How to Get a Job at NASA
Top Tips to Maximize Your Chances
Many people have dreamt of joining NASA in their outer space exploration missions at one point in their lives. Aside from a career as an astronaut, NASA offers many other amazing job opportunities that make an impact on humanity. Whether you want to be an engineer, scientist, or IT specialist, this comprehensive guide will teach you how to get a job at NASA.
What Working at NASA Is Like
Working at NASA means you’ll get to work with a diverse group of intelligent and creative people on the world’s most exciting space projects. NASA is one of the most sought-after companies to work for. Below are some of the most common experiences of working for NASA, as reported by former and current employees on Glassdoor.
Full of smart and creative people
At this world-renowned space agency, you will be able to meet and work alongside some of the most intelligent and creative professionals in the industry. NASA consists of more than 18,000 people from diverse backgrounds. You’ll work in a community of team-oriented, resilient, and passionate learners working on all kinds of space missions and research.
Lots of bureaucratic red tape
Since NASA is a US government agency, you can expect to run into a bit of bureaucratic red tape. According to several reviews from NASA employees on Glassdoor, their projects and research often get delayed due to a lack of funding or late congress approval. There are also some instances where congress cancels or shelves the project altogether.
Great work-life balance
Although work can be challenging, the company encourages its employees to practice work-life balance. NASA provides generous benefits, including sick leave and paid holidays. Since the median salary is not competitive, unlike most private companies, management can be understanding about your outside life and provide flexible work schedules.
How to Get a Job at NASA
Given the extensive size of their applicant pool, getting a job at NASA can be extremely tough. As the premier institution in the space industry, many people apply annually. The company even received a record-breaking number of applicants last year for its new class of astronauts.
Is It Hard to Get a Job at NASA?
It is difficult to get a job at NASA. The positions are highly competitive and the requirements for being hired are strict. To be considered as a potential applicant, you would need to have high academic qualifications, varied professional experiences, and a wide range of technical and soft skills.
NASA only admits the best candidates, so make sure you possess the qualifications they are looking for before you start the application process. It can be difficult but nothing is impossible.
What Do I Need to Study to Work at NASA?
You will find most of the job opportunities are in the STEM field, including engineering, physics, and aeronautics. That means you would need to major in engineering, physical science, mathematics, life science, computer science, or other fields of science.
If you’re determined to land one of the available NASA jobs, then make sure you check all the boxes on their qualifications. For entry-level positions, NASA usually requires a bachelor’s or graduate degree for you to be considered a potential candidate. Based on the job listings for senior executives, the organization also requires at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.
What Jobs Are In NASA?
From an opportunity to join the space program to a career researching in laboratories, you can find tons of varied job roles on their careers page. If you’re planning on starting your future career on the NASA team, here are some common positions you might want to consider.
Level: Senior executive
Avg. salary: $172,501-$184,247
As a Deputy Director Engineer for NASA Ames Research Center (ARC), you will be planning, directing, and coordinating the engineering, development, and operational activities and programs of the Engineering Directorate. Your responsibilities will cover small spaceflight missions, NASA-ARC’s mission operations, and lead projects at NASA Ames.
Requirements for the Deputy Director Engineering Position at NASA
This full-time senior executive role requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a specialized field such as computer science, engineering, life science, mathematics, or physical science. This position also requires you to have strong leadership skills and several years of GS-15 level professional experience or equivalent.
Level: Mid-senior level
Avg. salary: $144,128 – $172,500
This position is open for those who want to be an Aerospace Engineer at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). You will serve as the Project Formulation Manager (PFM) in the Project Formulation and Development Office and lead teams in creating and expanding plans for aerospace projects.
Requirements for the Aerospace Engineer, AST Position at NASA
To qualify for this position, you’ll need a bachelor’s or graduate degree with a major in engineering, physical science, mathematics, life science, or computer science. Aside from this education requirement, you must also have a year of specialized experience equivalent to the GS-14 level.
Level: Mid-senior level
Avg. salary: $125,197 – $162,753
In this role, you will serve as an Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) or Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Technical Discipline Lead (TDL). You will lead a team in performing EMI or EMC-related analysis and testing space-based systems in support of ISS, Orion, Gateway programs, and other projects supporting outer space exploration.
