Astrobiology Careers and Jobs

Biology and biological sciences are pretty exciting. Some of the new-age niche domains that are attracting the young generation are forensic biotechnology, environmental/industrial biotechnology, and astrobiology. In this post, we will talk about astrobiology careers and jobs.

New-Age Careers

Gone are the days when students used to go religiously after engineering, medicine or management after class 12. These days, more and more students are going after unconventional courses.

Students have become more audacious, informed, and parents (and society) are also becoming more accepting. While traditional and mainstream courses are still extremely popular, unconventional courses are very effective when it comes to combining passion with a career. Read Top Unconventional College Majors.

Earlier, we had discussed the top futuristic careers in biology. We received several queries around astrobiology careers and jobs. Hence, we have decided to have a dedicated post on astrobiology.

Astrobiology Careers and Jobs

Co-authored by Pavan Somwanshi

What is Astrobiology?

Astrobiology is a scientific field that studies the origins and evolution of life in the universe. The primary objective of astrobiology is the search for a habitable environment and possibly extraterrestrial life in the solar system. For the identification of biospheres that are or might be different from Earth, an understanding of biophysics, biochemistry, astronomy, geology & exoplanetology is necessary.

Testing of hypotheses in correlation with scientific theories based on current scientific data is the way astrobiology operates. The field involves researching planetary systems, origins of organic compounds in space, planetary habitability, and the possibility for life to adapt to challenges on Earth as well as in space.

Astrobiology is a new field in comparison to the currently established fields such as astronomy, physics & planetary science. This doesn’t make it any less exciting astrobiology is one of the most promising and rewarding fields to make a career.

What does an astrobiologist do?

Research is the main activity astrobiology is involved in. An astrobiologist can develop their own projects or contribute to other researcher’s projects. Astrobiologists are also involved in the development of hardware used on Earth or in outer space.

This hardware equipment help gathers the information that will later be used in research. As this is mostly research-centric job astrobiologists have to keep the various parties involved informed about the status of the research.

Astrobiologists work in places like universities, national or private institutes, and astronomical organizations.

How to become an astrobiologist?

Astrobiology is a fascinating career, if you’ve decided to make a career in this field I’ve written down all the educational requirements and qualifications you will need to set foot in this amazing field.

This might seem very obvious, you will need to choose a science stream after your class 10th. Your junior college or +2 should involve physics, chemistry, maths, biology & English. Fluency in English is a requirement as well.

A basic science degree is a must when becoming an astrobiologist. It can be a 3-year B.Sc or a joint BS-MS program which is of 5 years. Any science degree from a college will do. Later you will be required to do a Master’s in science and then a Ph.D. in any of the following from PhD. in Astronomy, PhD. in Astronomy and Astrophysics, PhD. in Astrophysics, or PhD. in Atmospheric Science and Astrophysics.

Some colleges with science degrees require you to give entrance exams, depending on the country these exams can be different. Indian Institute of Science accepts scores from NEET and JEE for undergrad courses. For M.Tech, ME and Ph.D. Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) is required to be given. Indian Institute of Science Education & Research, Pune requires candidates to give IISER Aptitude Test.

Required Skills & Qualifications

This is without a doubt a career for highly skilled professionals. If you are wondering what are skills one should have, here is a list of all the skills and personality traits that this job demands from an individual.

Curiosity, Creativity, Analytical and critical thinking, math skills, Quick thinking and problem-solving skills, Coding and data analysis skills, other technical skills required to interact with a computer; Soft skills such as good communication skills and organization skills are essential as well.

As the development in technology is constant, one needs to constantly keep himself updated and learn new technical skills.

Astrobiology Careers and Job Prospects

Astrobiology as a career is a perfect fit for students looking to make a difference in our understanding of the universe. The carers in astrobiology are either Theoretical or Observational.

One should be familiar with the nature of work as an Astrobiologist. Various factors determine the work hours such as the type and number of experiments carried during a certain period, writing of articles, presentations to be given or meetings to be organized. The work hours can be as minimal as a couple of hours and sometimes can last a whole day. An ideal amount of hours a workweek can have is 50-70 hours, again this is not a certainty.

Traveling is an aspect of this job that not everyone gives a thought to before entering. Depending on the job, Astrobiologists have to attend about half a dozen conferences both domestic and international. As the work mostly is collaborative and discussions are an integral part of the job, visit other labs is a mandatory part of the job. To sum up, about a quarter of the year is spent traveling.

As a beginner, your job will be to assist and work with an existing research team that is already working on a project. Different centers in India like IUCAA, ARIES & NCRA offer internships for beginners. Once they are done with the initial phase they can later still be a part of a team, lead a team or carry individual research. Individuals can work at Universities, Private Research Institutes, Research laboratories, and other Industries.

Depending on the level of education, skills, and work experience the salary of an Astrobiologist can range from 4 LPA to 10 LPA, which of course increase with increase inexperience.

According to Glassdoor and Payscale, the salary range of a research Astrobiologist in the USA is $80,000 – $90,000.

If you wonder what the career scope is, well as long as you work your best and provide desired results the possibilities are endless. One must also consider the risk of being stuck at a certain level in their career in case things don’t turn out as planned. As far as automation goes, there is little to no chance of automation taking over this career field entirely making it a great long-term career option.

Astrobiology Colleges in India

  • Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
  • Ramana Research Institute, Bangalore
  • Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai
  • Indian Astrobiology Research Centre, Mumbai
  • Fergusson College, Pune
  • Christ College, Banglore

Astrobiology Colleges Abroad

  • Florida Institute of Technology
  • Arizona State University
  • Stanford University
  • McMasters University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • NASA Astrobiology Institute

Featured Image Source: Cosmos

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