Working at the SETI Institute

Some of the world’s best planetary scientists, astronomers, and astrobiologists work at the Carl Sagan Center, at the SETI Institute. So could you.

The Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute embraces the entrepreneurial spirit of the San Francisco Bay Area, encouraging collaboration and innovation across a variety of disciplines. 

Our scientists work in fields spanning the breadth of planetary science, astronomy, and astrobiology. Examples include astronomical observations of asteroids, study of the surface and atmospheric processes on Mars, investigation of the icy moons and rings of the outer Solar System, and a search for signals that would betray extraterrestrial intelligence. Other studies encompass meteor showers, extrasolar planets, organic materials in the interstellar medium, the survival and adaptation of microbes in extreme environments, and technologies for planetary exploration. 

Scientists in the Carl Sagan Center perform field, laboratory, and theoretical investigations, and work with data from spacecraft, telescopes, and airborne expeditions. The Center, directed by Nathalie Cabrol, is the major research arm of the non-profit SETI Institute. Carl Sagan Center scientists have the opportunity to participate in the SETI Institute’s many education and public outreach projects, and to work with students in our internship programs. 

How do I become a Principal Investigator? Scientists working in the fields of planetary science, astronomy, or astrobiology can request to have their awards funded through the Carl Sagan Center. Most of our scientists are funded by grants from federal research agencies including NASA and NSF. If you don’t already have a grant, we can help you propose for one and become affiliated with the SETI Institute. 

What kind of proposal support is provided? To maximize your chances of receiving a grant, we constantly look for proposal opportunities, review their requirements, and alert you early in the application process. In addition, senior staff are available to review your proposals, and offer advice to maximize your chances of success. 

How am I compensated? Carl Sagan Center salaries are competitive with comparable work environments in the Bay Area. Salary levels are based upon work experience, funds available, and other relevant factors. In addition, the SETI Institute offers generous benefits to employees and their dependents. A few highlights of our benefits are: 

  • Medical, Dental, Vision 
  • Flexible Spending Plan (FSA) 
  • Life AD&D 
  • 403(b) Group Retiremen Plan 
  • Vacation and Sick time 
  • 11 Paid Holidays per year 

What is your indirect cost rate?  The SETI Institute was founded on the belief that indirect costs should be as low as possible in order to allow more resources to be applied to science. Our current indirect cost rate is approximately 28.4% for employees who work off-site, or 35.8% for those who work on-site, while providing superior services at a lower cost than many comparable organizations. One way we achieve this is by affiliating with world-class organizations such as the University of Southern California and NASA Ames Research Center. 

Where do I work? Many scientists work at the Institute’s new headquarters in Mountain View, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. Specifically designed to promote scientific collaboration, this impressive modern space, technology-equipped conference rooms, and an abundance of spacious windowed offices. You may also arrange to work at NASA Ames, conveniently located a mile from our offices, or from your home office. 

How do I contact the Carl Sagan Center? The SETI Institute is located at 189 Bernardo Ave, Suite 200 in Mountain View, CA. Call us at (650) 961-6633 or email us at 

The SETI Institute is an equal opportunity employer.