What degree do I need to become an Astronaut?

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So you want to be a Space Sailor?


Yes, the word Astronaut, from the Greek, translates to Space Sailor. But before you sail your spaceship through the sea of space, you will need to know how to get your sea legs.

Of course you can be an astronaut, you think. Dogs, monkeys, and Homer Simpson have all been to space.

But in reality, becoming an Astronaut is no easy task. First off, you will need to familiarize yourself with NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), which is the United States government agency that pretty much handles all the space research here in our country. NASA specifically focuses on civilian aspect (versus military) of the science of space, hence keeping peaceful applications within its programs and missions.

Now, you can’t just head over to NASA and ask if they have any job openings. An aspiring Astronaut pilot must apply for the Astronaut Candidate Program, and meet the following requirements:

1. U.S. citizen

2. Bachelor’s degree from an accredited program in either engineering, physical science, biology or mathematics. However, an advanced degree is highly recommended.

3. Pass the NASA space physical, which is at par with a military flight physical. This may sound weird but included in the physical requirements are having 20/100 or better vision, having 140/90 blood pressure and being of a height between 62 and 75 inches. There are no age restrictions. Astronauts in the past have ranged from ages 26 through 46, with the average age of applicant being age 34.

Training Program

After all that, a candidate must go through a two year training program to earn the title of Astronaut. Training will include 1,000 hours of  pilot-in-command time in a jet aircraft to meet the qualifications of the occupation.

As an Astronaut-in-training you will head to Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. There you will complete the knowledge and skills needed for formal mission training. You will need to prove proficiency through testing and evaluations. Some of the required exercises are as follows:

  • Become SCUBA qualified
  • Pass a swim test- 3 lengths of pool in flight suit with tennis shoes
  • Be able to tread water continuously for 10 minutes
  • Extravehicular Activity skills training
  • Learn Robotics
  • Russian language proficiency
  • International space stations training
  • Aircraft flight readiness training

So it’s a lot to go through. But look at it this way – if you make it, you get to go to outer space. That’s worth just about any amount of hard work and challenge, right?


According to the Houston Chronicle, starting salary for a Civilian Astronaut was approximately $65k in 2013. Those at the top of the pay scale (many years of experience) can expects over $140k annually. Astronauts with a military background are paid through a different pay scale as well as have a different benefits package.

Obviously, not everyone who wants to be an astronaut makes it. But being an astronaut is like being a Olympian – whatever it takes, and whatever the odds, if it’s your dream, it’s worth shooting for. And in this case, you’re literally shooting for the stars.

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