Is there a place for you in the new space race?
Outer space – after decades of being on America’s back burner – is cool as heck again. Big tech players like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos with his Blue Origin project, Elon Musk with SpaceX and Google with its Lunar Xprize contest all have dogs in the race. But the biggest dog of all remains NASA and it’s chem trails of contractors and subcontractors. Today’s space race is like a 21st century gold rush. Only this time the sought-after riches are abundant mineral resources there for the taking on other planets. Space tourism and the possibility of colonization also hold possibilities for big profits.
The competition to stake a claim is fierce and thus, there are jobs to be had. That doesn’t mean you have to suit up like a Storm Trooper and get launched into the stratosphere. There are plenty of tech jobs to be had right here on Earth to support this once again rapidly growing field. The tech gains of the past several decades have put space goals that once were pure science fiction extremely close to reality. And you could be the one to help these efforts reach the finish line.
Who’s Hiring in the Space Sphere – Recent Trends
As of 2016, Boeing, a big maker of aircraft, rockets and satellites for Uncle Sam, has been going through a hiring surge, according to recent Paysa data. But they aren’t the only ones. Other major space technology development companies who went on recent hiring binges are Space Exploration Technologies, Sierra Nevada Corporation (sorry, no relation to the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company) and Blue Origin.
Here’s a look at 2016 job postings in the space technology sphere:
|Space Exploration Technologies||591|
|Sierra Nevada Corp||415|
|Space Systems Loral||58|
Who Gets Hired For Space Tech And Why
Unlike some tech jobs where a software glitch could mean someone not getting their pizza delivered on time, in space technology a software glitch could mean that people die. Plus the hardware rocketry at stake is worth billions. So it’s not surprising that in the space tech sector, nearly as many current job holders have a master’s degree – 46% – as have a bachelor’s degree – 50%. And 4% hold a doctorate.
Although as with most tech, the space industry is male-dominated, the ratio, perhaps because of federal government contract diversity requirements, is better than at most tech companies, as Paysa recently reported. The percentage of female workers in the space industry at 21.6% to male workers at 78.4% is about as good as it gets for tech. To date, 83% of the workers are white, 9.3% are Asian, 5.6% are Hispanic and 2.1% are African American.
Companies often tend to hire people who are already working within the same industry and have a familiarity as well as a track record with what needs to be done. Here although the percentages are relatively small, there is still some inter-industry hiring going on. But there is also some hiring from non-space industry tech.
Bigelow has hired from Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Blue Origin has poached from Boeing, Space Exploration Technologies, and from that other company connected with Jeff Bezos – Amazon. Boeing interestingly has also hired from Amazon, and from IBM and AT & T. Space Exploration Technologies has hired from Blue Origin and Amazon but also from Microsoft and Google.
If your dream is to work for NASA, Paysa data shows you might want to start by working at one of their big contractors – Boeing, Lockheed Martin or IBM. Or by being a member of the U.S. military, especially the Army or the Airforce.
Overall the good news is that average number of years’ experience for new hires is a mere 3.28. So perhaps get a foot in the door at an aerospace industry company and in a few years’ time, maybe the sky’s the limit.
And a degree from an Ivy League school or a high-powered tech institute is not necessarily a pre-rec. It might be better to go to a school geographically near offices of a major space firm with possibilities for life-changing internships and strategic gown-and-town connections. Paysa data shows a significant number of those hired recently for leading space tech companies hail from schools such as the University of Washington in Seattle, near where Jeff Bezos has headquartered Blue Origin, University of Central Florida in Orlando near NASA’s Cape Kennedy, University of Southern California not far from Elon Musk’s SpaceX headquarters and the University of Maryland, College Park, George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University all in or around Washington D.C. and its military industrial complex spread throughout Maryland and Virginia.
Where the Jobs Are
Finding a job that’s the right fit for you within the growing space industry can involve deciding in which part of the U.S. you’d like to live and finding outposts of space tech companies in that region. Or studying up on what types of projects various key players in the space tech community are working on and determining the project mission that most intrigues you even if your job would be focused on just a small part of it.
One of the localities that has been leading in new jobs is Hawthorne, CA outside of Los Angeles where Elon Musk has headquartered his ambitious SpaceX project. If you prefer the Northwest, there is Redmond, WA where SpaceX also has offices. There is also Kent, WA where Musk’s chief space travel competitor Jeff Bezos has located Blue Origin. For a Rocky Mountain high, Sierra Nevada is in Louisville, CO. And if you wanted to try living in the heart of the Midwest, there is St. Louis, MO where Boeing has offices.
What Space Tech Jobs Pay
Many tech jobs in the aerospace industry pay well but do not pay Google or Facebook level money. But to be part of the fortunate few to further transportation, commerce and science by bringing humanity closer to an interplanetary future could be really amazing.
Keep in mind that although some of the pay may not seem competitive, the jobs could be based in geographic regions with low living costs. And working for NASA means a federal government job which comes loaded with great benefits and job security. For more information on any of these companies, check their ranking on Paysa’s CompanyRank.
Here are some recent job title and salary postings for space tech. Although these jobs may have been filled, this gives you an idea of what to expect to earn in these positions.
|Bigelow Aerospace||Electrical Systems Engineer||$104,316|
|Control Systems Engineer||$94,469|
|Blue Origin||Senior Engineer||$158,851|
|Sierra Nevada Corp||Principal Systems Engineer||$112,157|
|Principal Software Engineer||$110,112|
|Senior Systems Engineer||$95,334|
|Senior Software Engineer||$87,211|
|Space Exploration Tech||Lead Engineer||$126,122|
|Space Systems Loral||Space Systems Loral||$132,232|
|Senior Systems Engineer||$104,156|
|Virgin Galactic||Systems Engineer||$98,797|
To get the big picture about today’s space race, be sure to read our companion piece on the New Race to Outer Space