“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” – Carl Sagan
The big bang has left us with so many unsolved mysteries about the universe, hasn’t it? Although humans have made unimaginable strides in exploring space and other planets, there is still so much unknown to us about the world outside Earth.
To become an astronaut, you should have a zeal, an undying curiosity to discover the unexplored. But where do you start?
“How can I become an astronaut?”
“What do I need to study to become an astronaut?”
“Are NASA and ISRO my only options to become an astronaut?”
These questions must be revolving around your head. By reading this article, you will get all the information you need to live your dream of becoming an astronaut.
Let’s start with the most basic question.
Who is an Astronaut and what do they do?
To give you the simplest answer – an astronaut is a scientist in space. Just like the scientists on Earth conduct experiments in their labs, astronauts perform similar activities in space. They conduct experiments in and outside the International Space Station and indulge in new discoveries about the universe.
“Wait, did you just say “outside” the International Space Station?”
Yes. Being an astronaut also means going for spacewalks outside the space station to observe the universe, repair satellites and conduct experiments about the universe.
Astronauts come from different walks of life but there is one thing that remains common for all that motivates them to choose to be an astronaut over and over again. And that is their curiosity to explore.
What is your reason to become an astronaut?
Why become an Astronaut?
Only one person can answer this question. And that’s you. What interests you about space?
Was it witnessing a shooting star at night or watching the movie ‘Gravity’?
If you had the chance to become an astronaut, what would you discover or research about? Introspect – what is it about space that interests you the most, and you will have your answer as to why you should become an astronaut.
Once you are clear about why you want to become an astronaut, you have to start preparing to be an astronaut through these 4 steps before you launch your career in space.
4 Steps to Become an Astronaut
Being an astronaut takes years of dedication and learning. It is a journey that will open up a whole new world where you can not just apply your existing knowledge but also learn a new thing every day.
Step 1 – Gain skills to become an astronaut
“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success.” – Henry Ford.
While there are only a couple of astronauts who go up in space, there is a huge team of experienced and highly skilled professionals, who make it possible for them to add another milestone in human space exploration.
You need skills like teamwork, leadership, analytical thinking, etc. to become a successful astronaut. Don’t wait for your school or college to ‘teach’ you these skills to become an astronaut. Create your own learning path and participate in internships and skill development programs that help you gain these skills in a real-world setting.
Step 2 – Master’s degree in a STEM field
Geology, aerospace, the army – you name it and you will find the new batch of NASA astronauts having diverse educational backgrounds.
Not every astronaut is an engineer or a pilot by profession. However, all astronauts come from a STEM background. So, while choosing a course after high school, make sure you select one from the STEM subjects so that you can apply your STEM knowledge to your experiments and research as an astronaut.
The minimum educational requirement to become an astronaut is to have a Master’s degree in one of the STEM subjects. It could be aerospace engineering, aeronautics, electrical engineering, environmental sciences, robotics, etc. Whatever subject you choose, don’t forget to enjoy the learning process and upskill yourself.
Step 3 – Professional experience in a STEM field
To become an astronaut, you need at least 2 years of professional experience after completing your Master’s degree.
This pattern is similar to any other profession or career you choose. No one’s gonna give you a managerial position right after you graduate, right? You need to learn the basics of working in a particular field before you consume all the learning and skills needed to get promoted to higher ranks.
It’s the same with being an astronaut. All the knowledge, skills and expertise that you will learn in college labs and classrooms, you will be required to start applying it to solve real-world problems before you are given the chance to work as an astronaut.
Step 4 – Clear the fitness round
You don’t have to be muscular to be an astronaut. From the rigorous training in a spacesuit to living in a spacecraft in complete isolation from the real world and your loved ones, ensuring your physical, mental and psychological fitness is one of the prime factors of becoming an astronaut.
As an integral part of your astronaut training program, you will have to pass all physical fitness and medical rounds of becoming an astronaut. Only when you are physically qualified to live in space-like conditions, will you get the green signal to actually go to space.
Skills required to become an Astronaut
You can start working on Step 1 to become an astronaut as a teenager from today.
Before you begin learning a skill, it’s important to know what skills you will need to become an astronaut. Learning these 8 essential life skills will add great value to your career as an astronaut.
- Observational skills
- Communication skills
- Adaptability to change
In the 21st century, skill development is given equal importance as your grades on a mark sheet. Although every field of career is looking for ‘skilled’ professionals, only a handful of them are actually providing learning opportunities to gain these skills.
Clever Harvey is one such platform that is helping teenagers to test-drive their own career paths by learning essential life skills while working on an industry-based project.
You can learn the skills you need to become an astronaut with Clever Harvey’s JuniorMBA in Technology program to get a head-start in the leading world of implementing science with the help of technology.
Along with your skill development, you can also start your fitness journey as a teen to become an astronaut.
Physical Fitness required to be an Astronaut
Have you ever felt pukish on a rollercoaster ride? Being on a spacecraft and getting launched to space will feel a lot like a rollercoaster ride (10x more!). To be an astronaut, you have to ensure you are fit enough to survive not just the launch but also your entire stay in the spacecraft with little to no gravity.
