A NASA career is a dream for space fans.

The agency has explored the great unknown for more than fifty years and served as the driving force behind some of astronomy’s greatest accomplishments:

  • The Hubble Space Telescope brought us once unimaginable snapshots from the farthest reaches of space.
  • The Apollo missions landed humans on the moon.
  • The Mars Rover delivers up close and personal photos of the red planet.

If you dream of sitting at a terminal in Mission Control, designing the technology that will be used by the next generation of space explorers, or just pursuing a NASA career in general, here’s a helpful checklist to get started.

Step 1 – The Classroom

If you want a NASA career, a strong background in math and science is essential. Pursue upper level math and science courses available. Seek out science clubs and space camps. If you have the opportunity, attend space camp. Read up and learn as much as you can about NASA and the career paths of NASA engineers.

Step 2 – College

Earn a Bachelor’s of Science from an ABET accredited university. Pursue a degree in engineering (not engineering technology), with courses in physical science, advanced life sciences, and math. Pursue prestigious institutions and well-regarded schools near a NASA center (like somewhere in Florida near the Kennedy Space Center or in Texas near the Johnson Space Center). Look at specific positions and fields that interest you within the agency and select courses that would accompany it. Take supplemental coursework in the correct field of study to qualify for what are called the Specialties of Aerospace Technology (AST). Find out if your campus will be hosting any NASA recruiters and try to meet with them; if not, see if they can help you find a co-op or internship opportunity to get your foot in the door.

Step 3 – The Search

You’re well on your way to a NASA career at this point! Connect with current or former NASA employees via LinkedIn or your college and network! Learn about their career path and seek advice on getting started at NASA. Check out NASA’s job postings, and remember: if you aren’t accepted at the agency, there are numerous companies who work with NASA or the space industry. See if you can learn more about them through a space or NASA career fair. Plenty of private sector employers are looking for qualified candidates, including SpaceX, United Space Alliance, and Lockheed Martin. Utilize job posting search services like Indeed to find these tertiary careers in the space industry. They serve as great alternatives, providing a modern approach to the classic NASA career.

Step 4 – Now What?

Future NASA engineers will likely work on a plethora of new technology, including a new delivery system, space telescopes, probes and other big pieces of hardware. That isn’t even scratching the surface of engineering innovations for life in space. Plenty of exciting opportunities exist for those pursuing a NASA career. To learn more, visit http://www.nasa.gov/centers/langley/news/factsheets/FS-2001-09-68-LaRC.html.

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