How to Become an Astronomy Teacher

Two Methods:Teaching Astronomy in a Professional EnvironmentTeaching Astronomy in a Homeschool Environment

Astronomy is one of the world's oldest physical sciences, concerned with the study of stars, planets, galaxies, and other celestial objects and phenomena. The night sky has fascinated such cultures as the Babylonians, Egyptians, Chinese, and Greeks, and it continues to fascinate man today. Teaching astronomy is one way to pass this fascination on to others, whether students in school, your own children, or the general public. If you're considering becoming an astronomy teacher, look at the steps below in how to do so.

Method 1
Teaching Astronomy in a Professional Environment

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    Develop your own love for astronomy. Although astronomy, by its nature, is a fascinating science, you need to discover and develop this fascination for yourself before you can teach it to others. It is helpful to develop a love for astronomy as early in your life as you can, although it can also be a love you discover in early adulthood or later in life. There are several ways you can nurture this fascination for yourself at any age.
    • Studying the night sky for yourself is the surest way to discover the wonders of the universe. You can start by looking at the sky in your neighborhood, although you will be able to see more stars and other objects by going away from city lights. Many local astronomy groups schedule regular viewing parties with telescopes and binoculars at out-of-town locations, as well as special events coinciding with astronomical phenomena such as meteor showers or the appearance of a comet.
    • You can supplement your observation by reading about astronomy, both from books and online. Your school or public librarian can help you select appropriate astronomy books, and you can find answers to your questions online at such sites as the University of Virginia.
    • You can further your knowledge with astronomy software. Various planetarium software applications are available for personal computers, and there is a smart phone application that uses global positioning satellite (GPS) technology to identify the constellation the phone is pointed at.
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    Decide in what capacity you wish to teach astronomy. You can become an astronomy teacher in one of several venues: in the classroom, in a planetarium or science museum, or online. Each venue has its own teaching methods, and thus, its own separate requirements. Common to each is a love for and knowledge of astronomy, but the specific skills and range of knowledge varies.
    • Teaching astronomy in the classroom depends on the age and grade level of the students being taught. College astronomy classes are often lecture-based, but those for elementary, middle, and high school students involve more interactive lessons, which may include using astronomy software applications, field trips to planetariums, or outings viewing the night sky, often in conjunction with local astronomy clubs. While astronomy is taught in elementary and middle schools as part of the regular science curriculum, some high schools may offer separate elective astronomy classes along with including astronomy as part of a physics class.
    • Teaching astronomy in a planetarium setting may involve working with college astronomy professors to provide support for their lectures, particularly if the planetarium is part of a college. However, most planetarium-based astronomy lessons are presented in the form of multimedia shows involving optomechanical or digital projectors, with the display often coordinated with music and dialogue. Such shows may be geared to audiences of a specific age or to the general public and may either be scheduled for certain times or, in some cases, designed so visitors can build their own experience by selecting from several available shows.
    • Teaching astronomy online replaces the classroom setting with an interactive environment where instructors and students communicate through discussion forums. Lectures may be pre-recorded in either audio or video form and transmitted in real time or podcasted for download at the recipients' convenience and supplemented with Web-based astronomy software or online catalogs of astronomical images. Some online instructors organize their classes into smaller discussion groups led by teaching assistants. Online astronomy classes require discipline on the part of students in participating regularly and fully in discussions and completing assignments in a timely fashion and on the part of instructors in monitoring the discussions and grading assignments in a timely fashion.
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    Get a foundation in math and science. In high school, take all the math and science classes you can. This will familiarize you with the areas of science that relate to astronomy and help give you an understanding of how the universe works.
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    Go to college. To teach astronomy at any level, you will need a college degree. You'll also need to further your education in math and science in general, as well as your computer skills. The exact nature of your course of study will depend on the institution where you study and where you plan to teach.
    • To be an astronomy teacher in elementary, middle, or high school, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree, usually with a major in education. (If possible, you should have either a minor or academic concentration in science, although some districts do draft science teachers from the ranks of those teaching other subjects in crunch situations.) If your undergraduate degree was in another area, you'll most likely want to get a master's in education before you can teach astronomy.
    • To teach astronomy at the college level, you'll need at least a master's degree or a PhD, depending on whether you plan to teach astronomy at a community college, a small, private college, or a major university. As most online astronomy classes are taught through a college, the educational requirements for teaching astronomy online are generally the same as for teaching it in the classroom.
    • To teach astronomy at a planetarium or an instructional media center, the degree requirements depend to some extent on where the planetarium is located. Instructional media centers associated with a school district will require either a bachelor's or master's degree, depending on the district, while planetariums associated with a college or university may treat the planetarium as part of the physics department and require the same degree as for a physics professor. Because of the "show" nature of planetarium lessons, classes in script or playwriting, public speaking, and communications can be as helpful as science classes, as can business classes if you intend to become the planetarium's curator.
    • At any teaching level, classes in mythology and folklore can also serve you well. Constellations such as Andromeda, Hercules, Orion, Pegasus, and Perseus are named for characters in Greek mythology, and most of the other constellations in the night sky have stories connected with them in at least one culture's folklore. Knowing and sharing these stories can be a means to develop others' interest in astronomy.
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    Intern. For teaching astronomy in a public or private school setting, this means becoming a student teacher, which usually happens during your senior year of earning your undergraduate degree. For teaching astronomy in a planetarium setting, this means working as an intern, either as an undergraduate or graduate student or both, depending on the planetarium. For teaching in a college or online, this would mean working as a graduate assistant and organizing face-to-face or online discussion groups to supplement the main lectures or presentations.
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    Get your teaching license. If you plan to teach astronomy in a public school, you'll need to get a teaching license and conform to any other requirements of the board of education you're subject to. If you teach at a private school, you may or may not need to get a teaching license, depending on the laws where the school is located. Teaching at a college does not require having a license, although you may be required to earn tenure to continue teaching at that institution.

