Online Astronomy Schools and Colleges: How to Choose

Online certificate and master's degree programs in astronomy are offered by several schools. Learn what you can expect to find within the different programs that astronomy schools offer and what other considerations will impact your school selection.

How to Select an Online Astronomy School

There are a few programs that offer online training in astronomy. Although the programs are generally not meant to prepare students for professional positions in the field, an online degree in astronomy is excellent for continuing education students, teachers and astronomy enthusiasts. Students should be aware of the award level, program type and requirements when selecting a school.

Award Level

Astronomers are scientists in a highly specialized field that explores the nature of celestial objects, the earth's atmosphere and a number of theories about the development of the universe. In this highly competitive field, employers, such as universities and scientific research organizations, prefer to hire accomplished professionals with a doctorate degree. Online certificate and degree programs in astronomy are designed to provide an understanding of core issues in astronomy to enthusiasts, teachers and professionals working in the field in other capacities.

Program Type

The full online immersion program is the only online program currently available to online. The format allows students to participate and complete their degree online without on-campus attendance. Students download readings, view lectures, presentations and participate in discussions through on-line forums in the virtual classroom.

Program Requirements

Online astronomy programs don't have science prerequisites, but some level of competency in mathematics will be expected. Additional courses in algebra and calculus are normally offered to students who require some extra training in math.

Online Programs in Astronomy

Online Certificate in Astronomy

The online graduate certificate in astronomy is designed for students pursuing other majors, teachers and enthusiasts who wish to gain a more in-depth knowledge of the field without pursuing it as a profession. There are few if any requirements to enroll in the program. Most certificate programs can usually be completed within a semester.

Students participate in the online program by downloading online tutorials, watching DVD lectures, studying course packets and taking online tests and quizzes. The typical curriculum introduces students to central concepts in astronomy and cosmology, such as climate, astrobiology and astrophysics. Students choose from courses in subjects like:

  • Extreme states of matter
  • Origins
  • Cosmology and relativity
  • Infrared, ultraviolet and optical astronomy

Online Master of Science in Astronomy

The online Master of Science (M.S.) in Astronomy is not a professional qualification for astronomers. This advanced degree is designed to offer fundamental understanding of astronomy concepts and issues. The degree can take anywhere from 1-2 years to complete, depending on the student course load each semester.

The degree can be finished online without any on-campus attendance, though some programs offer students opportunities to participate in student excursions and field observations, where students get a chance to observe the night sky and gain some hands-on knowledge of the common tools in astronomy. After learning basic concepts in astronomy, students take advanced courses that have math or other prerequisites in particle physics, high-energy astrophysics or computational astrophysics. Basic courses cover:

  • Space history and policy
  • Launch vehicles and propulsion
  • Remote sensing in developing countries
  • Space economics and commerce

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