Well, this is depressing:
It’s easy to wish upon a star — but if you want to make a living studying them, things get quite a bit tougher.
Take a look at any astronomy-themed Web site, or tune in to a science television program, and you’re sure to be dazzled by the wonders of the universe. Black holes! Dark matter! Colliding galaxies!
What you won’t hear is what many graduate and post-doctoral students in astronomy today know all too well — permanent, tenure-track jobs in the field are rare.
Last year was a bad year for jobs. I know a number of top-notch people who got precisely zero offers. Not being a top-notch person myself, I didn’t even get short-listed. Were it not for the funds remaining on my HST grant, I would be out of astronomy right now. And I’m convinced that if I don’t land a big NSF grant, my astronomy career will be over by August.
This has been going on for a while — it’s the spooky music that underlies the beautiful images you see from Hubble. Astronomy programs have been graduating way more Ph.D.’s than there are permanent jobs.
I started doing astronomy in 1993 and have enjoyed it immensely. Graduate school was one of the poorest but best times of my life and the people I suffered with are still my best friends. If I leave the profession after 15 years, I won’t regret the time I’ve spent here.
But I do sometimes wish they’d be a little more realistic with incoming graduate students.