Career outlook for astronaut

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

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


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.


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.


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





Self employed


Here are some of the skills needed for this job. Sign in to see how your skills match up.

  • Resilience
  • Cooperating
  • Working with technology
  • Problem solving
  • Researching
  • Attention to detail
  • Developing a plan
  • Making decisions
  • Taking responsibility
  • Analysing

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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


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 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
  • 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.