Author Topic: Career Path to NASA  (Read 898 times)

Offline mikewoz

  • Member
  • Posts: 2
  • Illinois
  • Liked: 0
  • Likes Given: 6
Career Path to NASA
« on: 01/10/2019 12:55 am »
Hi there,

Thanks in advance to everyone reading this post. I have a deep passion for NASA and would consider a career with NASA to be my greatest possible success. I'm working on an engineering associates at a community college and I'm deciding between finishing a bachelors in mechanical engineering or aeronautical & astronautical engineering (Purdue). I'm also a private pilot (single engine airplanes) working on my instrument rating, and I serve part time in the Army NG in an aviation unit.

Going forward, how can I tailor my career choices to best put me on track for a job with NASA? Experience and further education? Internships or co-op? Any input is greatly appreciated. Thank you and best wishes

Offline Fequalsma

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 404
  • Liked: 22
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: Career Path to NASA
« Reply #1 on: 01/10/2019 01:26 am »
I did a BS in engineering from Purdue, and was also a co-op at NASA.  You should look in to the NASA Internship and Fellowship (NIFS) program to get your foot in the door at NASA.  Or you could intern or co-op in industry to get similar practical experience.  Good luck!
F=ma

Offline mikewoz

  • Member
  • Posts: 2
  • Illinois
  • Liked: 0
  • Likes Given: 6
Re: Career Path to NASA
« Reply #2 on: 01/10/2019 01:43 am »
I will definitely keep an eye out for those opportunities. Thank you very much for your input!

Offline Markstark

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 163
  • Liked: 140
  • Likes Given: 39
Career Path to NASA
« Reply #3 on: 01/10/2019 01:50 am »
I think you can go either way wrt mechanical vs aerospace engineering degree. I went with the latter and then went back for a masters in mechanical. The best way in is the pathways program but those donít come out too often. A pathways internship is what use to be known as a NASA co-op where students rotate between a semester in school and a semester at a nasa center until you finish your degree. While I think itís the best way, itís definitely not the only way. An alternate approach is participating in other non-pathways summer internship programs. These are almost always for just one semester but it helps you make connections and potentially make a good impression. Also, look a internship opportunities with contractors supporting NASA projects. For example, internships with Jacobs, Lockheed Martin, Boeing or smaller companies at KSC. Most have their own internship programs separate from the NASA intern programs. Alternatively, get any internship experience while keeping an eye out for opportunities at your desired center. If you end up finishing your undergrad prior to landing a gig at NASA, consider applying for contractor companies supporting at NASA centers. Doesnít have to be big aerospace giants like Boeing or LM. It could be with smaller companies that work alongside the civil servants. The vast majority of the civil servants that I know started as a pathways intern or as a contractor supporting a project on center.

Non-Pathways: https://intern.nasa.gov/index.html
Pathways: https://nasajobs.nasa.gov/studentopps/employment/opportunities.htm
« Last Edit: 01/10/2019 01:56 am by Markstark »

Online Eric Hedman

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1065
  • Liked: 386
  • Likes Given: 301
Re: Career Path to NASA
« Reply #4 on: 01/10/2019 06:11 am »
You aren't the first to ask this here.  What I always think is a good idea is to figure out what you want to do at NASA.  NASA hires all types of people for quite a variety careers.  Is there  anything in specific you want to end up doing at NASA?  That helps to know before recommending how you get there.  And I wish you luck in finding the career you want.

Offline erioladastra

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1289
  • Liked: 87
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: Career Path to NASA
« Reply #5 on: 01/10/2019 05:29 pm »
You aren't the first to ask this here.  What I always think is a good idea is to figure out what you want to do at NASA.  NASA hires all types of people for quite a variety careers.  Is there  anything in specific you want to end up doing at NASA?  That helps to know before recommending how you get there.  And I wish you luck in finding the career you want.

Agree.  Consider the exciting world of mission operations in Houston.  We look for smart people - then train them to operate a spacecraft.  You are on the right track for that and don't need to tailor anything.  Just do well at what you are doing.  Internship is a great way to come here and learn opportunities and get foot in the door.  But NASA is a BIG and VARIED place - you need to figure out what you want to do: spacecraft, planes, research, engineering.  But in the end, of all the places at NASA, mission control is THE best place to work :) :)

Offline SWGlassPit

  • I break space hardware
  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 567
  • Liked: 418
  • Likes Given: 63
Re: Career Path to NASA
« Reply #6 on: 01/10/2019 06:50 pm »
Also, look a internship opportunities with contractors supporting NASA projects. For example, internships with Jacobs, Lockheed Martin, Boeing or smaller companies at KSC. Most have their own internship programs separate from the NASA intern programs. Alternatively, get any internship experience while keeping an eye out for opportunities at your desired center. If you end up finishing your undergrad prior to landing a gig at NASA, consider applying for contractor companies supporting at NASA centers. Doesnít have to be big aerospace giants like Boeing or LM. It could be with smaller companies that work alongside the civil servants. The vast majority of the civil servants that I know started as a pathways intern or as a contractor supporting a project on center.


I want to highlight this.  A majority of folks working at any given NASA center are contractors.  The path to civil service employment at NASA is pretty narrow these days -- either a co-op conversion or a targeted hire is about all there is.  If you're just starting out, look at all the contractors, and look at their subcontractors too.

Offline Fequalsma

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 404
  • Liked: 22
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: Career Path to NASA
« Reply #7 on: 01/11/2019 12:35 am »
As far as AAE vs ME, most if not all AAE programs were spun out of mech-e ones. So the classes will generally be similar, and both include controls, fluids, solids, thermo/propulsion, and design. On the design continuum, AAE emphasizes conceptual/preliminary design, vs preliminary/detail design for ME. Think aircraft/spacecraft design as a converged system, vs machine design or sizing gears in a powertrain.

Collectively, the NASA centers work on all aspects (theory, analysis, test) of controls, etc., as well as mission and vehicle design (conceptual/preliminary/detail) and ops. The challenge for you is to decide which sub/aspect you want to pursue for a career. But keep in mind that what you may want at age 20 is not necessarily what you may want at age 30, 40, or 50. One nice feature of NASA CS is that inter/intra center transfers are very doable.

F=ma

Offline Fequalsma

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 404
  • Liked: 22
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: Career Path to NASA
« Reply #8 on: 01/20/2019 12:52 am »
Also learn to write, speak and present well. Toastmasters, public outreach for Rotary, AIAA, etc. are good opportunities. Be clear, concise and correct - not necessarily in that order.
F=ma

Tags: