How to Get
a Job at NASA
Hiring Process and Tips
One of the first words that flashes across most people’s minds when they see an astronaut or think of outer space is NASA. Over the past five decades, NASA, which is short for National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has played a leading role in space exploration and the advancement of science and technology in the aerospace industry.
NASA is a government-based civilian agency of the United States that manages the country’s space program. If you’re looking into how to get a job at NASA, this piece will give you all the resources you need.
Why Work for NASA?
If you are an enthusiast of space and aeronautics, working at NASA is a dream job. Tech and engineering professionals can get a wealth of hands-on experience working in various STEM fields on their way to achieving career advancement.
As a job at NASA positions you well for the future, you won’t have to break your back advancing in your career field. You will get to enjoy work flexibility and work variety as you work on various types of projects in rotation with other employees. NASA gives you ample time to explore several different career opportunities and life options.
As a world-class space program, NASA also pays its most skilled employees better than the market rate. For example, Glassdoor estimates that the average NASA engineer makes $105,240 per year, which is nearly $20,000 higher than the national average for engineers. Overall, the average annual salary for NASA employees is $93,702, according to PayScale.
Top Perks of Working for NASA
As a NASA employee, you will receive several benefits and perks in addition to your high salary. Below are a few of the fantastic benefits you will be entitled to.
Compensation and Recognition
First and foremost, NASA’s salary package stands out, even when compared to what other big American companies are offering. In addition to traditional monetary compensation, NASA rewards excellent performance and outstanding achievements with non-monetary recognition, awards, and access to scholarship programs.
In addition to compensation and recognition, NASA employees enjoy health, life, and dental insurance, as well as other insurance programs and flexible spending plans. Through the NASA Employees Benefit Association (NEBA), for example, employees have access to low-cost, high-quality life insurance, which allows them to protect what matters to them most.
Pursuing a career path at NASA comes with all kinds of opportunities for career growth. Employees have plenty of learning opportunities, from extensive on-site training to career counseling to various educational programs. NASA also supports current employees by considering them for job openings before looking outside the agency for new hires.
NASA understands the importance of family and is committed to making it easy for employees to work and raise a family at the same time. To this end, most office locations also provide childcare facilities for staff and their families.
NASA also has a generous annual leave policy, which becomes more generous the longer you work there. Employees with less than three years at NASA are entitled to 13 days off per year, those with three to 14 years get 20 days, and those with 15 years or more get 26 days.
NASA offers employees the flexible option of working on a rotational basis instead of having to keep the same schedule week after week. Full-time employees also accrue four hours of sick leave every two weeks, and all employees get 10 paid federal holidays each year. This provides time for recreational activities, which in turn boosts performance.
NASA: Agency Profile
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent federal agency of the United States, which oversees space exploration and the study of the planets. NASA was established in 1958 after absorbing the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), an agency that had been experimenting with rocket-powered aircraft.
NASA is now recognized globally for its contributions to the advancement of space-related technology. It has a track record of groundbreaking programs, such as Project Gemini and Project Apollo, which culminated in men walking on the moon for the first time in human history.
NASA’s Work Culture
The cultural values that have enabled NASA to break so many barriers are safety, integrity, teamwork, and excellence. Above all, NASA is led by an unwavering passion for exploration and curiosity. Fuelled by the drive for innovation, the organization routinely redefines aeronautics research, science, and space exploration.
This culture has enabled NASA to stand tall as a world-class institution over the past 60 years, launching historic initiatives while adapting to new challenges and an evolving set of expectations regarding what a space program should be.
NASA’s Top Achievements
Since its inception, NASA has successfully launched 200 crewed space flights. Its greatest achievement was Apollo 11, which landed Neil Amstrong on the moon in 1969. The triumph famously came after President John F. Kennedy predicted that the mission would be NASA’s greatest achievement.
In 1972, NASA launched Pioneer 10 and 11, its first mission to the outer planets of the solar system. These spacecraft were the first to fly beyond Mars, eventually crossing the orbit of Neptune. The original mission had a 21-month plan but lasted more than 30 years, and laid the groundwork for future visits to the outer planets.
In 1998, NASA and its international partners began the construction of the International Space Station (ISS). Since its completion in 2011, ISS astronauts have carried out historic research, making it easier for future space missions to follow in their footsteps and explore other planets.
What Is Life as a NASA Employee Like?
According to employee reviews of NASA on Indeed, both former and current employees highly rate the organizational culture and the work ethic of their colleagues. These workers have praised NASA for recognizing everyone’s opinions and contributions, and for giving everyone a friendly learning environment and experienced managers to work with.
Most employees are satisfied with their salaries and their work-life balance. While some point to a certain amount of on-the-job stress, others point out that NASA’s flexible work schedules keep stress to a minimum. While working at NASA might be a bit boring for a few, this can be attributed to the nature of government work. But if you’re aiming for career growth, NASA leads the pack.
Is It Hard to Get a Job at NASA?
Getting a job at NASA is challenging but not impossible. Due to NASA’s reputation for excellence, it receives tons of applications for most openings. Only the best of the best are offered jobs, so the hiring process is quite rigorous. That being said, you can get one of these highly competitive roles if you have the right skillset.
NASA selects applicants with exceptional skills, career passion, work readiness, and practical experience. To give you an idea of the high standards, NASA once received 18,300 applications and only advanced 12 to the next stage. Many NASA jobs now require applicants to have a master’s degree in a science, technology, math, or engineering field.
What Do I Need to Study to Work at NASA?
There is a wide range of careers at NASA, each with its own education requirements. Besides aeronautics, science, math, and engineering jobs, it has openings for human resource personnel, accountants, physicians, and educators. Most roles require a college degree and a high GPA in whatever field of study you majored in.
For an entry-level technical role at NASA, the minimum requirement is a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in astrophysics, astronomy, physics, space science, geology, engineering, or mathematics. To be eligible for a senior role, you are expected to have an advanced degree.
Can a Coding Bootcamp Help Me Get a Job at NASA?
Yes. Learning to code at a coding bootcamp can increase your chances of landing a job at NASA. This is because tons of jobs at NASA require coding skills. These include roles for data scientists, computer programmers, and systems engineers.
Top Tips to Ace Your Job Application for NASA
The key to landing a job at NASA is to present yourself as everything the agency seeks in a prospective employee. We’ve come up with a few application tips that will improve your chances of success in the interview process.
Do Practice Tests and Interviews
You should set aside ample time to practice questions that might come up during the interview. As previously mentioned, landing a job at NASA is quite competitive, so you need to make sure your answers are memorable.
NASA interviewers look for candidates who are interested in space science and aeronautics and are fully informed about the agency’s dealings. It is critical that you highlight these areas during your interview.
Do Thorough Research
Make sure to do thorough research before starting your application. That way, you will know all the requirements for the role that interests you, be able to fill in any gaps in your resume to avoid being disqualified, and understand what questions to ask your interviewers.
Each job role has its own requirements. Some demand an undergraduate STEM education, while others require candidates to have attended graduate school. This means that the first step in your research is to read the job posting carefully. If anything about the role remains unclear, you should do follow-up research to sharpen your understanding.
Get a STEM-Related Degree
If you’ve never had a career in STEM, you should get a relevant degree. Depending on the job you’re applying for, this could be a Bachelor’s or Master’s in Computer Science, or a Bachelor’s or Master’s in Aerospace Engineering. While you may stand a chance with only a bootcamp education, STEM-related degrees are still the standard education requirement.
Apply for an Internship at NASA or Similar Organizations
We advise that you apply for an internship program at NASA or a similar organization. This will give you a foundational knowledge of NASA’s space program, which is a must-have if you want to be rated well in the screening process.
With this relevant work experience under your belt, you will have an edge over other applicants. You will have more exposure to NASA, more knowledge, and better familiarity with how NASA runs its operation. An internship also means that your hands-on experience in the space industry will be more impressive than what other candidates can claim.
