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Astrobiologists study the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life on Earth in the universe.


$33,151 to $72,720 to $147,780

Core Subjects

Biology, Chemistry, Physics

Minimum Educational Level

Master’s degree or PhD


Astrobiologists study the origin of life, from the most simple to the most complex forms. They look at how life starts, how it is (or could be) distributed on the planet and what is its ultimate fate. Astrobiologist study life on Earth as well as on other planets – though no life has been found outside of the planet Earth yet. Some astrobiologists work for NASA or other government agencies, while others are employed by universities or private research companies.


Much of the astrobiologist’s work takes place in a laboratory. They could be studying anything from how vacuum or radiation affects cells to how plants adapt to various environments. Sometimes, astrobiologists might be required to travel to different planes around the world to collect samples that they examine back in a laboratory. They publish their findings in specialized industry journals such as Astrobiology Magazine.

Although there are not many astrobiology university programs available, many astrobiologists are involved in research and teaching. Due to the limited number of slots, these are often competitive to get into, and only a handful number of universities offer them.

Working Environment

The work environment can vary greatly from one astrobiologist to another. In most cases, job tasks involve the collection of samples and their analysis in a laboratory. Therefore, how a person spends their times depends on the institution they work for as well as the project at hand.


Future astrobiologists should follow Earth sciences courses during high school, coupled with biology, chemistry, physics and geology. Astrobiology is a science where different fields merge, including biology, chemistry, and astronomy. The backgrounds of astrobiologists can, therefore, vary greatly. In general, however, due to the research nature of the job, most astrobiologists are Ph.D. holders or candidates. It is possible that for laboratory jobs, bachelor’s degree can be sufficient in some cases Only a few universities offer graduate programs related to astrobiology. Check the links below for more information.

University of Washington

Penn State University

University of Colorado Boulder

University of Arizona


Further Reading

How To Become An Astrobiologist

What Degree Do I Need To Become An Astrobiologist?

NASA: Ask An Astrobiologist

Astrobiology Publication

NASA: Careers in Astrobiology



Vault Guide to Space Exploration Jobs

Space Careers by Leonard David and Scott Sacknoff

Information about salaries and various job data: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Image Credits: NASA

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