As the title says this post is about getting a job as an astronomer, and my current job hunt. Most of the time before landing a permanent job in astronomy research, you would need to get a university degree in something related to science, then a graduate degree – honours or masters and then likely also a PhD in astronomy or related field. OK we did all that, so now what?
Unlike in some other careers, despite all that studying, it is quite rare to get into a permanent job first up. You are almost always expected to gain several years post-doctoral experience before settling into a permanent post.Towards the end of the PhD, most of us spent few months writing applications for post-doctoral positions and fellowships which are fixed term jobs. My first post-doc was at ESO based in Chile. I am now in ESO Germany (transferred following my pregnancy) in my final year of the fellowship. Many people who are in their final year of the post-doc would now be writing job applications again.
Luckily I already have a job lined up: I got a Marie-Curie fellowship earlier in the year which is granted by the European Commission for a duration of 2 years. I am hoping to take the funds to work with a research group in Lund, Sweden. Earlier in May we visited Lund to get an idea of the research institute, plus domestic matters like schools, housing etc.
This is all good and I am very happy to have the Marie-Curie fellowship, but with a growing family, and the kids reaching school age, and having already relocated several times to vastly different places around the world (Australia -> Chile -> Germany), there is a need to settle in one place. At the beginning it was very exciting to travel and experience new languages, cultures etc, but remember this is not touristic travel – its a relocation and it is stressful for family to have everything around them change and to loose a sense of home…my eldest son would ask: which home are we going to?
Plus, if you are in a committed relationship, you would have to have a partner who is happy with all this globetrotting, which can be jeopardising to their careers. Again, I have been lucky enough to have a husband give up his permanent job in Australia to accompany me. But I cannot ask for too much more and have to achieve a balance. We both agree that Australia would be the best place to settle. So now we are focusing on making that a reality.
The problem is there are no permanent posts in Australia that I can get anytime soon. There are however fixed term post-docs which may lead into a permanent position. This is what I am keeping an eye out for. With 4 years experience at ESO and with a Marie-Curie fellowship coming up, I am hoping to get a permanent post within the next two years. I will of course have to work hard to get enough publications and develop a contact network to make this come true. But even then nothing is guaranteed…!!