO, as well as NASA employ astrophysicists across various academic levels to conduct research programmes from their observatories.

Planetariums and Museums

Other than research laboratories and observatories, several private and public planetariums and museums also employ astronomers and astrophysicists for their knowledge and expertise of celestial bodies.

Educational Institutions

Astrophysicists can find lucrative career opportunities in educational institutes as university professors, scientific journalists or data scientists in the Astronomy and Astrophysics departments. The Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, and Osmania University are top colleges in this field.

How do you get there?

This stream won’t help you make an entry into this field.

This stream won’t help you make an entry into this field.

STEP 1: Class XI-XII/Junior College

Maths and science, especially physics and chemistry, are a must for a career in astrophysics. Choose Science after Class 10 and opt for a PCM (Physics Chemistry Maths) structure.

STEP 2: Graduation

You can pursue a Bachelor’s degree with a major in physics, chemistry or maths or opt for a B.Sc. in Astrophysics itself. The top colleges in India for this degree are Osmania University, Andhra University, Punjab University, Indian Institute of Science, and Aligarh Muslim University.

STEP 3: Entrance Exam

For a postgraduate degree, you must first pass the Joint Entrance Screening Test (JEST), conducted at an all-India level every year in February. Candidates who clear this exam are selected for an interview. Depending on your performance, you could be selected as a Junior Research Fellow for a Ph.D. programme at a reputed institute.

STEP 4: Post-Graduation

At a Master’s level, you must aim for a postdoctoral degree. Many colleges provide an integrated Master’s and PhD programme. Here, you can specialise in astrophysics, while also including courses like astronomy, computer science, maths, physics and statistics in your curriculum.

STEP 6: Internship

The scope of internships is not very high in this field. If you fail to pass the JEST, you could opt for a government job after graduation, which can be attained by passing the recruitment test. While students from socially and economically weaker sections are eligible for state government scholarship schemes, others can aim for merit scholarships offered by some private institutions.

STEP 7: Land a Job

Once you get your PhD, you can either start your own project or work under an experienced astrophysicist. Some of the best organisations that offer lucrative job opportunities in the field include the Indian Space Research Organisation, Space Physics Laboratories, The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, and Association of Bangalore Amateur Astronomers.


Thinking of a career as an Astrophysicist? Take the Mentoria assessment test & talk to our career counsellors to get personalized step-by-step guidance for your future career path.

What skills would you need?

Analytical and Data Skills

Analytical and Data Skills

You will receive huge amounts of data from your client. This data will have to be analysed effectively so you can find ways that will help your client reach their customers is the best way possible. While it is true that the more data you analyse, the more insights you generate; analytical thinking will help you narrow down your search and find your key actionable items, thus saving you a lot of time and resources.

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Attention to Detail

Attention to Detail

Working with eggs and embryos is a very tedious task. Every little detail matters when you are observing them. If you are good at giving attention to detail, then your job at the laboratory will be made much easier.

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You need to perform research on the eggs, sperms and embryos you obtain from the patient. This will involve some long hours of research.

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Communication Skills

Communication Skills

It’s harder than ever to get people’s attention, what with so much information being thrown at them. But, people cannot resist a good story. Every good marketing campaign has a story to tell their customers and relate to them on an emotional level. Marketers who tell great stories through their marketing campaigns are always in great demand.

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Critical thinking

Critical thinking

Marketing strategies involve a lot of trial and error. You will come up with a lot of ideas that sound great on paper. When you analyse them, you might learn that they can’t be executed as per the budget. You should be able to look at an idea practically and see if it will serve its purpose.

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Problem-solving Skills

Problem-solving Skills

Patients will be coming to you with different issues with fertility. You must be able to assess their problem, analyse the reason and work on coming up with a solution.

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How do you make it to the top ranks?

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Research Assistant

Once you obtain a bachelor’s degree in astrophysics, apply for an internship or part-time job in a research laboratory or observatory as an assistant. Here, you  will assist a junior or senior professional with their research by making observations and maintaining records of your findings.

Junior-level Astrophysicist

With a master’s degree, you can work as a full-time astrophysicist by assisting senior professionals in their research or working on your own theories. Additionally, you can be involved in developing instruments and software that aid in astronomical research.

