The space industry is booming right now, with exciting new developments in areas like space tourism, satellite technology, and space exploration.
This guide will give you insider tips on how to break into this fascinating field.
From education requirements to finding the right internships, we’ll cover everything you need to launch your space career.
Introduction to the Space Industry
The space industry encompasses all commercial, civil, and military activities related to outer space. This includes building rockets and satellites, providing launch services, developing space-based technologies, and space exploration. It’s an incredibly diverse and fast-growing field, with opportunities in areas like aerospace engineering, astronomy, robotics, communications, Earth observation, and more.
Education Requirements for the Space Industry
To work in the space industry, you’ll need a strong educational background in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). Useful degrees include aerospace engineering, astrophysics, computer science, electrical engineering, physics, and mathematics. While a bachelor’s degree is sufficient for some roles, many positions require a master’s degree or PhD. Studying a space-related field like astronautics or aerospace engineering can give you an advantage. Beyond formal education, you’ll need to develop skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, and communication.
Important Skills for Space Industry Jobs
Beyond having a strong educational background, there are several key skills that are highly valued in the space industry:
Critical Thinking – The ability to analyze complex problems and develop solutions. Useful when troubleshooting issues.
Teamwork – Collaboration is essential for most large-scale space projects and missions.
Communication – Clearly conveying complex technical concepts to diverse audiences.
Project Management – Coordinating resources, budgets, and timelines for space missions and projects.
Programming – Writing code for spacecraft systems, satellites, rockets, rovers, and more.
Attention to Detail – Spacecraft and components require extreme precision. Strong attention to detail is a must.
Creativity – Devising innovative solutions to novel problems is often needed in space work.
Developing expertise in specific areas like orbital mechanics, propulsion systems, robotics, remote sensing, and data analysis can also help you stand out when pursuing a space career.
Major Employers in the Space Sector
The space industry consists of many types of organizations that advance space technology and exploration. Here are some of the major employers to consider:
Government space agencies like NASA, ESA, JAXA, CSA, ISRO, and others manage major space programs and projects. They hire engineers, scientists, technicians, and more.
Aerospace contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada, Maxar, and many others work on spacecraft, rockets, satellites, and space systems.
Commercial space companies like Planet, Spire Global, Rocket Lab, and more build private space capabilities and offer space services.
Universities and research institutes like MIT, Caltech, JPL, Southwest Research Institute, and more advanced space science and technologies.
Telecommunications companies like Intelsat, SES, and Eutelsat operate satellite networks and ground systems.
Space tourism ventures like Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin aim to fly private citizens to space.
Government space and intelligence agencies like NRO, AFSPC, and NOAA use space tech for Earth observation, communication, and more.
Space Industry Career Paths and Roles
When considering how to get into the space industry, it helps to understand the variety of career paths and roles available. Here are some of the main options:
Engineering – Design, develop, and test spacecraft, rockets, satellites, and space systems. Roles like aerospace engineer, avionics engineer, and propulsion engineer.
Science – Conduct research to advance space science and technologies. Roles like astronomer, planetary scientist, and astrophysicist.
Operations – Manage the operation of space missions, spacecraft, launches, and ground systems. Roles like flight director, payload operator, and mission controller.
Business – Handle the business aspects of the space sector for companies and agencies. Roles in program management, strategy, marketing, and sales.
Technician – Build, integrate, and maintain space hardware and facilities. Roles like spacecraft technician, and space systems technician.
IT – Develop software and computer systems to support space missions and data. Roles like software developer, data analyst, and IT specialist.
Policy/Law – Develop space policies and regulations for governments and organizations. Roles like policy advisor, and space law attorney.
There are many ways to launch a career in the space sector. Focusing your education and experience toward one of these key paths is an important step to take. The space industry needs talented professionals with diverse backgrounds to continue advancing space exploration and utilization.
Getting Internships and Relevant Experience
Gaining hands-on experience is invaluable for breaking into the space industry. Here are some tips:
Seek out internships at companies or organizations in the space sector. Opportunities may be available with aerospace firms, space agencies, observatories, planetariums, museums, and more.
Look for co-ops and apprenticeships to alternate working in the space field while going to school. These programs provide longer-term, structured on-the-job training.
Attend space camps, workshops, or training programs offered by organizations like NASA, ESA, SpaceX, or Blue Origin. These intensive programs provide focused skills development.
Build rockets, satellites, rovers, or other space systems through student projects or competitions like NASA Student Launch or CanSat. Hands-on engineering experience stands out.
Get involved with a university rocketry or astronomy club. Great for meeting mentors and gaining project experience.
Attend industry conferences and events to build your professional network. Talk to companies about opportunities.
Consider taking on undergraduate research projects or pursuing a higher degree in a space-related field.
Immersive experiential learning allows you to apply academic knowledge and demonstrate skills. This will give you an advantage when it comes time to apply for full-time roles.
Building Your Professional Network
Having a strong network in the space community will help open doors to job opportunities. Here’s how to start connecting:
Attend space conferences and industry events. Introduce yourself to companies and exchange contact info. Follow up to keep in touch.
Join professional associations like the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics or the Space Generation Advisory Council. Attend local chapter meetings.
Connect with alumni from your school who work in the space sector. They can provide career advice and potential referrals.
Get to know professors conducting space research. They likely have industry connections and can recommend you if opportunities arise.
