Author Topic: Career Change to Aerosapce Technician  (Read 4266 times)

Offline 5600k

  • Member
  • Posts: 51
  • New York, NY
  • Liked: 13
  • Likes Given: 31
Career Change to Aerosapce Technician
« on: 02/23/2017 04:48 PM »
Hi Everyone!

Looking for some advice on how to pursue my goals, I am reasonably certain that I want to begin a career change into the aerospace field.  Ultimately working for SpaceX / NASA / Other Contractors as a technician and ideally working directly with the vehicles and spacecraft.  I am less interested in the design aspect, I don't want to be in front of a computer all day.

Education: BFA in Technical Theatre, which doesn't look great on a resume but I have excellent skills working with state of the art electronics.  Everything from 12v DC to wiring up  208v three phase power.

I'm considering getting a second Bachelors, perhaps in Computer Science as that is reasonable to do online, while working.  However I don't know if CS will really transfer into technician skills, BUT it does show a more advanced technical degree.

I have NO aerospace experience, will this make landing an entry level job in the industry difficult?  Should I just give it shot now and apply to some jobs or does it make more sense to spend a couple years pursuing a second degree?

Thanks in advance!

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30380
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 8689
  • Likes Given: 283
Re: Career Change to Aerosapce Technician
« Reply #1 on: 02/23/2017 05:09 PM »
Technicians go to trades schools and certificates.  Engineers go to college and get degrees.

Offline tdperk

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 104
  • Liked: 21
  • Likes Given: 6
Re: Career Change to Aerosapce Technician
« Reply #2 on: 02/26/2017 03:29 PM »
Technicians go to trades schools and certificates.  Engineers go to college and get degrees.

Some technicians go to college and get degrees.

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30380
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 8689
  • Likes Given: 283
Re: Career Change to Aerosapce Technician
« Reply #3 on: 02/26/2017 04:02 PM »
Technicians go to trades schools and certificates.  Engineers go to college and get degrees.

Some technicians go to college and get degrees.

They aren't bachelor degrees.
« Last Edit: 02/26/2017 04:03 PM by Jim »

Offline tdperk

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 104
  • Liked: 21
  • Likes Given: 6
Re: Career Change to Aerosapce Technician
« Reply #4 on: 03/16/2017 12:43 AM »
Technicians go to trades schools and certificates.  Engineers go to college and get degrees.

Some technicians go to college and get degrees.

They aren't bachelor degrees.

B.S., Jim.

Specifically, B.S.E.E.T.
« Last Edit: 03/16/2017 12:45 AM by tdperk »

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30380
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 8689
  • Likes Given: 283
Re: Career Change to Aerosapce Technician
« Reply #5 on: 03/16/2017 01:54 AM »
Technicians go to trades schools and certificates.  Engineers go to college and get degrees.

Some technicians go to college and get degrees.

They aren't bachelor degrees.

B.S., Jim.

Specifically, B.S.E.E.T.

Not a real engineering degree and not a tech certificate.  It is in no man's land.  Much like a BS of Engineering Technology which isn't recognized either as an engineer or tech.   Have had many friends that found out too late.  Can't be a tech or engineer without further schooling.  They could do tweener jobs like planner or scheduler.

Online MATTBLAK

  • Elite Veteran & 'J.A.F.A'
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3496
  • 'Space Cadets' Let us; UNITE!! (crickets chirping)
  • New Zealand
  • Liked: 589
  • Likes Given: 981
Re: Career Change to Aerosapce Technician
« Reply #6 on: 03/16/2017 02:24 AM »
I have a friend who has a PhD in laser physics. What does she do for a job? She's an I.T. manager... :(
"Those who can't, Blog".   'Space Cadets' of the World - Let us UNITE!! (crickets chirping)

