astronomer’s education is rarely wasted. Nonetheless, the recent rapid growth in the postdoctoral pool of temporary positions suggests an increased need for advising and mentoring regarding broad career choices, not just in academia but also across the education and research enterprise, including careers beyond astronomy. Indeed, there is a strong and urgent need for career mentoring at all stages, from undergraduate to junior faculty member. In addition, it is important to introduce courses into astronomy curricula that can open doors to new careers. These courses could involve computer science, engineering, project management, public policy, or pedagogy, for example, possibly taken in other departments.
Often, academic mentors emphasize academic careers for their students at the expense of discussing and supporting a broader range of career opportunities. The committee believes that doctoral training in astronomy prepares an individual for a variety of rewarding and important STEM careers and that the astronomy community needs to recognize alternate career paths more clearly.
Professional training should accommodate the range of career paths taken by graduate and postdoctoral alumni, giving attention to (1) the full range of activities in academic faculty work, including teaching, advising, and performing institutional and national service; (2) the non-research skills needed by all researchers, including communicating to the non-specialist and the public at large, writing and administering grants, and project management; (3) necessary high-level training in communication and in the increasingly important areas of computation and instrumentation; and (4) career options both within and outside academia. Some of these goals could be achieved through professional master’s programs in astronomy with a particular focus. Partnership opportunities with government, industry, media resources, and museums could help broaden astronomy-related experiences through internships in areas such as public policy, computation and instrumentation, pedagogy, science outreach, and communications.
RECOMMENDATION: The American Astronomical Society and the American Physical Society, alongside the nation’s astronomy and astrophysics departments, should make both undergraduate and graduate students aware of the wide variety of rewarding career opportunities enabled by their education, and be supportive of students’ career decisions that go beyond academia. These groups should work with the federal agencies to gather and disseminate demographic data on astronomers in the workforce to inform students’ career decisions.
Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans constitute 27 percent of the U.S. population. By all measures they are seriously underrepresented among