Method 2
Teaching Astronomy in a Homeschool Environment

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    Develop your own love for astronomy. Developing your own love of astronomy is as important when teaching it in a homeschool environment as in a professional environment, if not more so. As a parent or guardian, you are closer to your children than any schoolteacher would be and will spend more time around them.
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    Look for suitable teaching materials. A number of educational companies provide packages for teaching astronomy in homeschool settings. You can search for these companies online, then review their websites to decide which company's materials are suitable for teaching astronomy to your children.
    • Educational programs for teaching astronomy can be organized in one of two ways, either starting from a local perspective (Earth, moon, solar system) and working outward to larger entities (constellations, galaxies, and the universe) or starting with the "big picture" and working toward the nearby objects. You'll have to decide which approach you're more comfortable with.
    • Consider the age of your child when selecting astronomy materials. Astronomy education materials for young children should focus on the basics of what stars, planets, and moons are and how the solar system is arranged, while older children can deal with more complicated matters, such as how to calculate orbital periods and planetary diameters and masses.
    • Because many people choose to homeschool their children for religious reasons, a number of the available astronomy homeschool packages approach the subject from a religious perspective. In addition to reviewing these packages for content and scientific accuracy, you must also evaluate these packages as to whether any doctrines incorporated within the materials are compatible with your own religious beliefs.
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    Reinforce the lessons with hands-on activities. Take your children skywatching with you, with either a telescope or binoculars. Take them to planetarium shows and provide them with astronomy-related books and toys to further their interest. You can also tour such websites as those for the Hubble and Spitzer telescopes, at and, respectively, or the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day archives, at


  • Develop a working relationship with educational product vendors. They can keep you abreast of the latest in textbooks and educational software applications.
  • Consider joining an astronomical education society, on either the local, national, or international level. Some societies offer both full memberships to astronomy teachers as well as associate memberships for both prospective astronomy teachers and those with a general interest in astronomy. These organizations provide you with a group of people who share your interest and with whom you can network for ideas and specific resources on teaching astronomy. Some of these groups also have outreach programs in which they go out to schools to share their interest in astronomy with the students they visit.

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