Offline D_Dom

  • Global Moderator
  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 448
  • Liked: 140
  • Likes Given: 104
Re: Career Change to Aerosapce Technician
« Reply #7 on: 03/16/2017 02:43 AM »
Lots of truth in what you say Jim, as always.
 Used to be  the job descriptions I was interested in contained language describing requirements as a combination of education and experience. Somewhat interchangeably. My background combined with studying BSEET qualified me for a technician job before I ever finished the degree.
 I decided on that course of study based on an interview question, I asked the hiring manager what would be the best preparation for a job in his department. His comment was non-specific with respect to naming a university but described the hands-on learning environment of the BSEET program perfectly.
  I have held both engineering and technician jobs and work hard to find a good match. Turns out I probably need more schooling for both. Happy to have chosen "and" option, never did like having to choose.
YMMV
« Last Edit: 03/16/2017 02:45 AM by D_Dom »
Space is not merely a matter of life or death, it is considerably more important than that!

Offline 5600k

  • Member
  • Posts: 51
  • New York, NY
  • Liked: 13
  • Likes Given: 31
Re: Career Change to Aerosapce Technician
« Reply #8 on: 03/23/2017 03:45 PM »
Thanks for the replies everyone.

Good info about the BSEET and BSET degrees, I was considering those but they do seem to have limited options. 

What is the best schooling for a purely technical position? I have found some stuff at Embry-Riddle, are any of these the right direction?

Aviation Maintenance Technology Part 65
Assoc. Aeronautics
Assoc. Aviation Maintenance

I also found Avionics and Aviation Electrics at Spartan College.

A reasonable path seems to be getting an A&P license and working on aircraft for a few years to build up skills. 

Unfortunately my original degree was very technical, but it is a BFA and will not be seen that way by recruiters.  I would rather not sit through classes on topics I already know just to get a piece of paper.... I realize that may be the only option however

Offline J.Salter

  • Member
  • Posts: 2
  • Liked: 3
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: Career Change to Aerosapce Technician
« Reply #9 on: 03/23/2017 10:24 PM »
I'll chime in because I basically did what you want to do.  BA in Film, but always had a passion for aerospace.  First, what I did:
I had been taking flying lessons but also craved to know more, so I enrolled in A&P school, then worked as an aircraft mechanic for a short while.  Saw technician opening for a comm sat manufacturer, applied and was hired into assembly and test.  Most of my co-workers were also A&Ps, which they liked due to the wide variety of skills we possessed.  Of course, it was all OJT from that point, but I worked my way up to lead tech aka engineering assistant, in charge of my own satellite and a couple of technicians.  Amazing time, our group traveled for testing and went to launch bases for the Proton, Ariane 5, Sea Launch, and now they've have a couple of Falcon 9 launches.  We knew satellites inside and out, from the waveguide screws to the solar array motor installation procedures.  Our group put the satellite on the rocket, and were the last ones to see it, ever.  Thousands had a hand in designing and building it, yet our merry team of 10 or so put her on the rocket and send it on its way. 

Ok so to respond to your question:
For a technician job, you don't need a 4 year degree.  You will only need a trade, like A&P for mechanical tech position, and an electronics/electrical certification for electrical/RF tech position.  You have to decide if you want to do mechanical or electrical.  As far as satellites go, they are heavy RF/electrical, so that would probably be the way to go, although I loved mechanical.  There can be some crossover when you are on the inside, but you have to have skills in both.

Be sure the program you go to will get you ready to take the A&P or avionics test.  For avionics there is a new certification called AET(http://www.aircraftmechanic.org/showthread.php?1983-NCATT-AET-certification).  TRY LOCAL JUNIOR COLLEGES FIRST BEFORE CONSIDERING EMBRY RIDDLE OR OTHER FOR PROFIT TRADE SCHOOLS.  JCs are cheap and you get the same licensing.  I knew people that had 40k in debt from A&P school which is insane for a 2 year trade program.

If you prefer electrical/electronics, just do a regular electronics program instead of an avionics specific program, because you will build circuits and devices from scratch with breadboards and the individual components.  Also, go all the way to RF/antenna advanced courses which should be the progression at good junior/community college programs anyway. 