Senior-level Astrophysicist

By this stage, you will have achieved your PhD or postdoctoral degree. You can now formulate your own theories, have a team of junior professionals and assistants to aid your research, and write papers that prove your hypotheses.

University Professor

You will need a PhD to become a professor of astronomy or astrophysics at a renowned university. You will impart your knowledge of the subject to aspiring students in the field and even share some of your own research and records with them.

Research Consultant

At the highest level in this field, you could be approached by top government and private organisations to lead a team of astrophysicists or provide your expertise to other senior professionals over a research project.

Pursuing your career locally VS abroad

There is a high demand for astronomers and astrophysicists in the country and not enough resources. This makes it a lucrative career for astronomy aspirants who also enjoy subjects like physics and chemistry. That being said, an astrophysicist requires many years of observation, training, and hard work. It’s not for those who want a full-time job in their early 20s.

Most astrophysicists have to continue studying until they obtain a PhD or a postdoctoral degree. At the most basic level, subjects like maths and science are a must till 10+2. At an undergraduate level, a B.Sc. in Astronomy or Astrophysics is the most common route, while degrees in physics, maths, or computer science are also good options. The average course fee for a B.Sc. in Astrophysics is INR 5000 to 5 lakhs, depending on the educational institute. The top colleges in India for this degree are Osmania University, Andhra University, and Punjab University. Additionally, students can pursue a postgraduate course while being involved in research projects at top institutes like Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Physical Research Laboratory, and Indian Space Research Organisation. Students must pass the Joint Entrance Screening Test to gain fellowship into these reputed institutes.

Another lucrative opportunity in this field is the International Astronomy Olympiad, held in Russia. The Astronomical Society of India selects top candidates in the field to apply for the programme, which includes detailed study in theoretical and observational astronomy, astrophysics, plasma physics, space science, and more.

Just like in India, many developed and fast-developing nations have a high scope for careers in astronomy and astrophysics. To get a job in astrophysics, students must have at least a Master’s degree, while some educational institutions offer Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in the field. Students can pursue this course while also working part-time or as an assistant on a research project, as a Ph.D. will require them to create and defend a dissertation before a panel of professionals. Some institutes might also offer an internship for this purpose, wherein students work alongside industry experts and record their research findings to apply to new projects.

Some of the best institutes for this field are in the US and the UK, viz. CalTech, Princeton, UC Berkeley, Penn State, Harvard, Colombia, Cornell, Ohio State University, Johns Hopkins, Yale, UCLA, Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester, Imperial College London, and ENS Paris in France. Students studying in the US can also become a member of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), which requires an endorsement from an active member. Thus, it is essential to keep up with the latest in the field and network with professionals during the training stages. A membership with the AAS can help aspiring professionals make a significant contribution in the field of astronomy.

How much would you get paid?

The salary of an astrophysicist varies depending on the place and nature of work. Private institutions have a higher salary for its professionals while those working at planetariums and museums might have a lower annual income. Some astrophysicists also tend to work in the field while others work in more academic settings. The standard salary of an astrophysicist in India is about INR 5 lakhs.

What are your career options?

Data Science

Since astronomy and astrophysics heavily depend on math, statistics and computer programming, a number of astrophysicists also find lucrative career opportunities in the field of data science. Like astrophysicists, data scientists analyse raw data and derive objective conclusions from it. For this, they must identify the model that helps them interpret data correctly, identify solutions, and revolutionise systems and processes.

Aerospace Engineering

Astrophysicists can even find jobs in fields like aerospace engineering, which requires professionals who have an acute understanding of astronomical instruments and expertise in computer programming. Here, the astrophysicist focuses on the detailed design and execution of mission concepts and also engages in work related to research and development such as thermal engineering, navigation control systems, mechanisms, etc.


An astronomer’s role is very similar to an astrophysicist and requires students to begin at the same basic level – an undergraduate course in astronomy. While astronomy is the study of celestial bodies, astrophysics is a branch of astronomy that applies the laws of physics and chemistry to study the nature of these bodies. Modern astronomical research often involves work in the realm of theoretical and observational physics, which is a bonus for students in astrophysics.

Computer Engineer

Astrophysicists are required to have thorough knowledge and understanding of computer systems. Many astrophysicists are involved in the creation and development of tools and software that aid in astronomical observation and analysis. Thus, they veer towards a career in computer engineering. These professionals design, test, implement and maintain computer software and hardware systems that are used for research.

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