How to Become a Cosmologist


Those who become cosmologists are typically individuals with a natural interest in celestial bodies, and have a deep fascination for the mysteries and theories concerning the origins of the universe. They tend to have a firm grasp on the laws of physics, as well as highly advanced abilities in mathematics. Most importantly, they are passionate and hard-working professionals who are dedicated to their work.


Cosmologists also have the emotional and intellectual capacity to complete all of the necessary academic work. They also have high stress tolerance, which is required for when immediate results aren’t achieved in work activities.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a cosmologist in the United States or Canada. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed

Earning a bachelor’s degree in physics, astronomy, astrophysics, mathematics, or engineering with a focus in a relevant area such as aerospace engineering is typically the minimum requirement to get an entry-level job in cosmology, such as Research Assistant.


The coursework offered by the aforementioned degree programs will help you develop a core set of skills in the laws of physics and provide you with a highly applicable set of skills in mathematics, both of which will be necessary for a career as a cosmologist.


If you want to become a cosmologist that completes your own research projects, directs others in applied research, or teach at the college or university level, you will likely need a master’s or doctoral degree in physics, mathematics, astronomy, astrophysics, or a closely related field such as aerospace engineering. Many students will also complete post-doctorate work in an area of cosmology in which they seek to specialize.





What is a Cosmologist?

General job description


Cosmologists use ground based and space borne telescopes to make observations of and obtain data on various properties of astronomical objects such as motion, physical properties, distance, size and brightness. The data obtained through observation is used to create and test theories about phenomenon such as the material components and origin of the universe and the features of gravity. 


Their work also has practical applications; it may also lead to advances in areas such as energy, electronics, communications, navigation, and medical technology.



What Do They Do?

General job duties


• Observe astronomical bodies by using ground based and space borne telescopes as well as other scientific instruments

• Obtain and thoroughly analyze data

• Create and test theories relating to the nature and origin of astronomical bodies and the universe

• Do complex mathematical calculations to analyze physical and astronomical data

• Design scientific equipment, such as telescopes and lasers

• Develop computer software to analyze and model data

• Present research findings at scientific conferences and lectures

• Ensure accuracy when performing calculations

• Produce original research for publication in scholarly journals

• Plan and implement the use of new instruments



Who Employs Them?

Cosmologists are hired by public and private organizations involved in the creating, testing or explaining theories relating to the origin and contents of the universe. They may also be employed in academia, and by other organizations, such as that develop astronomical equipment.


Organizations that hire Cosmologists include:


• Space centres

• Space physics laboratories

• Space applications centres

• Private aerospace companies

• Non-profit organizations, such as amateur astronomer associations

• Colleges and universities

• Commercial and non-commercial research organizations

• Astronomical equipment manufacturers, such as telescope manufacturers

• Observatories

• Planetariums





Skills and Traits Needed

To be competent in a career as a cosmologist, you need to posses a certain set of skills and personality traits. These skills and traits will not only help you perform you job duties with competence; they will also allow you to maintain a positive attitude towards, and a deep interest in, your work.


• A keen interest in the universe, including its origins and its contents

• Passion, patience, and dedication towards work activities

• Solid grounding in the fundamental laws of physics

• Ability to use specialized equipment

• Ability to use specialized software

• A natural aptitude, and advanced education in mathematics

• Must be able to carefully evaluate your own work and the work of others

• Must be precise in data analysis, as even small errors can invalidate research

• Able to work well with others towards a common goal

• Must have excellent writing skills; used for preparing grant proposals and writing research reports



How Much Do They Typically Earn?

The salary level of cosmologists can vary depending on factors such as their level of education, their level of experience, where they work, the specific responsibilities of their job, and many others.


Salary in Canada (Alberta figures only): According to the 2016 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey (the latest figures that were available at the time of writing - June 4, 2019), Albertans working as part of the Physicists occupational group earn an average of $126,434 per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories. 


Salary in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics the median salary level of workers in the Physicists and Astronomers occupational group is $105,430 per year.



Cosmologist Job Openings

Our job board below has "Cosmology" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, when available.



Similar Occupational Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to cosmologist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.









References for This Career Guide

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of this profession.


Occupations in Alberta:Astronomer.” (February 20, 2017). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 8, 2019.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Physicists and Astronomers.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 8, 2019.

Presentation:So you want to become a famous cosmologist.” Michael S. Turner (January 17, 2012). Berkeley University website. Retrieved November 8, 2019.

Profiles:Cosmology Jobs.” (n.d.). Physics Today website - American Institute of Physics. Retrieved November 8, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Cosmologist

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a cosmologist can be found on our Physics Scholarships page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant University Fields of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for this profession, as they can provide you with the necessary skills, knowledge and competencies to succeed.


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