Preparing for a career as an astronaut can start as early as high school with courses in biology chemistry physics and mathematics. Aspiring astronauts then earn bachelor's degrees in aerospace engineering physics electrical engineering aviation or even nursing exercise physiology and social sciences. Graduate degrees are not required but could make a candidate more competitive in a highly selective job market.  Get a degree in aerospace engineering.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) searches for candidates both with and without pilot experience to work on projects such as the International Space Station and the Constellation Program. Flight engineers (sometimes called pilot astronauts) need a bachelor's degree in engineering biological science physical science or mathematics plus 1000 hours of flying experience as commanding pilots. They fly the space shuttle and navigate the space station.

Astronaut researchers sometimes called non-pilot astronauts or mission specialists need a bachelor's degree and at least three years of experience in professions such as medicine and lab research. They conduct scientific experiments in space take space walks and check the shuttle's computer systems.

Astronauts are required to pass the NASA long-duration space flight physical. They must be able to get along with others and work effectively on teams. They need a background in science and math but they should also be good at communicating. All astronauts must pass tests on information presented in NASA training sessions. According to civilian astronaut candidates earn annual salaries based on the federal government's pay scale for grades GS-12 (starting at approximately $65000) through GS-13 (which goes up to approximately $100000). Military astronaut candidates are considered to be on active duty status as far as pay and benefits.

Education Required: Bachelor's Degree
Avg Salary: $82500
High Salary: $100000
Low Salary: $65000
Tasks: Works on projects such as the International Space Station and the Constellation Program.
Flies the space shuttle and works inside of the space station.
Works on the space shuttle's computer systems.
Conducts experiments on items collected during space shuttle missions.
Also Called: Flight Engineer
Mission Specialist
Additional Resources: