Science, mathematics and statistics

Career outlook for astronaut

Average UK salary


Currently employed in Scotland


"LMI for All" supplies our salary and employment status information. "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'd fly into space and do scientific research to discover more about our universe.

You’d train to be a spacecraft crew member or pilot with a space agency, such as the European Space Agency. With experience, you could progress to the rank of commander. This means you'd lead a team of astronauts while in space.

Missions on board space stations, such as the International Space Station (ISS), are a big part of the job. These can last several months.

When you're on a mission, your tasks might include: 

  • doing spacewalks to carry out repairs or experiments
  • setting up and monitoring experiments on the spacecraft such as growing ice crystals
  • installing or repairing scientific instruments and equipment in space
  • cleaning and testing equipment such as air filters or water systems
  • looking after oxygen production systems
  • packaging and disposing of waste
  • taking samples, like blood, from astronauts to check their health
  • collecting and sending data and reports back to Earth via satellites 

When you’re not on a mission, you could spend time training or promoting space exploration and human spaceflight. This could be through educational events, talks or 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


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

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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.

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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 of 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.