Just be aware, this is an engineer heavy industry, and there is a glass ceiling for non-engineers.  However, techs are hourly and get OT, while engineers are on a fixed salary.  Even if they work a lot of OT, they don't get the same OT pay as techs, so you can earn more than then in any given year.  You can make a career out of it though and move into management.  Your degree does count a little, in the sense that most techs are not college educated so if you are good technically, you'd be a management candidate.
 
Also, engineers are not hands-on, at least where I was.  So they could only stand around and bark orders.  The thing is, the techs are so in tune with the spacecraft, that the engineers needed us just as much as we needed them.  They would come down from their office when we had a problem, and we'd "suggest" a fix.  The arrogant ones always got upset, but the cool ones got it, and respected what we did.  For the most part, the engineers looked down upon a mere technician, and at times for good reason.  There are some idiot techs out there that shouldn't be in the biz.  Don't be that guy! 

Finally, you can always try applying right now.  There were some techs that somehow got in without A&Ps or trade certs.  I'm on the business end of things now, dealing with aircraft, spacecraft, launch vehicles, UAS, all of that, but my technician positions got me here.  I am not an engineer, just a guy with passion for aerospace and the willingness to do whatever it took.  Hours at the bottom of a vacuum chamber wiring test equipment, riding with the spacecraft on the train in Kazakhstan in the middle of the night, hanging upside down to install coax cable under waveguide.  I loved it!

So good luck to you, and let me know if you have any more questions. 


Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30380
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 8689
  • Likes Given: 283
Re: Career Change to Aerosapce Technician
« Reply #10 on: 03/24/2017 01:05 PM »

Also, engineers are not hands-on, at least where I was. ! 


Depends on the company

Offline 5600k

  • Member
  • Posts: 51
  • New York, NY
  • Liked: 13
  • Likes Given: 31
Re: Career Change to Aerosapce Technician
« Reply #11 on: 04/06/2017 09:20 PM »
Thanks for the great info J.Salter! It's good to know that is at least feasible to do. 

I definitely don't want to walk away $40k in debt, for a two year degree. 

I found an A&P Program in upstate New York that should cost roughly $7K for tuition.  This would also be done in a single year, which is tempting.

I'm also considering getting an Electronics Engineering Tech AAS degree as that would be much more flexible.  I could get away with that degree for about $13k from City Tech in NY.  Of course this would take 2 years, but would probably be a much more valuable degree.  I currently work in NYC so I wouldn't even have to move! I might even be able to keep working at the same company, that would be a bonus.

Thanks everyone, really excellent advice all around. 


Offline Alpha Control

  • Veteran
  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1160
  • Washington, DC
  • Liked: 105
  • Likes Given: 64
Re: Career Change to Aerosapce Technician
« Reply #12 on: 05/16/2017 04:47 PM »
I'll chime in because I basically did what you want to do.  BA in Film, but always had a passion for aerospace.  First, what I did:
I had been taking flying lessons but also craved to know more, so I enrolled in A&P school   [snip]

My nephew may want to go a similar route. He has a BS in Physics but is not sure how to get into aerospace.  Could I ask what is an "A&P" school, and what do they teach? I'm not familiar with the term. Thanks!
Space launches attended:
Antares/Cygnus ORB-D1 Wallops Island, VA Sept 2013 | STS-123 KSC, FL March 2008 | SpaceShipOne Mojave, CA June 2004

Offline J.Salter

  • Member
  • Posts: 2
  • Liked: 3
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: Career Change to Aerosapce Technician
« Reply #13 on: 05/22/2017 05:45 PM »
I'll chime in because I basically did what you want to do.  BA in Film, but always had a passion for aerospace.  First, what I did:
I had been taking flying lessons but also craved to know more, so I enrolled in A&P school   [snip]

My nephew may want to go a similar route. He has a BS in Physics but is not sure how to get into aerospace.  Could I ask what is an "A&P" school, and what do they teach? I'm not familiar with the term. Thanks!

