Each month we take a look at one of the 650 career pathways featured within Indigo. This month we’re exploring the role of an Astronaut.

Find out what’s involved in the role from in this excerpt from the career profile on the Indigo Careers module.

So what is an Astronaut?

Astronauts travel in space for scientific research. They communicate with Earth via a satellite to transfer data and reports. 

While on the aircraft, they are responsible for the upkeep of the systems as well as the other people onboard. This involves cleaning, testing and maintaining air filters, oxygen production systems, water systems and waste disposal. They also have to take blood samples from other astronauts to monitor and assess health. 


You will work around 40 hours a week, however, space flights usually last between 6 months and 1 year.


It is likely most of your work will be done within a training centre with space flights and missions. 

Type of work

Astronauts travel in space for scientific research. They communicate with Earth via a satellite to transfer data and reports.

Things to consider

Distressing aspects
Due to the nature of the role, conditions can change rapidly and you could find yourself in a dangerous situation.

Mentally or physically challenging
This role will be physically and emotionally demanding and you will have to maintain a high level of fitness.

Travel and long time away likely
Space flights typically last between 6 months and 1 year. 

Short-lived career
Astronauts tend to only work between the ages of 27 and 37. However, there are opportunities for managerial roles and teaching after this. 

A senior astronaut can expect to earn up to £80,000.

Most people have a postgraduate degree and you will need further professional training

To become an astronaut you need a degree and postgraduate degree in relevant subject such as, engineering, medicine, a science, aeronautics or mathematics. Entry onto a degree usually requires 2 A levels/H grades including Maths and Physics, and 5 GCSEs/National 5s (C or above, or 4 or above in England). To advance into postgraduate study, you will need a strong degree grade.

You can apply for training with the European Astronaut Corps or with NASA. You will need to be between 27 and 37 years of age. Applying to become an astronaut requires a lot of prior experience in the field and you will need to be able to speak English fluently. It is useful to know how to speak basic Russian because it is a key language used on the International Space Station.

Once you have secured the role, you will receive constant on the job training, especially before any space travel.

Salary progression

Starting salaries for astronauts is around £40,000 and a senior astronaut can expect to earn up to £80,000. 

Be aware, you must already have pilot experience before applying for an astronaut role. There is high competition for these roles and it may take you years to be selected for a space flight. There have only been around 500 astronauts since space travel began. 

Click here to explore the full library of over 650 career profiles, including multimedia content and LMI data for students to interpret and discuss.