When you look up at the stars at night, do you see pretty twinkling lights, or do you see new worlds waiting to be explored? If you fancy yourself as a Christopher Columbus in zero gravity or an Indiana Jones in a giant spherical helmet, a career as an astronaut may be for you.

Becoming a US astronaut is an accomplishment few people have reached. The hiring process is highly selective, and the training program takes years to complete. But for those who finish it, space travel awaits.

Astronauts are people who explore space. They use brand new technology to travel to space. In space, astronauts do science experiments and test the new technology.

Astronauts work for an organization called NASA. NASA stands for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. So far, only 360 Americans have been NASA astronauts, which includes 299 men and 61 women. NASA gets very many applications from people who want to become astronauts. The training to become an astronaut is very difficult and challenging.

But if you love space and have the right education and experience, you should apply to the astronaut program! Here is what you need to know about how to become an astronaut.

Getting Hired by NASA: The Selection Process

Getting Hired by NASA: The Selection Process

First, NASA reviews all the applications they receive. The applications have information about each person who wants to be an astronaut. NASA selects the most qualified applicants.

Next, NASA interviews the top candidates. These candidates are called finalists. The finalists take medical and physical tests to make sure their bodies are healthy. One important test is called a flight physical. It is the same test pilots have to take.

Education Needed to Become an Astronaut

To even be considered for the astronaut program, you need to have a bachelor’s degree from a university. The degree needs to be in a subject like engineering, biology, physical sciences, or mathematics. Degrees in related fields like nursing, technology, or kinesiology are not accepted. The degree has to be in a more technical, science-focused field.

NASA wants astronauts to have advanced degrees and work experience. After a bachelor’s degree, future astronauts should get more education. They should also gain professional experience in science or engineering.

Now, a master’s degree or higher is required. Candidates need at least two years of full-time work in a related field. Pilots need 1,000 hours of being the lead pilot on a jet.

This high level of education and experience gets astronauts ready. It prepares them for space travel challenges. And for doing science experiments and technology development in space.

Experience Needed for the Astronaut Program

Experience Needed for the Astronaut Program

In addition to having the right bachelor’s degree, astronaut candidates also need to have work experience. If you don’t have piloting experience, you need 3 years of full-time work experience related to your degree field.

Having a master’s degree in a related field counts as 1 year of work experience. Having a doctorate degree counts as all 3 years of required work experience.

If you do have piloting experience, you need at least 1,000 hours working as the pilot-in-command on a jet aircraft. This means you were the lead pilot with control of the jet.

Both pilots and non-pilots have to have 20/20 vision, either naturally or corrected with glasses or contacts. Good vision is mandatory.

The Long Astronaut Training Program

If you make it through the hiring process, that doesn’t guarantee you will go to space. NASA has a very thorough training program that takes 2 full years to complete. Only those who complete it become astronauts.

Physical readiness and skills are very important for astronaut work and safety in space. In the first month of training, candidates learn military water survival skills and how to SCUBA dive.

Soon after, they must show they can swim 3 lengths of a 25-meter pool without stopping. They have to do this wearing a flight suit and tennis shoes. Candidates also have to tread water for 10 straight minutes without touching the sides or bottom of the pool.

Those who successfully finish the entire 2 year NASA training program become real astronauts. They must commit to working for NASA for at least 5 years after training. Astronauts with prior military experience may be assigned a shorter tour of duty.

NASA tries to find other jobs within the agency for candidates who don’t complete all the astronaut training. But the training is very demanding.

What Astronauts Do

According to NASA’s website, current astronauts have important duties:

  • Work aboard the International Space Station with astronauts from other countries.
  • Help build and fly NASA’s new vehicle called the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. It is designed for deep space travel.
  • Partner with private space companies to provide transportation to the Space Station.

Astronauts are based at NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. That is their headquarters when they are back on Earth.

Astronaut Salary

YearSalary RangeDetails
2018$63,600 – $98,317Based on the Federal Government’s General Schedule pay scale.
2020$66,167 – $142,000+GS-12 Step 1 starts at $66,167. GS-13 ranges from $78,681 to $102,288 (up to Step 10), with potential to exceed $142,000 at higher tiers.
2024 (Approximation)Up to $152,258Reflects potential earnings at the top tier of the pay scale.

According to a NASA job posting from 2017, the salary range for an astronaut was $65,140 to $100,701 per year. Like many government jobs, astronaut salaries are fixed pay scales based on education, experience and rank.

Becoming an astronaut takes hard work and dedication. But exploring the universe may be the most exciting career ever! With the right education and training, you could reach for the stars.

More resources:

Leave A Reply