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How Much Money Does an Astronomer Make?

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Astronomers are responsible for studying outer space and the universe around us. They use an array of devices in their efforts, ranging from large, complicated telescopes, to super-computers and particle detectors. These scientists can be found working for colleges and universities and government agencies or government funded research projects. The salaries for these scientists vary based on various factors.

National Averages

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were about 1,240 astronomers in the U.S. in 2009. They earned a national average of about $49 per hour, or about $102,740 per year. The top 10 percent of earners made about $72 per hour, or about $153,210 per year, while the lowest 10 percent of astronomers made about $22 per hour, or about $45,610 per year. The middle 50 percent of astronomers earned an average of about $50 per hour, or about $104,720 per year.

Industry Differences

Griffith Observatory
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The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that astronomers employed in the federal executive branch of the government earned the highest average incomes in 2009. These workers made about $63 per hour, or about $130,570 per year. Astronomers in the next highest earning sector, scientific research and development services, earned about $52 per hour, or about $107,170 per year, according to the BLS.

State Differences

California Observatory Instrumental In Downgrading Pluto To Dwarf Planet
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Astronomer salaries also differ by state. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that astronomers in Maryland, Massachusetts, California, Virginia and Texas had the highest average salaries in 2009. Astronomers in Maryland earned an average of about $62 per hour, or about $128,520 per year, while those in Massachusetts made about $61 per hour, or about $126,560 per year. The lowest of the top-five highest paying states, Texas, paid an average of $42 per hour, or about $87,870 per year.

City Differences

California Observatory Instrumental In Downgrading Pluto To Dwarf Planet
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Astronomers in two metropolitan areas had salaries that were significantly higher than the average in 2009, according to the BLS. Astronomers in the Boston, Massachusetts, metropolitan area earned an average wage of about $64 per hour, or about $133,280 per year. Those in the Washington DC metro area earned about $62 per hour, or about $128,660 per year.