Hone Your Hard and Soft Skills
All positions at NASA require a blend of technical skills and soft skills. Some roles put more emphasis on critical thinking and teamwork skills, while others look more for technical and leadership skills. The set of skills required differs according to the role you’re applying for. One good way to learn a new skill is by taking massive open online courses (MOOCs).
Common Job Titles at NASA
NASA careers cut across various fields. This is due to the agency’s size and the scope of its operations. What a given job entails significantly depends on the specific functions of the department that hires you. Below are some of the most common positions at NASA.
Level: Mid-level or senior
Average salary: $132,992
Experience requirements: 3-5 years in a similar position
Education requirements: Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering
Computer engineers are crucial players in the success of any NASA space mission. In this role, you’ll fix computer glitches, build new programs and systems, and ensure that everything is running efficiently.
Average hourly wage: $37-$47
Experience requirements: No required experience
Education requirements: Associate or Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering Technology
Engineering technicians are responsible for keeping NASA’s rockets in good shape. You may be required to develop new flight plans or build and repair ship components. An engineering technician often works in a space station alongside the astronauts.
Level: Mid-level or senior
Average salary: $117,072
Experience requirements: 3 years working experience in a similar field
Education requirements: Master’s degree in a relevant discipline
A meteorologist stays abreast of the conditions in outer space that affect when NASA intends to embark on a space mission. These include the alignment of the sun and the positioning of the moon, other satellites, and planets.
Senior Systems Engineer
Average salary: $150,367
Experience requirements: 6 years in a directly related field
Education requirements: Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Computer Science
The role of a senior systems engineer is to execute and review complex projects across multiple departments. Their duties include the development of methods, tools, and techniques to meet technical specifications.
Level: Entry-level or mid-level
Average salary: $96,261
Experience requirements: 1 year of related specialized experience
Education requirements: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering or Electrical Engineering
Electronic engineers at NASA interface with other mission personnel and ensure that all the equipment meets the requirements of the ground station. They are also responsible for managing complex enhancements and modifications of the Near Space Network (NSN).
NASA Hiring Process
NASA’s hiring process differs from that of other organizations. While there are multiple ways of applying for job placement in the agency, we have put together the most common method. Below is a step-by-step process of applying for a job at NASA.
Create a USAJOBS account
Since NASA is a government agency, you’ll need to create an account on USAJOBS. You can either log into your existing account or create a new one. If you have a USAJOBS account but can’t locate your login credentials, you are advised to make a new one.
Start the Application Process
After creating your account, you will need to build and upload your cover letter and resume. The resume format that you should use can be found on the USAJOBS website. You can create up to five resumes on the platform and apply to several jobs at once. Before uploading your resume, make sure that all the information matches the job description.
Submit Your Application
Once you complete your resume, locate the submission option and send your materials. Keep in mind that NASA will not accept your application unless your materials clearly demonstrate that you are eligible for the position or positions you’ve applied for.
Take Part in Interviews
If your application gets past the initial screening, your resume and cover letter will be sent to the hiring manager, who will invite you for an interview. This could be an in-person panel interview or a phone interview. During the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual interviews have become more common. NASA is also likely to hold several rounds of interviews.
If you ace the interview, you will be contacted for a job offer and onboarding will begin. Due to the large number of candidates that NASA screens, it may take a while before you get the call. But be patient. It is always worth the wait.
Should I Get a Job at NASA?
Yes, working at NASA is an excellent career move. It is a globally recognized organization with a tremendous track record of leadership and excellence in the aeronautics, technology, and engineering fields. The prestige alone makes NASA a valuable addition to any resume.
NASA is also an attractive place to work because of the exceptional salaries, flexible job schedules, good work-life balance, and opportunities for personal growth. Not everyone is qualified to work there, but if you’ve set your career goals and are determined to get the skills and experience to achieve your ambition, you should definitely seek a job at NASA.