Space Scientist: Job Description & Career Info

Instructor: Erin Monagan

Erin has been writing and editing for several years and has a master's degree in fiction writing.

Learn about career options for space scientists. See what kind of education is required and what the job prospects are. Get information about earning potential, too.

Career Definition for a Space Scientist

Space scientist is a term for 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.

Education Bachelor's degree
Job Skills Analytical skill, communication, mathematics, problem solving
Median Salary (2017)* $92,070 (all atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 12% (all atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

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.

Required Skills

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) reports that 10,400 jobs for atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists, existed in May 2016; in addition, 69,600 jobs existed in the aerospace engineering field, which includes those who work in space science-related engineering fields. Employment for atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists, is expected to grow 12% between 2016 and 2026. According to the BLS, as of May 2017, the median annual salary among those atmospheric scientists was $92,070, and aerospace engineers earned a median of $113,030. The BLS reported that in 2017, atmospheric, earth, marine, and space sciences instructors teaching in postsecondary educational institutions earned a median salary of $87,380.

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 10% from 2016-2026; astronomers earned median pay of $100,590 in 2017.


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 14% from 2016-2026 is expected by the BLS; also, the BLS reported that geoscientists (excluding hydrologists and geographers) earned a median salary of $89,850 in 2017.

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.