Careers in Astronomy


There has never been a better time to work in astronomy, a vibrant and competitive discipline. The surest way to succeed is through the originality of your research, and to get out there and tell people a compelling story about your research. In order to conduct original research, you will need to nurture many of the following skills, qualities and abilities:
Curiosity, breadth of knowledge, depth of knowledge, ability to think critically, capacity to work hard, capacity to work fast, computer programming skills, mathematical skills, synthetic skills, data analysis skills, communication skills, teaching ability, willingness to travel, report writing skills, perseverance, enthusiasm, organizational skills, ability to work in a team, ability to work on your own, ambition, vision.

Career development


SISSA, what next? Naturally you'll want to keep an eye on the AAS job register which publishes advertisements for postdoctoral positions each month. Here we also provide an annotated list of links to highlight resources for career development in Europe and elsewhere. Pick the brains of someone you know that has been successful at applying for one of these grants.

Canada
CIFAR - Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. The Junior Fellow Academy of CIFAR is an élite fellowship program designed to build research and leadership capacity in gifted young scholars at a critical early stage of career development. Available positions published here.
CITA National Fellowships - CITA provides partial support for postdoctoral fellows working in theoretical astrophysics or closely related fields at Canadian universities other than the University of Toronto, through its National Fellows program.

Denmark
Sophie and Tycho Brahe Fellowships - Funding visiting professorships and postdoctoral fellowships.

France
CNRS - National Centre for Scientific research. Much sought after research positions in France.
CNES - The French space agency. Each year they finance a few postdoc positions.
ATER - Attache enseignement recherche. Similiar to a one year assistant professor position. These positions are opened on demand of a group, and so are hard to predict when and where one will open unless you are in contact with the group.

Germany
Humboldt Fellowships - Amongst others, the Feodor Lynen Fellowship allows PhDs from Germany to follow three years of research at an institute outside Germany.
DFG - Promoting young researchers. See for instance the Emmy Noether Fellowships, which provide a five year research position for those with up to four years postdoctoral experience.
DAAD - German Academic Exchange Service.
BMBF - Federal Minsistry of Education and Research. Offers W1 (Junior Professorships).
Some institutions may have funds from "SFB" (Sonderforschungsbereich or Collaborative Research Centres) and from "Excellence Clusters".
Sofia Kovalevskaja Award - Five year fellowship for researchers from abroad to work in Germany.
Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers - For more experienced researchers, 18 months maximum, it is very flexible and could be used to up to three pieces. Later you can host Humboldt postdocs at your future university.

Italy
Futuro in Ricerca - Basic research funds aimed at younger researchers in Italy. 2013 announcement out now.
CEI - Some funds available to support citizens of central European countries to work in Trieste. The CERES program has now merged its resources with those provided by the European Commission through the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) - Marie Curie Actions.
Fondazione Angelo Della Riccia - Some funds for 6-12 months outgoing fellowships. Announcement out now.
INAF - Italian National Institute for Astrophysics. Fellowships are announced during the year.
INFN - Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics. Some fellowships available, also targetted at non-Italian citizens for theoretical and experimental work.

Japan
JSPS - Postdoctoral positions for foreign researchers.
Canon Foundation Europe - Each year the Canon Foundation offers up to fifteen fellowships to work in Japan for a period from three months to one year. Deadline around September 15th each year.

Portugal
The researchers mobility portal - Job offers and scolarships in Portugal.

Netherlands
NWO Funding - Fellowships and funds from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.
Rubicon - Spend up to two years at an institution outside the Netherlands, or one year in the Netherlands. Especially suitable for foreigners wanting to go to the Netherlands for a postdoc.

Spain
Ministry of Economics and Competitivity - Research opportunities in Spain. No open calls at the moment.

Switzerland
CERN fellowships - Junior and Senior fellowships available.

