How to Become an Astronaut
For many people, becoming an astronaut is a lifelong dream. After all, working as an astronaut is an exciting and invigorating opportunity. You get to explore the final frontier and witness things very few people ever have the chance to see. However, because being an astronaut is such a cool and desirable job, it’s very difficult to actually become one.
The minimum requirements are a Bachelor’s degree in hard science, engineering or math, three years’ work experience in a technical field and great communication skills. You also have to meet NASA’s physical standards. To do so, you need to have perfect vision, be between 68 and 76 inches in height — or between 62 and 75 inches if you want to be a pilot — and have a blood pressure of 140 over 90 or better. Beyond that, you also need to bring something to the table that will make you stand out. Here are a few tips on how to successfully become an astronaut.
1. Start in High School
Since you need at least a Bachelor’s degree to be considered, you’ll need to do well enough in high school to get into college. SAT and ACT scores are important, so you want to consider taking preparatory courses for these exams. You should also take a variety of science and math courses so you’re prepared for these subjects in college. Some important subjects include algebra, trigonometry, statistics, calculus, biology, chemistry, physics and physiology. If you don’t do well in these classes or simply don’t like them, being an astronaut may not be the best career for you.
2. Be an Exemplary College Student
Having a Bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement needed to apply — but to actually be considered you’ll need to have stellar credentials. That means you’ll have to study hard and earn a high GPA. Shoot for whatever awards and achievements your school offers, whether it’s a fellowship or an honor society. Every little bit helps.
You don’t just have to do well in your major — you should take whatever steps necessary to be sure you have a well-rounded technical education. Take as many math, science and engineering courses as possible to ensure you have a broad set of skills. Astronauts need these skills to solve problems and run successful missions.
3. Consider an Advanced Degree
Since NASA receives thousands of applications for only a few openings, you need to stand out, and one way to do that is with an advanced degree in your field. In reality, if you only have a Bachelor’s degree you probably have a slim chance of being granted an interview, unless you’ve done something extraordinary. A Master’s or Doctoral won’t just look good on paper — it will also help you achieve success in your field, which will in turn also boost your application.
4. Know How to Get Experience
Because NASA requires you to have a minimum of three years’ work experience, you need to have another career before you become an astronaut. After you’ve decided on a major, meet with your advisor or career counselor to see what options are available. After you’ve done so, take the courses you feel will best prepare you for a job.
5. Learn to Work in a Group Setting
Once you’ve made it to the interview round, NASA will carefully evaluate you during a week-long training session. At this stage, you’ll need to show how well you work with others. Those that work best in a team will likely be the ones who get the job. If you’re someone who gets in an argument every time you work with others — for example, when you’re asked to rent a backhoe for a DIY project in your brother’s yard — you need to work on your interpersonal skills.
Ideally, you’ve been developing your social skills since grade school. Most astronauts have actually been involved in scouting at some point — there’s definitely something to be said for the sense of camaraderie and goal-oriented attitude scouting programs provide. During college, you may also find it beneficial to take psychology or sociology courses. The better you understand how people function in group settings, the better you’d be able to interact with them.