Careers beyond academia

The number of PhD graduates in astronomy and planetary science far exceeds the number of available permanent academic or research positions in many countries, meaning that many excellent researchers choose to follow career paths outside of academia. In this Focus Issue, we highlight a range of available careers, both astronomy-related and not. Ioanna Arka provides an insightful summary of the collected motivations of ~200 astronomers who left astronomy, using the results of two surveys. In a series of case studies, we hear directly from former astronomers and planetary scientists who have successfully made the transition out of academia, and they share their stories and their advice. This Focus Issue also includes the encouragement of career coach Alaina Levine who helps to counter the stigma associated with ‘leaving’ academia. Finally, eleven former astronomers answer quick-fire questions on their current employment, and how they made transitions from academia to roles as diverse as journalism and medical imaging.