Space scientist is a term that encompasses anyone whose work involves the earth's atmosphere; everything from weather reports and satellite television to high-tech defense systems are possible due to people who spend their careers looking at the stars. Astronaut, rocket scientist, and meteorologist are just some of the careers that fall into the space science category. Many kinds of space science jobs are also available with the federal government or in teaching.
|Job Skills||Analytical skill, communication, mathematics, problem solving|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$89, 820 (all atmospheric and space scientists)|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)*||9% (all atmospheric and space scientists)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Space science is a demanding field of study; depending on the career desired, it requires motivation for years of college and post-baccalaureate study. Degree options include Bachelor of Science in Space Science, Bachelor of Science in Earth and Space Science, or a master's degree or doctorate in atmospheric and space science. Those looking to teach space science can get a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in education and space science. Students in technical or education programs can expect classes in physics, mathematics, astronomy, and other similar courses; bachelor's degree programs typically last more than four years due to laboratory requirements.
Prospective space scientists or space science teachers must have a strong academic background in science, especially in physics. Experience with computers and the basics of engineering are also needed, along with public speaking and writing skills for presentations and in-depth papers.
Career and Economic Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reports that 11, 800 jobs for atmospheric and space scientists existed in May 2014; in addition, 72, 500 jobs existed in the aerospace engineering field, which includes those who work in space science-related engineering fields. Employment for atmospheric and space scientists is expected to grow 9% between 2014 and 2024. According to the BLS, as of May 2015, the median annual salary among atmospheric and space scientists was $89, 820, and aerospace engineers earned a median of $107, 830. O*NET OnLine (www.onetonline.org) reported that in 2015, atmospheric, earth, marine, and space sciences instructors teaching in post-secondary educational institutions earned a median salary of $83, 150.
Alternative Career Options
Individuals interested in space and atmospheric science are likely to consider professions in astronomy and geology.
Astronomers use their extensive academic background in physics and astronomy as well as powerful telescopes to study and develop theories regarding space. Their work includes the study of stars, planets, and other astronomical objects and phenomena, from how they behave to how they got there to what they'll do next. Astronomers typically need to have an undergraduate education in physics and a Ph.D. in astronomy. According to the BLS, jobs for astronomers are expected to increase 3% from 2014-2024; astronomers earned median pay of $104, 100 in 2015.
While space scientists and astronomers look up, geoscientists look down - their work explores the makeup of the earth and how the planet works. They perform research in the field, collect and analyze data, and do lab testing on collected samples. Areas of specialty include natural resource exploration, environmental protection, construction, or seismology. Depending on the job, a bachelor's degree in geosciences or a related field is typically the minimum education requirement. State licensing may also be required for some jobs where working with the public is expected. Research-oriented careers may require a Ph.D. Job growth of 10% from 2014-2024 is expected by the BLS; also, the BLS reported that geoscientists (excluding hydrologists and geographers) earned a median salary of $89, 700 in 2015.
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