How Much Does An Astronaut Make? (Plus Qualifications)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 13 March 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Astronauts are professionals who receive advanced training, and only a few positions are available to those who meet the eligibility criteria and physical qualifications. The pay of an astronaut can depend on their employment status in the military or on their expertise as a civilian astronaut. If you are interested in becoming an astronaut, it can be beneficial to research their earning potential and qualifications. In this article, we discuss what astronauts do, the qualifications required to become one and how much does an astronaut makes.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

How Much Does An Astronaut Make?

Manned space programs have not commenced in the country yet, but it is set to start soon. It may be difficult to determine an accurate salary figure and determine how much does an astronaut make. But, astronauts are civil servants and their salaries are on the government scale. Since it is a very coveted and high-risk job, they receive attractive remuneration for their services. ISRO (Indian Space Research organisation) is planning to hire experienced Indian Air Force pilots for its upcoming manned missions.

The average base salary of a space scientist is ₹3,15,000 per year. The average base salary of a scientist/engineer in ISRO is ₹4,80,000 per year. The average base salary of a distinguished scientist is ₹9,06,000 per year.

What Do Astronauts Do?

Astronauts receive training to fly to outer space. They can command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft and participate in other activities related to space exploration. The term astronaut typically applies to all people who travel to space, irrespective of their nationality, but astronauts from Russia are cosmonauts and astronauts from China are taikonauts. Astronauts carry out a variety of duties when they are in space like gathering information, repairing equipments, conducting research and developing procedures or tools. They undergo extensive training for long durations before they go to space.

As only a limited number of people go to space, some astronauts may not get the opportunity even after completing their training. An astronaut performs other tasks when they are not going to space like assisting scientists, collaborating on the development of tools and equipment and carrying out repairs of aircraft and other machinery. Astronauts may attend meetings, write reports and participate in periodic training sessions. They typically possess various specialised skills unique to their position. They can get opportunities to travel to and work in space, although those opportunities are rare.

Related: FAQ: What Is Aerospace Engineer Training And How Long Is It?

What Are The Different Types Of Astronauts?

Astronauts can generally be of two types:

Mission specialist astronauts

Mission specialist astronauts work closely with pilots and commanders of the shuttle. They are responsible for conducting experiments, coordinating on-board operations, monitoring the shuttle's consumables and maintaining equipment. They may also perform spacewalks to make repairs or deploy satellites. They can be from different backgrounds like engineering, science or medicine. Typically, a space mission's duration may range from a few days to a few weeks, but sometimes astronauts may remain there for months. These long space missions can require intensive training.

Related: How Much Does An ISRO Scientist Earn? (Plus Qualifications)

Pilot astronauts

Pilot astronauts play a key role in shuttle flights and the International Space Station, where they serve either as a commander or as a pilot. They may be responsible for ensuring the safety of the crew and the flight. To prepare for this role, they go through rigorous training for years with simulators and other training sessions developed to replicate conditions in space.

Related: 9 Types of Aviation Jobs (With Salaries and Job Duties)

What Are The Qualifications To Become An Astronaut?

Selection procedures for astronauts are extremely rigorous and only a few select candidates qualify. Here are the qualifications and eligibility requirements to become an astronaut:

  • They require to be a citizen of India.

  • An Indian Air Force pilot gets preference because of their professional experience flying aircraft.

  • Candidates may have a bachelor's degree from a recognised university. The degree can be in engineering, physics, computer science, biology, mathematics or chemistry.

  • A master's or doctorate degree in aerospace engineering, aeronautical engineering or other related subjects can be an advantage.

  • In addition to this, there are physical fitness requirements for candidates. They require to be mentally and physically fit, with good eyesight and meet certain height and weight specifications.

  • A candidate benefits from being fluent in English, as they may communicate with astronauts from other countries. Knowing other languages like Chinese and Russian can also be beneficial.

Related: What Is Aeronautical Engineering? Definition and Career Tips

What Skills Are Beneficial For Astronauts To Develop?

Astronauts can possess a variety of hard and soft skills to be successful in their positions. If you are passionate about becoming an astronaut, consider developing these skills:

Advanced intelligence

Astronauts can possess more than educational requirements and traditional intelligence to succeed. They may have creative intellect and curiosity to solve and handle complex and unexpected problems. As they are far away from other facilities, they may require a working knowledge of various areas like engineering, medicine and software.

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Astronauts endure very extreme environments as part of their training and during actual missions. The ability to adapt quickly can help them to assume a variety of roles and make decisions faster. They move from one task to another quickly during their missions and are willing to adapt to new procedures and standards. They also work with professionals from various countries and may benefit from the ability to quickly adapt to foreign environments and cultures.

Related: Adaptability: An Essential Skill for Changing Workplaces

Mental endurance

Astronauts may require to live in close quarters with strangers for months at a time, and can spend long periods of time away from their families. They require a sound mind and the ability to cope with the trials they may face in their careers, including fear and isolation. They may also go through intense periods of training for missions, where they have limited interaction with other people. This helps them build endurance for the extreme situations they may find themselves in.

Physical stamina

Astronauts typically pass physical fitness tests and complete a military water survival test. This tests their ability to tread water while wearing flight gear and to swim a specific distance without stopping. To prepare for certain types of space training, astronauts can be SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) qualified. During training sessions, they may undergo preparation for coping with extreme pressure and temperature conditions. Astronauts prepare their body for zero-gravity and its effects.

Related: FAQ: What Are Aerospace Engineer Working Conditions?

Critical-thinking and problem-solving skills

Astronauts may have challenging problems to solve, and they evaluate their work carefully to avoid errors. They work in a careful and critical manner to ensure that they complete each task correctly. Space exploration may involve many risks, and astronauts benefit from possessing sharp critical thinking skills to analyse problems and arrive at quick solutions.


When astronauts go into space, they need the discipline to work alone, live aboard the space station and accomplish their assigned tasks in due time. The training and actual missions may be very different from normal lives, and astronauts may exercise discipline to process these different circumstances in a composed manner. They go to space as part of specific missions and aim to complete them successfully within given time limits.

Related: How to Practise Self-Discipline in the Workplace

Where Can I Study To Become An Astronaut?

There are a number of universities in the country which provide excellent education and training for aspiring astronauts. Along with this, there are also renowned global institutions in this domain. Here is a list of popular training centres to become an astronaut:

  • IIST (Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology)

  • IISc (Indian Institute of Science)

  • IIRS (Indian Institute of Remote Sensing)

  • Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani

  • IIT(Indian Institute of Technology)

Who Are The Top Recruiters For Astronauts?

Having the professional qualifications of an astronaut can open up opportunities in various other government and private institutions. Here is a list of some of the prominent institutions which hire astronauts:

  • ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation)

  • DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organisation)

  • HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited)

  • NAL (National Aeronautical Laboratories)

In addition to institutions in the country, there are renowned institutions like NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) of the USA, which hire qualified astronauts. Here is a list of space agencies of different countries:

  • Canadian Space Agency

  • European Space Agency

  • Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency

  • Russian Federal Space Agency

  • China National Space Administration

Who Employs Astronauts?

Space studies also make you competent in many other professions, like space scientist or researcher. A few employers that recruit space scientists are:

  • Space research labs

  • Spacecraft manufacturing firms

  • Software development companies

  • Military organisations

  • Government observatories

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