Online Astronomy Programs
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.
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. As such, 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 Types and Requirements
The full online immersion program is the only online program type currently available. The format allows students to participate and complete their degree online without on-campus attendance. Students download readings, view lectures and presentations, and participate in discussions through on-line forums in a virtual classroom.
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 Certificate in Astronomy
Most online astronomy programs involve the earning of a graduate certificate or master's degree. 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 ranging from extreme states of matter and origins to cosmology and 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 but is rather 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 the 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 topics ranging from space history and policy to launch vehicles and propulsion, and from remote sensing in developing countries to space economics and commerce.
Online certificates and Master of Science degrees in astronomy are excellent for continuing education students, teachers and astronomy enthusiasts as they are designed to provide an understanding of core issues in astronomy without necessarily leading to professional work in the field.