Welcome to episode 22 of the Urban Astronomer Podcast. We’re in the middle of a series of public lectures given by various speakers at ScopeX, earlier this year, but this episode is a break from all that. Some time ago, I was listening to Paul Sutter’s excellent “Ask A Spaceman” podcast and he did an episode on what it takes to become an astrophysicist like him. Since one of the reasons the Urban Astronomer podcast exists is to encourage young South Africans to consider astronomy as a career, or at least as something worth studying, I figured it would be a good match. Paul speaks from an American perspective, but since science is a global business, I think almost everything he says is relevant. There is a good chance that graduating scientists will travel overseas to find a research job, so much of what he says applies wherever you are.
What I appreciated most about his show is that he doesn’t gloss over uncomfortable facts. A research career is hard. The educational requirements alone are higher than anything else out there, including medicine. Universities around the world are producing more PhD’s than there are jobs, so you may well have to go work in industry, possibly not even in your field of study. But it’s good to know these things, and that doesn’t make the education worthless. Despite not working in astronomy myself, my scientific and astronomical education (incomplete though it may be) has been very valuable to me.
Anyway, if you enjoyed listening to Paul Sutter talk about becoming an astrophysicist, his usual theme is answering questions about time and space, so if you’d like more of that, check him out via the link at the top of the page.