Careers Advice

So You Want To Build Telescopes

A career guide for instrumentalists in astronomy.

So you want to build telescopes? Then this is the guide for you! Written by experts in astronomy and instrumentation, the "So You Want To Build Telescopes" guide takes you through what instrumentation is, the skills you need to succeed in the field, and where you can study it. 

Here's a snippet, make sure you click the link below to access the full guide.


Career advice in astronomy & astrophysics for postgraduate students is often aimed at those working on astronomy research projects, wanting work in academic research. The career path in instrumentation work shares some commonalities with a career in astronomy research, but provides a wider range of options and possibly different criteria for success. In this guide we capture some collective wisdom of junior and somewhat more aged astronomer-instrumentalists to provide guidance for students interested in a career in instrument development for astronomy.

What about software?

Software development is an integral part of many aspects of instrumentation: performing simulations, developing instrument control software, building adaptive optics real time control systems, or writing calibration pipelines and analysis tools. In that sense, software development is definitely a component of instrumentation work. Software is increasingly becoming an instrument for science in its own right, so can increasingly be considered a discipline of astronomy in its own right. In this guide, our treatment software development is specifically in the context of a hardware project rather than specific astrophysical simulations or analysis work. We have included a dedicated section on the types of software skills that are in demand in this field.

Who is this guide for?

These notes are aimed at Bachelors, Masters or PhD students in physics or astronomy, who are working or are interested in working in the hardware side of astronomy.

Click here for the full guide to a career in instrumentation.

This guide was written by: Sarah Kendrew (ESA), Donaldson (Space Telescope Science Institute), Briana Indahl (University of Texas), Keira Brooks (Space Telescope Science Institute), Shui Hung Kwok (W.M. Keck Observatory), Bruce Macintosh (Stanford University). This project is hosted on GitHub and open to community contributions. thanks the authors for permission to share this careers guide. is not responsible for the content of external websites.

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