Science, mathematics and statistics

Career outlook for astrophysicist

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland

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Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

Do you ever look up at space and wonder how it all works? How do stars form? What are galaxies made of? How did it all get there? That's where astrophysicists come in!

They're cosmic detectives. By using physics, they piece together the mysteries of the universe. Your job would be to examine the stuff that makes up the night sky and beyond. From tiny particles to huge galaxies, you'll help us understand how space works.

You'll spend your days analysing data collected by giant telescopes, spacecraft, and satellites. Your work could involve trying to spot patterns in starlight. You might untangle the forces at play in a black hole. Or maybe you'll search for planets that could support life!

Curious about a cosmic career? You'll need to love a challenge and have a good grasp of maths, physics and computer programming.

Your tasks might include:

  • collecting and analysing data from different instruments, telescopes and space missions
  • measure things in space like radiation, the movement of objects and the behaviour of particles
  • developing computer models
  • writing research papers and presenting your findings
  • explaining complex information in a simple way
  • keeping up with the latest discoveries
  • applying existing theories to physical phenomena
  • lecturing or working with students
  • collaborating with other scientists around the world
  • attending conferences

Working conditions


Your hours would depend on the type of job you do and what you're working on at the time. Many people in this role work between 35 and 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. You might have to work late into the night at times. For example, to finish a report or to keep an eye on an experiment.


You could work in a variety of environments including: laboratories; offices; observatories; museums; colleges and universities; and planetariums. Most astrophysicists are academics. You’d likely work for a university or a publicly funded organisation such as a space agency. You'll spend a lot of time working in offices with computers. You'll also work with equipment in workshops and laboratories. You might work alongside groups from all over the world.


You may have to travel locally, such as between an office and laboratory. You might also travel abroad, for example to attend conferences.

UK employment status


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Self employed

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Here are some of the skills needed for this job. Sign in to see how your skills match up.

  • Written communication
  • Problem solving
  • Working with numbers
  • Attention to detail
  • Analysing

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


You'll likely need a postgraduate qualification such as a master's degree or a PhD to work as an astrophysicist.

To get into a degree course in astrophysics, you'd need at least:

  • four Highers at AAAA including maths and physics
  • a C in Nat 5 English

Other useful degrees for this career are:

  • aerospace engineering
  • astronomy and maths
  • engineering
  • physics

An honours degree in a relevant subject would allow you to study astrophysics at postgraduate level.

Useful subjects

  • physics
  • maths
  • computing science
  • Foundation Apprenticeship in Scientific Technologies
  • Modern Apprenticeship in Radiation Protection Monitoring

You will also need

Good technical skills and knowledge of IT. You'll use complex computer systems and software in this role so you need to be handy with technology.

Helpful to have

Knowing more about the industry and how others got into it will help you plot your path.

You could try connecting with people studying astrophysics or those already in the industry online. Check out public talks and events held by the Royal Astronomical Society. This could be a way for you to engage with people online or in person.

The space industry can be very competitive, getting into graduate scheme can be a great way in. Read more about the European Space Agency's Young Graduate Trainee Programme.