Telescope Operator

Operate big telescopes to explore the universe.
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Quick Stats


Salary Range
$25,000 – $67,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor


What do Telescope Operators do?

The night sky holds many wonders: quasars, dwarf stars, nebulae, and whole other galaxies. Astronomers spend their nights tirelessly searching the skies for the answers to mysteries that have haunted humanity for millennia. They couldn’t do it without the Telescope Operator, however.

As a Telescope Operator, you’re the Engineer responsible for the maintenance and daily operations of the physical and electronic equipment that make up the telescope and other viewing apparatuses of an observatory. You make sure that the telescope is aligned with the proper coordinates and viewing the right part of the sky.

Your work as a Telescope Operator takes place at night, but you arrive before the sun sets to lay the foundation for the night’s work. The giant telescopes employed by modern Astronomers utilize massive glass reflectors that take a long time to get acclimated to the difference in temperature between the warm observatory and the cold air outside. This is just one of the aspects of operating a giant telescope that you’ll learn in this career. Over time, you’ll also develop an in-depth knowledge of the complex machinery that makes the modern observatory work: powerful gears, reflective plates, magnifying lenses, and more.

Astronomy is unique amongst modern sciences because of the connection it still has to its earliest roots. A physical device, the telescope, must still be maintained and aligned. Astronomers today are still peering through a more sophisticated version of what Galileo used hundreds of years ago.

Close attention to detail coupled with the ability to balance different demands in your head at the same time is critical. Solid math skills are also a plus. While there are plenty of machines and devices available to check your math, you need a strong understanding of coordinate systems and the nomenclature that Astronomers use to label and describe parts of the sky.


Should I be a Telescope Operator?

You should have a high school degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Persistent: You keep pushing through, even when faced with tough obstacles.
  • Team Player: You're able to listen, communicate, and work with tons of different people.
  • Reliable: You can always be counted on to do a good job.

  • Also known as: Slope Tender, Triple-Drum Operator

    How to become a Telescope Operator

    Most Telescope Operators have no higher education and get on-the-job training. Think about earning a Certificate to increase your competitiveness in the field. Chart?chd=s:9daaaa&chl=no+college+%2868%25%29|certificate+%2832%25%29||||&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,68,68
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