It might sound fun and exciting to float like a cloud in space, and it somewhat is. But it comes with its own set of challenges. And to prepare you for all the challenges and make you space-fit, you are trained for two years before you are physically qualified to become an astronaut.
Apart from the rigorous training you receive to become an astronaut, there are certain physical and medical aspects that you need to adhere to before starting your journey of becoming an astronaut.
Physical Requirements of Becoming an Astronaut
|Blood pressure||Not more than 140/90 (sitting position)|
|Visual acuity (VA)||20/20 (each eye)|
Institutions that help you Become an Astronaut
There are no “astronaut institutes” where you can seek admission to become an astronaut. To be an astronaut you need to pursue a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in any one of the STEM-related subjects.
Here is a list of some of the top universities in India and abroad from which you can fulfill the educational requirements to become an astronaut.
Top Foreign Universities to Become an Astronaut
|Name of University||Location|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)||Massachusetts, U.S.A|
|University of California||Berkeley, U.S.A|
|Auburn University||Alabama, U.S.A|
|Stanford University||California, U.S.A|
|University of Cambridge||Cambridge, U.K|
If you are planning to apply to any of the universities in the U.S, U.K or Canada after the 12th standard, you might have to appear for a couple of entrance exams as part of the admission process:
- Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) – check college requirements for SAT.
- Any one of the language proficiency tests of IELTS or TOEFL.
- Entrance test or essay supplements as per college requirements.
Top Indian Universities to Become an Astronaut
|Name of University||Location|
|Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)||All branches|
|Indian Institute of Science (IIS)||All branches|
|Indian Institute of Space Science & Technology(IIST)||Thiruvananthapuram|
|Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS)||Pilani|
Once you have cleared all educational qualifications to become an astronaut, the next step will be to know the various career opportunities available to you to start your career as an astronaut.
The next section covers everything you need to know about career opportunities as an astronaut in the world’s top 3 space exploration organizations.
Career Opportunities & Salary as an Astronaut
There are plenty of opportunities available to you once you become an astronaut. After you have completed your education and gained the necessary skills required to become an astronaut, there are 3 space organizations where you can live your dream as an astronaut.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
NASA accepts applications only from the citizens of the U.S. So, if you are planning to become an astronaut at NASA you will need America’s citizenship.
Apart from offering full-time job roles, NASA offers internships and camps for teens and young adults to take a gist of what their life at NASA would like in the future.
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)
If you want to become an astronaut in India and serve your country as an astronaut, then ISRO is probably the place for you. ISRO rolls out its application via its official website only so when you are on the lookout for openings at ISRO, this is where you have to look.
Do you want to work for the guy whose next big project is to launch humans to Mars? You can work as an astronaut at SpaceX by Elon Musk by applying directly on their website. You can even apply for internships at SpaceX before working as a full-time employee.
What is the Salary of an Astronaut?
The salary of an astronaut depends on the organization you work for, your qualifications, your experience and your skillset. And so, with each position and designation, the salary of an astronaut keeps changing. Nevertheless, to get an idea about the average salary of an astronaut you can refer to the table below.
Average Salary of an Astronaut
|Organization||Average Salary (per annum)|
P.S: These salary figures are based on multiple sources.
Alternative career options in Space Exploration
Being an astronaut is not the only way you can be a part of space exploration projects and programs. As crucial it is for a technical engineer to be on board with the project, the presence of a photographer is equally important to capture history in the making.
Here is a list of alternative career options in space exploration that you can consider alongside being an astronaut:
- Mechanical engineer
- Technical engineer
- Telecommunication engineer
- Robotics engineer
- Surgeon & medical assistant
- Quality assurance technician
- Avionics technicians
- Technical writers
This list of alternative career options in space exploration is just the tip of the iceberg!
You can be anything you want to be. All you need to have is the willingness to learn, a well-defined ambition and a clear roadmap to walk towards the success of your dreams.
Do you have more questions about becoming an astronaut? The FAQ section below covers all your unanswered questions.
FAQs on how to become an Astronaut
When can I apply to become an astronaut at NASA?
NASA welcomes applications to become an astronaut every two years. So, to keep an eye on the application process and dates, you should visit the NASA website.
How long does it take to be an astronaut?
It can take almost 10 years for you to become an astronaut. How?
You have to complete your bachelor’s in a STEM field which may take 4 years and a master’s degree of generally 2 years. You require at least 2 years of professional experience in a STEM field and a 2-year long training program to become qualified to finally become an astronaut.
What should you do after class 12 to become an astronaut?
After completing your schooling, you should opt for a STEM-related course to pursue your graduation.
Is there a minimum age to become an astronaut?
There is no specific age requirement to become an astronaut. The average age of an astronaut can range from 28-35 years of age.
Which degree is best to become an astronaut?
There is no one degree that can make you an astronaut. Most astronauts come from engineering backgrounds but some of them also have diverse qualifications in geology, medicine, or flying planes.
You must have a qualification in any of the STEM courses to become an astronaut.