I am responding to your inquiry about the employment opportunities for people with training and degrees in astronomy in the US. I can address this question from the point of view of one in the telecommunications industry, where I have been employed for over 20 years, almost exclusively within corporate finance job functions.
The telecom industry has made extensive use of employees with formal astronomy training, primarily in technical type job functions, but also on occasion business analysis and management functions. On the technical side, as networks evolve from the traditional copper-based voice technologies to Internet protocol based high speed optical data networks, there is a shortage of people who can deal with complex opto-electronic technologies, and computer based control systems. On the business side, in job functions within marketing or finance, it is more difficult to make the initial transition, but the skills acquired in a rigorous science program have a wide application to many different corporate issues not at all related to astronomy.
Some of the skills that one can develop through a graduate science degree and that corporate organizations would value are:
- Ability to structure a complex problem logically, and attack it in a systematic fashion
- Ability to understand a new technology, and relate it to a specific problem or application
- Ability to quantify a problem by constructing a simple mathematical model, and modeling various scenarios or outcomes
- Ability to apply statistical thinking and analysis to business problems
- Ability to clearly and simply explain what analysis was done, and what the results mean
- Ability to contribute as part of a team to generating a feasible solution to a problem.
(Dr. Vincent Lee is a director at Verizon Communications).