Requirements for the Electrical Engineer, AST Position at NASA
To become an electrical engineer, you must have an ABET-accredited bachelor’s or graduate degree in a relevant subject. NASA also requires a year of experience in leading a team, communicating effectively with customers and partners, interpreting and applying EME principles, and understanding electromagnetic effects towards avionics.
Level: Mid-senior level
Avg. salary: $103,690 – $134,798
This role will serve as the senior contamination control technician (CCT) responsible for maintaining tailored contamination procedures for flight projects. Duties include performing precision cleaning and inspection, measuring contamination buildup, and developing monitoring plans to ensure the spacecraft is clean.
Requirements for the Lead Engineering Technician Position at NASA
This position doesn’t have any basic education requirements. The NASA team requires applicants to have at least one year of experience in developing and implementing inspection and cleaning procedures for spaceflight hardware and ground support equipment.
Avg. salary: $72,750 – $113,362
This entry-level role is a great opportunity for a skilled test engineer who wants to work at the Goddard Space Flight Center. This position is on the team at the Parts, Packaging, and Assembly Technology Branch responsible for performing tests and failure analysis on various electronic and optoelectronic parts.
Requirements for the Electronic Systems Failure Analysis Position at NASA
You should have a bachelor’s or graduate degree in a relevant field, or an equivalent combination of graduate school and specialized experience at the GS-09 level. You must be competent in performing failure analysis of reliability issues related to EEE parts, identifying their root cause, and performing electrical testing of electronic and optoelectronic parts.
Job Application Process
Now that you know about life at NASA and the kinds of job opportunities you can expect, it’s time to prepare for the job application process. There are many ways you can apply to the space sector, but below are some of the most common steps you can follow.
Create a USAJOBS account
You can find all NASA job opportunities, except seasonal internships and fellowships, on the federal government’s employment website. To apply to any civil service job, you will have to create a USAJOBS account. Be sure to upload your resume on the website or build one using USAJOBs format, so you’re always ready for any openings.
Check for job openings
After completing your profile and preparing your resume, it’s time to check the job postings and look for your future career. You can go straight to the NASA career landing page to find specific openings that interest you. There are also filter options such as location and work schedule to refine your search.
Review the job description and qualifications
If you see an available career that interests you, read and review the job description and qualifications it requires. NASA will only interview eligible applicants who meet the conditions of employment. It’s also vital that you check the opening and closing date and submit all required documents on time.
Submit your application
To submit your application, just click the apply button, attach your resume, and follow the instructions to complete the application process. In these final steps, NASA will ask you a set of screening questions to review and understand your work experience and qualifications.
Top Tips to Land a Job at NASA
Due to the number of applicants NASA receives every year, it can be challenging to stand out from the crowd and land a job in this premier space organization. However, there are a few things that you can do to increase your chances of success. Here are a few tips you can follow to help you get a job at NASA.
Choose the right school
NASA requires candidates to major in engineering from an ABET-accredited college or university. It’s vital to enroll in the right school and program, especially if you plan to take a civil position in an engineering field.
Develop extensive experience in your field
NASA is interested in employing the very best in the field. That means you have to expand your knowledge, develop various skills, and gain specialized professional experience.
Take advantage of the Pathways Program
College students, recent graduates, and those with an advanced degree may benefit from taking advantage of NASA’s Pathways Program. It’s an excellent opportunity to experience a one-year or two-year career development program with the possibility of permanent employment.
Am I Qualified to Land a Job at NASA?
It takes more than a passion for space exploration to become qualified for a position at NASA. If you’re thinking of applying to NASA, you will need to possess extensive experience and skills in your field to qualify. As a premier space agency, they only hire the best candidates for the job.
You must have a high level of knowledge in engineering, mathematics, physical science, life science, planetary science, computer science, and space science. It’s also important that you have an extensive set of soft skills, including critical thinking skills and leadership skills. You will have to work hard to develop your abilities if you want to get a job at NASA.