How Much Are Astronauts Paid? - FederalPay.org
A NASA astronaut is paid $89,693 to $122,336 per year based on education and experience level. Read on below to see how this number was calculated.
Astronauts are required to be in peak physical and mental condition, they have to endure long periods of time away from home, and they have to complete grueling training. For all this, you might expect an Astronauts to be paid like rock stars or professional athletes; however, that is not the case!
NASA Astronauts are paid on the General Service (GS) pay scale. This means that an astronaut’s pay is capped at just over 150k. In fact, most of NASA’s astronauts are paid less than that.
In the GS pay scale, there are 3 factors that go into calculating your pay:
We will go over each of these factors before putting them all together to calculate an astronaut’s pay.
First, GS grades range from 1 to 15 with 15 being the highest paid. NASA astronauts fall in the GS-12 or GS-13 pay grade. This grade is given to high level scientists with advanced degrees/training. Astronauts have Ph.D’s and a lot of specialized training, so they qualify for one of these two grades.
GS-14 and GS-15 is reserved for upper management positions in the government. Above GS-15, the Senior Executive Service (SES) pay scale is used. SES pay scale is used for heads of departments and other appointed positions.
Second, Steps are based on tenure in the government. You typically start at Step 1 regardless of your grade. Then your step increases over time even if you do not get a promotion (grade increase). Steps range from 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest paid.
The average astronaut age is 34 (source:http://astronauts.nasa.gov/content/faq.htm). If an astronaut has worked for NASA their entire career they will have worked there for roughly 10 years. After 10 years in the GS pay scale, you will have advanced to step 7. Based on experience an astronaut's step could be anywhere from 5 to 10.
The finally factor affecting pay is locality. Locality Adjustments account for different costs of living around the country. NASA astronauts work at Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. There is a Houston Locality Area that receives a significant increase over the base pay amount. As of 2015, Houston receives a 28.71% increase over the base pay amount.
Now we have all the pieces needed to determine an astronaut’s pay:
- Step 7
- Houston Locality
Tool: GS Pay Calculator
As of 2015, GS-13, Step 7 in Houston locality is paid $112,926. GS grade can vary based on the astronaut’s background and education. Additionally, depending on how long the astronaut has worked for NASA, their step will vary as well. Astronaut pay could anywere from $89,693 to $122,336. View the full Houston GS Pay Table.
This low pay actually makes a lot of sense. Because astronaut is one of the most sought-after jobs in the whole world, you do not have to pay them very much – many people would probably do it for free! It is simple supply and demand. There are a lot of people who want to be astronauts and only a limited number of seats on a rocketship. If NASA had trouble finding people willing to go to space, they might have to raise the salary.
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