How many of us long to see space, and not just in photos or documentaries? Wouldn’t it be incredible to explore places no human has seen before and look back on Earth from a perspective known to so few? The dream of many is to become an astronaut, but the process isn’t quite as straightforward as other career paths. If you’re curious about what it takes or are seriously considering taking the leap, here’s how to become an astronaut:
1. You need at least a bachelor’s degree in one of five fields.
Education comes first. To qualify to be an astronaut, you need a degree in engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, biological sciences, or computer sciences. You certainly won’t be turned away if you have earned a master's degree or PhD, but the minimum requirement is a bachelor’s.
2. One of two career paths after your degree are required.
Once you’ve earned your degree, you need to have completed three years of work related to your field of major. This work must have been “professional” and demonstrate your ability to perform well in your chosen area of expertise. Alternatively, you will also meet the requirements if you have at least 1,000 hours of pilot experience on a jet aircraft.
3. Apply, then pass the astronaut physical.
If you meet the previous two requirements, you can apply as long as you’re ready to pass a physical. The physical to become an astronaut is nothing like your standard sports physical. You have to be in excellent shape as well as have near 20/20 vision (though if you wear glasses don’t worry, this doesn’t disqualify you). Once you apply, your application is reviewed to ensure you meet the basic requirements. Only 120 of the most highly qualified are passed on to the interview portion, and even then half are removed from the selection process. The other half go on to training, and eventually, full astronaut status.