Astronaut

Career outlook for

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

Currently employed in Scotland

Jobs forecast

This information is supplied by LMI For All, where data is currently available for Scotland.

What's it like?

You would join a special group of people who fly into space to do scientific research that reveals more about our universe.

You’d train to be a spacecraft pilot or a member of the crew with the European Space Agency.

The job means that you'd probably spend several months on a space station such as the International Space Station (ISS). 

You’d maintain and repair the space station to make sure that the environment on board will keep you and your fellow astronauts alive.

You would:

  • Clean and test air filters and air quality
  • Repair, maintain and test oxygen production systems
  • Clean and maintain water systems and test for bacterial growth
  • Package and dispose of waste
  • Replace worn or broken parts on the spacecraft
  • Install or repair scientific instruments and equipment in space

You also carry out scientific experiments. For example, you might look at the effects of weightlessness on the body or how low gravity or ‘microgravity’ affects processes like crystal growth.

You would:

  • Set up and monitor experiments on the spacecraft
  • Collect data
  • Do experiments like taking scans of the eye, growing ice crystals or developing space robotics
  • Take samples -  like blood - from astronauts to check their health
  • Send data  and reports back to Earth via satellites

You could also be doing Extra Vehicular Activity or ‘spacewalks’ to repair the spacecraft or complete research experiments.

Around two and a half hours a day would be used for exercise to counter the effect of the low gravity on your muscles and bone density. Living conditions will be cramped and you'd need to meet the challenge of sleeping, eating and washing in the same environment. 

When you’re not on a mission you could spend time keeping your skills current, and promoting space exploration and human spaceflight. This would be through activities like educational events, talks and magazine interviews.

Working conditions

Hours

On a mission you would work to a set schedule. This would tell you what time to wake up, go to sleep and the tasks you would carry out each day.

Environment

On a mission you'd be living in cramped conditions with the rest of the team whilst also coping with the physical effects of low gravity.

Travel

You could be away from home for extended periods of time, for example you would spend around six months on board the International Space Station (ISS). During training you would have to travel overseas to the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne or to training centres in partner countries like Japan or Canada.

UK employment status

Full-time

Part-time

Self employed

Here are some of the skills that people in this job would be most likely to have:

  • Working as part of a team
  • Taking the lead
  • Presenting to people
  • Accuracy
  • Conducting experiments
  • Being physically fit
  • Finding solutions to problems
  • Coping with pressure
  • Paying attention to detail
  • Making decisions

Build your skills

Your skills can help you choose the career that’s right for you. You can build your skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.

To understand more, have a look at what are my skills?

Keep track of your skills in your account and find the jobs, opportunities and courses that suit you.

Click here to view / add your skills

Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on Apprenticeships.scot.

Qualifications

Space agencies such as NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Roscosmos recruit a new astronaut class every four years - competition is fierce. 

You would need to be highly skilled in a relevant technical or scientific field. 

This could include a background in scientific research, engineering or as a pilot. You would usually be educated to scientific postgraduate/doctorate level (SCQF Level 11/12).

You would also need to pass rigorous physical and mental health tests.

The UK Space Agency is a member of the ESA so British citizens can apply to become ESA astronauts.   

Alternatively, you can gain relevant flight experience and scientific/engineering qualifications within the Royal Air Force.

Useful subjects

  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Mathematics
  • Geography
  • Applied science/engineering
  • English
  • Modern Languages

You will also need

  • Flight experience
  • Research experience
  • To pass both the psychological and medical examinations
  • To complete 40 months training once accepted

Helpful to have

Competition for jobs in the space sector is very high so it's essential to gain relevant work experience. The Space Placements in Industry scheme (SPIN) has been designed to provide an introductory link for those considering employment in the sector.