Exploring Planetary Science Careers: A Guide for Students
As a student in STEM, you’re probably well aware of the many career options that you can choose to follow. If you’ve ever looked up at the stars and felt a sense of curiosity or wonder, a career in planetary science might be the perfect fit for you! In this post, we’ll explore what planetary science is, the different paths you can take to pursue a career in the field, and some useful tips for students interested in planetary science.
What is Planetary Science?
Planetary science is all about understanding our solar system and the millions of celestial bodies that make it up. By studying the composition, geology, and atmospheres of planets, moons, asteroids, and comets, planetary scientists work to unravel the history of our solar system and develop our understanding of the potential for life elsewhere in the cosmos.
Planetary Science in School
Regardless of whether you’re in high school or college, there are several ways you can explore planetary science as part of your education. Here are some suggestions:
- In high school, take courses in math, physics, chemistry, and Earth science to build a strong foundation for college-level courses in planetary science.
- Participate in STEM clubs or extracurricular activities to deepen your understanding of scientific concepts and network with other students who share your interests.
- For college students, look for undergraduate programs in planetary science, geology, geophysics, or related fields. You can also consider interdisciplinary programs that combine those fields with astronomy or astrophysics.
Planetary Science Careers
What can you do with a planetary science degree? There are numerous career paths available for those interested in space. Some popular options include:
- Research Scientist: Conduct studies, analyze data, and publish findings at research institutions or universities.
- Planetary Geologist: Study the geologic processes on other planets and moons, including volcanism, tectonics, and erosion.
- Astrobiologist: Investigate the potential for life on other planets and work to develop our understanding of the conditions necessary for life to thrive.
- Science Educator: Teach planetary science concepts to a new generation of students as a high school science teacher or college professor.
- Science Writer: Communicate complex scientific concepts in a way that is accessible and captivating to the general public.
Important Skills for Planetary Scientists
Considering a career in planetary science? Here are some important skills you should develop:
- Problem-solving skills: Planetary scientists often work with limited data, requiring creative thinking and innovative approaches to address challenges.
- Communication skills: The ability to effectively convey complex scientific concepts to peers and the public is essential for success in this field.
- Technical skills: Familiarity with programming languages, data analysis tools, and scientific software is important for conducting research and analyzing data.
- Teamwork: Planetary scientists often collaborate with others from diverse fields, so being able to effectively work in a team environment is crucial.
To improve these skills, consider undertaking personal projects, working on research projects with faculty, or participating in internships or co-op programs.
Valuable Takeaways and Actionable Tips
Channel your passion for the cosmos into a rewarding career in planetary science with these tips:
- Stay informed: Stay up-to-date with the latest news and discoveries in the field by following planetary science-related websites and social media accounts.
- Network: Attend conferences, workshops, or webinars to connect with professionals and others interested in planetary science.
- Hands-on experience: Look for opportunities to gain hands-on experience, whether through internships, research projects, or volunteering at science museums or observatories.
- Join professional societies: Consider joining societies such as the American Astronomical Society (AAS) or the Planetary Science Institute (PSI) for valuable resources and networking opportunities.
With these tips in mind, you can start your journey to the planetary sciences off strong!