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Description: An astrobiologist studies the possibility of life beyond Earth. Astrobiologists try to understand how life originates and how life can survive in many different types of environments. This often involves the study of extreme life right here on Earth. They study different planets and moons to see if conditions there might support life.

Knowledge Required: Undergraduate physics programs provide a broad background in the natural sciences and mathematics for aspiring astrobiologists. Typical courses are classical and quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, biological sciences, and mathematics. Astrobiologists are highly skilled in both biology and astronomy.

Skills: Advanced mathematics, analytical, critical-thinking, interpersonal, problem-solving, critical-thinking, speaking, and writing.

Career Path: Astrobiologists need a Ph.D. for most research jobs. Many astrobiology Ph.D. holders begin their careers in a temporary postdoctoral research position, which typically lasts 2 to 3 years.

Best Cities for this job: Washington D.C., Los Angeles, CA, Boston, MA.

Median Annual Income: $106,360 National; $103,760 California

Future Growth: Employment of astrobiologists is expected to grow by 10 percent from 2010 to 2020, as fast as the average for all occupations.

From the field: "It is really fun to think that for work I get to go discover the origin of life and whether there might be life on other planets." - Laurie Barge

Did you know? Studies of the fossil record have revealed that complex, multi-cellular forms of life (plants and animals) did not appear on Earth until about 600 million years ago, which is recent in geological history.

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