Reach out to space companies you’re interested in and ask if employees would be willing to do informational interviews. Pick their brains.
Find a mentor, ideally someone established in the field who can give guidance. Offer to take them for coffee to talk space.
Use LinkedIn to connect with space professionals. Join relevant LinkedIn Groups to stay on top of discussions.
Follow space companies and thought leaders on Twitter. Engage by commenting, sharing, and liking.
Volunteer at a space museum, planetarium, or astronomy club. Meet fellow space enthusiasts who share career advice.
Attend space meetups and events like Yuri’s Night parties. Chat with fellow space geeks there.
Making authentic connections will help you gain visibility and learn about opportunities as you embark on your space career.
Writing a Strong Resume for Space Jobs
Crafting a resume tailored for roles in the space industry will make your application stand out. Here are tips:
Highlight relevant coursework like aerospace engineering, astrophysics, or astronomy. List relevant skills like MATLAB, Python, and C++.
Include class projects showing hands-on experience such as designing a rocket or rover. Describe your specific contributions.
List any internships, co-ops, or prior aerospace jobs. Tailor bullet points to each position’s space-related responsibilities.
Note relevant extracurricular activities like rocketry club, CubeSat projects, or aerospace competitions.
Mention any special certifications like a pilot’s license that would appeal to space employers.
Use keywords from each job posting in your resume to get past applicant tracking systems.
Cater your resume profile/objective statement to the specific company and role.
Add a skills section prominently highlighting applicable expertise like spacecraft design.
Make sure your resume is error-free and easy to quickly scan. Use clean formatting to emphasize key points.
Ask professors, career counselors, and space professionals to review your resume drafts.
Update your resume for each application to match the job description.
With a tailored, targeted resume conveying your space qualifications, you’ll get noticed by hiring managers in the industry.
Acing the Interview for Space Industry Roles
Interviewing for competitive positions in aerospace or the space industry can feel daunting. Here are tips to help you shine and stand out:
Research the company, role, and your interviewers’ backgrounds beforehand. Know their current projects and mission statement.
Prepare stories highlighting your problem-solving abilities, technical skills, and hands-on experience from past internships, research, or class projects.
Brush up on space terminology, emerging technologies, recent discoveries, and current events in the field.
Practice answering common behavioral questions like “Tell me about a time you overcame an obstacle.”
Prepare intelligent, researched questions to ask at the end about their new initiatives or innovations.
Convey passion for space exploration and interest in their work. Enthusiasm can distinguish you.
Ask for details about day-to-day responsibilities, training programs, and potential for advancement.
Send prompt thank-you notes reiterating your qualifications and fit for the role.
Follow up if you don’t hear back. Reiterate your interest in the position.
With preparation and practice, you can confidently interview for your dream job contributing to the future of space discovery and travel.
Tips for Succeeding in the Space Sector
Entering the space industry can feel like rocketing into the unknown. Here are tips to launch your career:
Immerse yourself in the field. Follow space news, learn the history, and understand the science.
Get hands-on experience. Look for internships at aerospace companies and research opportunities at space centers.
Develop technical expertise. Pursue studies in STEM fields like engineering, physics, or computer science.
Build a professional network. Attend space conferences and events to meet people already in the industry.
Join space-related clubs or professional associations as a student.
Highlight your problem-solving abilities and attention to detail. Space missions require flawless execution.
Demonstrate your teamwork and communication skills. Collaboration is key in multi-disciplinary space projects.
Keep an open mind. The commercial space sector is rapidly innovating. Flexibility is an asset.
Stay current on technologies like robotics, remote sensing, propulsion systems, and data analytics.
Read industry journals and follow key thought leaders on social media.
Get experience with data analysis tools like Python, R, MATLAB, or C++.
Develop grit and perseverance. Pioneering the space frontier can be demanding but rewarding work.
With the right mindset and skills, you can thrive in the dynamic space sector. Reach for the stars!
How Hard Is It to Get Into the Space Industry?
Getting into the space industry can be competitive, but it is certainly achievable with the right education, experience, and determination. The key is gaining relevant skills and networking in the field. It helps to be passionate about space and stay up-to-date on industry trends. With persistence and preparation, you can land a job in this exciting industry.
What Qualifications Do You Need to Work in the Space Industry?
Most positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field like engineering, physics, computer science, or mathematics. Hands-on experience through internships is also extremely valuable. Some roles may require an advanced degree like a master’s or PhD. Specific qualifications vary by job function.
Does the Space Industry Pay Well?
Yes, the space industry offers competitive salaries, especially for skilled technical roles. Entry-level positions start around $60,000 per year, while senior engineering and leadership roles can pay $100,000 or more. Salaries are often higher at private space companies compared to government agencies.
What Should I Study if I Love Space?
Recommended majors include aerospace engineering, astronomy, physics, electrical engineering, and computer science. Taking math and science courses in high school is great preparation. Hands-on projects, coding skills, and business knowledge are also useful. Focus on gaining technical expertise while pursuing your passion.
Getting a job in the space industry is an exciting possibility for those passionate about space. While competitive, there are opportunities for qualified candidates with the right education, experience and determination. Gaining relevant technical skills through an engineering, math or science degree is key. Pursuing internships in the space industry can provide critical experience. With hard work and perseverance, you can launch a rewarding career contributing to space exploration and technology. Focus on networking and developing expertise to improve your chances of entering this dynamic industry.