UK
STFC Rutherford Fellowships - Fellowships in Astronomy and Physics from the Science and Tecnology Facility Council for experienced researchers. STFC publishes statistics about success rates here.
STFC grants on the web - Facility allowing on to search among all grants supported by STFC.
Science in Society - STFC fellowships investing in good communicators with research credibility.
RAS fellowships - The Royal Astronomical Society awards the Norman Lockyer postdoctoral fellowship to young researchers.
Newton International Fellowships - Two year fellowships for early career researchers. Covers natural and social sciences, engineering and the humanities.
Royal Society University Research Fellowships - Highly prestigious 5-8 year research fellowships awarded to researchers in natural sciences with proven track record and vision for the future.
Royal Commission of 1851 fellowships - Three year fellowships for citizens of the UK, the Commonwealth, the Republics of Ireland or Pakistan.
Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit - This scheme aims to provide universities with additional support to enable them to attract to this country or to retain respected scientists of outstanding achievement and potential.
Imperial Junior Research Fellowships- Three year research position at Imperial College for early-stage reseachers with up to four years postdoctoral experience (sign up for their mailing list here).
Daphne Jackson Trust - Taken a career break and looking for support to get back into research? This may be the scheme for you, with funds for four years.
Violette and Simone Glasstone fellowship - Two one year fellowships in sciences awarded each year at Oxford.
Kings College Cambridge - Four year research fellowships for recently completed PhDs.
L'Oreal-Unesco Women in Science Fellowships UK and Ireland - International and National annual fellowships (e.g. £15,000 cash prize) to help women meet the financial costs of continuing research.
Leverhulme Trust early career grants - Early Career Fellowships aim to provide career development opportunities for those who are at a relatively early stage of their academic careers but with a proven record of research.
EPSRC Fellowships - The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research council have postdoctoral fellowships in theoretical physics. The also list a few other UK fellowships here.

USA
Space Telescope Science Institute - Offers two postdoctoral programs: Hubble and Giacconi fellowships.
Jansky Fellowships - The National Radio Astronomy Observatory offers postdoctoral fellowships.
The Italian Academy at Columbia - Not especially astronomy orientated, but one young cosmologist known to us won a six month fellowship.
NASA Postdoctoral Program - Offers unique research opportunities to highly talented national and international scientists and engineers to engage in ongoing NASA research in space science, earth science, aeronautics, space operations, exploration systems, and astrobiology.
NSF - NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellowships provide an opportunity for highly qualified, recent doctoral scientists to carry out an integrated program of independent research and education.

Europe
Marie-Curie - A variety of research fellowships aimed at stimulating European-wide mobility and reintegration for researchers at various stages of their careers.
ESO - European Southern Observatory recruitment page.
European Research Council - Described by one scientist as "Long odds but gold-plated". Some SISSA scientists won ERC grants.
HPC-EUROPA - Supports short European visits which require access to high performance computing resources. Several ongoing calls each year until 2012.
ESA - Postdoctoral fellowships for a variety of disciplines related to space science, space applications or space technology.
Euraxess - Exhaustive list of fellowships in Europe.

Worldwide
PPGF Fellowship Programme - One annual award of $50,000 of research funds to be awarded to an extremely promising, young astrophysicist, working in any field of astrophysics, either theoretical, observational or experimental.

Prizes and Competitions
SISSA Best PhD Thesis - Will be awarded annually for the best three theses in Physics, Mathematics and Neuroscience - €1000 prize.
Dan David prize - $15,000 scholarships sometimes in the area of astrophysics and cosmology.
Gravity Research Foundation - Annual essay competition on topics that touch on gravity.
FQXi Essay Contest - Annual essay competition over at the Foundational Questions Institute. Some large and mini grants are also available.
IOP Gravitational Physics Group thesis prize - Annual thesis prize open to all members of the IOP Gravitational Physics Group.

Other material
Research by the RAS published in 2005, on astronomy careers in the UK. Food for thought for astronomy careers in general.
Postdoc Development Centre with useful advice about the fellowships landscape in the UK, and making fellowship applications.
Career paths of recent STFC-funded (UK) PhD students.
Non-academic career paths - over at the AAS job register.
Some of the ways in which astronomy impacts society - An article by the RAS on astronomy careers inside and outside academia.

Article by Sam Leach and Francisco Shu Kitaura, with thanks to Nicolas Ponthieu, Luca Naso, Daniele Malesani, Walter van Suijlekom and Dominik Schwarz. Last updated 17 Feb 2013.