Sorry for the delayed response, but A&P is "Airframe and Powerplant technician, which are the FAA certified designations to legally maintain and repair FAA certified aircraft.  Colloquial term is "aircraft mechanic".  There are 2 parts that can be taken- Powerplant, which is everything engines(pistons, turbines, accessories), and airframe is the aircraft itself(everything other than engines).  It is possible to obtain either the A or P a la carte, although in reality having both is the way to go.  Since your nephew has a BS in Physics, I would recommend he get masters in engineering(aerspace, mechanical, electrical).  More doors will open up for him than just being a technician.  HOWEVER, there were engineers in my A&P class, because the simply loved the hands-on aspect.  So getting his A&P certainly would not hurt, and he would still have the option of getting a masters in engineering if he wants to. 

Offline RedAres4

Re: Career Change to Aerosapce Technician
« Reply #14 on: 05/22/2017 10:33 PM »
Thanks for the info J.Salter!

I have a question for those in the know:

Would specializing in electronics or mechanical be a good idea? My vague plan was an ASEET degree then my A&P. I don't really know what I'd like to specialize in yet, but both these programs have evening classes and I work full time with a baby on the way.

Honestly, I really don't know what field I'd like best. I build and fly racing quad-copters in my spare time and those are primarily electrical and electronic systems and I enjoy the pants off it. I also really enjoy doing my own maintenance on my car and my favorite part of the discovery flight I took was popping the cowling and jumping the battery. Also the bird strike, that was a hoot!  :o

Would generalizing my education give me an advantage in career opportunities? Or would I not specialize enough and shoot myself in the foot?

Thanks!

Offline Coastal Ron

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2972
  • I live... along the coast
  • Liked: 1872
  • Likes Given: 2095
Re: Career Change to Aerosapce Technician
« Reply #15 on: 05/22/2017 10:57 PM »
Hi Everyone!

Looking for some advice on how to pursue my goals...

Most importantly, use spellcheck.  You have a typo in your subject line (i.e. "Aerosapce"), and I'm surprised no one else pointed it out, but being someone that has reviewed a lot of resumes I can tell you that misspelled words show a lack of attention to detail.

NOTE:  My comments below are based on my background in manufacturing, which is just a subset of possible employment opportunities out there. For instance, there are many of additional categories of engineering type jobs in the service sector, which could include working at aerospace companies:

Quote
I am reasonably certain that I want to begin a career change into the aerospace field.  Ultimately working for SpaceX / NASA / Other Contractors as a technician and ideally working directly with the vehicles and spacecraft.  I am less interested in the design aspect, I don't want to be in front of a computer all day.

If you're not doing design work, then that means you would either be involved with manufacturing (i.e. like a manufacturing engineer or other positions) or test - which could be in either engineering or manufacturing.

Quote
Education: BFA in Technical Theatre, which doesn't look great on a resume but I have excellent skills working with state of the art electronics.  Everything from 12v DC to wiring up  208v three phase power.

I think both would be applicable for manufacturing or testing as a technician, and then once you have some experience inside of a company then you can look into what you want to aspire to next. The company may even pay for part or all of your education.

Quote
I'm considering getting a second Bachelors, perhaps in Computer Science as that is reasonable to do online, while working.  However I don't know if CS will really transfer into technician skills, BUT it does show a more advanced technical degree.

Again, being a technician and having programming skills could be beneficial in manufacturing and testing.  But you should find out what kind of programming is relevant for that.

Quote
I have NO aerospace experience, will this make landing an entry level job in the industry difficult?  Should I just give it shot now and apply to some jobs or does it make more sense to spend a couple years pursuing a second degree?

Start applying now to every position that seems potentially interesting. Let the marketplace decide whether you have the right skills.

However, if you're not getting enough nibbles, then you should consider what additional education (trade or college) is the minimum you need to get into a company that does what you want to be apart of.

My $0.02
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Tags: