Job Description:

Astronauts are trained to fly, or be crew members of, spacecraft as well as do experiments in space.

Job Category:
Aerospace & Defence

What you will do:

You’ll maintain the spacecraft and make sure you can live safely onboard. You’ll also carry out scientific experiments and research.

Your duties could include:

  • cleaning and testing air filters and air quality
  • repairing, maintaining and testing oxygen production systems
  • cleaning and maintaining water systems and testing for bacterial growth
  • packaging and disposing of waste
  • replacing worn or broken parts on the spacecraft
  • installing or repairing scientific instruments and equipment
  • setting up, carrying out and monitoring experiments
  • taking samples, like blood, from astronauts to assess their health
  • communicating with Earth by satellite to transfer data and send reports

You may do Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) or ‘spacewalks’ to repair the spacecraft or complete research experiments.

You’ll also spend around 2.5 hours a day exercising.


You’ll likely need:

  • an excellent scientific background (PHD) or flight skills (be a qualified pilot)
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • excellent physical and psychological strength to live in confined spaces for long periods
  • the ability to stay calm during an emergency
  • adaptability and good judgement
  • the ability to operate and control equipment
  • physical skills like movement, coordination, dexterity and grace
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • determination (ambition)
  • leadership skills
  • observation and recording skills
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • thinking and reasoning skills
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become an astronaut, you’ll need to pursue a strong educational background and acquire relevant skills and qualifications. While there are no specific GCSE subjects that are absolutely required to become an astronaut, there are certain subjects that can help you build a strong foundation for a career in space exploration and science. Here are some GCSE subjects that are relevant:

  1. Mathematics: Mathematics is fundamental to many aspects of space science and engineering. It’s essential for understanding orbital mechanics, physics, and complex calculations.
  2. Physics: Physics provides the foundational knowledge of the laws that govern the behavior of matter and energy in the universe. This subject is critical for understanding space science and spaceflight.
  3. Chemistry: A solid understanding of chemistry can be important, especially if you plan to pursue a career in materials science or research related to space exploration.
  4. Biology: While not as directly related as physics or mathematics, biology can be relevant, especially if you’re interested in life sciences and potential future missions to Mars or other planets where biology might play a role.
  5. Computer Science: Proficiency in computer science and programming is increasingly important for astronauts, as they often work with complex computer systems onboard spacecraft.
  6. Engineering and Technology: If your goal is to become an astronaut, you might consider taking GCSE subjects related to engineering and technology. These can include subjects like design and technology, electronics, or engineering science.
  7. Physical Education: Astronaut candidates need to be in excellent physical condition, so physical education and fitness are crucial. Maintaining good physical health through regular exercise is essential.

While these GCSE subjects can provide a strong foundation, it’s also essential to continue your education at the university level and pursue a degree in a relevant field.

Post School

Opportunities to become an astronaut are very limited and competition for places is very strong.

You’ll usually need to be aged 27 to 37 and able to speak English fluently. It would also help if you could speak a second language, like basic Russian.

You’ll also need to be a pilot with at least 1,000 hours of flying experience in a high performance aircraft like a fighter jet, or have a PhD in a subject like:

  • biology
  • chemistry
  • engineering
  • information technology
  • mathematics
  • physics

With either of these routes, you’ll usually need 3 years’ experience.

With aircraft pilot experience or a PhD you could apply to become an astronaut in the European Astronaut Corps.

To become an astronaut with NASA, you’ll need to have US citizenship or US dual-citizenship.

Working Hours and Environment:

On a mission you’ll work to a set schedule.

You’ll be away from home for extended periods of time.

You’ll need to travel overseas for training.

You’ll need a high level of physical fitness to help you cope with life in space, because of the cramped living conditions and the effects of low gravity on your body.

Career Path & Progression:

You’ll have several years’ training before you’re ready to be selected for a mission.

It may take you years to be selected for a space flight. Once you’re selected, you’ll get mission-specific training. Your flight in space could last between 6 months and a year.

With experience, you could be selected for other missions. You could also move into management, teaching, research, or set up your own consultancy business.