Not every job related to space requires donning a space suit or commanding a spaceship. Engineers, mathematicians, geologists and a host of other professionals use their talents for a variety of space-related tasks. These include studying astrobiology and microgravity, searching for life elsewhere in the universe, researching the atmosphere and galaxies, designing spacecrafts and space equipment and interpreting meteorological data.
Astronomers study anything from the smallest subatomic particles to the expanse of space. Some double as astrophysicists who research the fundamental laws of space physics. Astronomers develop scientific theories and models to explain the properties of the natural world and also plan and conduct experiments and studies to test their theories. They typically spend their time in research laboratories and observatories. A doctorate in physics or astronomy is usually required to become an astronomer. The job requires advanced mathematical and analytical skills, critical thinking abilities and strong interpersonal skills. The median annual income of astronomers was $87,260 as of May 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Aerospace engineers design, manufacture and test aerospace products, including spacecrafts, satellites and missiles. They also assess the technical and financial viability of project proposals. They ensure that designed products meet engineering principles, customer requirements and environmental regulations. A bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering is preferred. Key skills for the role include analytical thinking, business acumen, math abilities, teamwork and written communication. The median annual wage of aerospace engineers was $97,480 in May 2010, according to the BLS.
Atmospheric scientists study weather, climate and the earth's atmosphere. They measure temperature, air pressure and atmosphere properties to produce weather maps and graphics that report current weather conditions. They provide long- and short-term weather forecasts using computer models and satellite information, and issue severe weather warnings. Atmospheric scientists often hold positions such as broadcast meteorologists, climate scientists and weather forecasters. A master’s degree in meteorology is typically required for this job, but research careers will need a doctorate. Good qualities for this position include keen observation skills, critical thinking, verbal and written communication skills and math ability. The median annual wage of atmospheric scientists was $87,780 in May 2010, according to the BLS.
Space Science Teachers
Educators in atmospheric and space sciences typically combine teaching with research. Space science teachers usually possess a doctorate-level education and teach subjects such as astronomy, astrophysics, aeronautical science, atmospheric science, physical cosmology and space archaeology. The job requires in-depth knowledge of and keen interest in space. You also need strong presentation, reading and writing skills as well as mathematics knowledge and excellent interpersonal skills. Atmospheric, earth, marine and space sciences teachers at the postsecondary level earned a median wage of $82,840 in 2010, according to the BLS.
- Super Scholar: The Highest Paying Jobs in America
- Encyclopedia: Careers in Space Science
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physicists and Astronomers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Aerospace Engineers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Atmospheric Scientists, Including Meteorologists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Atmospheric, Earth, Marine, and Space Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary
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