Posted by Willy Franzen on March 5, 2008. Jobs updated daily.
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Typically young children are quite realistic about their career aspirations. They want to be firefighters, policemen, and teachers – professions that are in constant, steady demand. The more ambitious children might want a job as a doctor or veterinarian – still steady, but requiring a significant investment in education. It almost seems that as children we’re more realistic about life and careers than we are when we reach adulthood – except those kids who wanted to be astronauts. Since the beginning of the space program, there have only been 321 astronauts selected. Ever. There’s no surefire (or easy) way to become an astronaut – pilots, schoolteachers, doctors, scientist, and engineers have all been astronauts – but if selection as an astronaut is one of your life goals, you need to start preparing now. If you’re not ready for the commitment that it takes to be an astronaut, there are still plenty of entry-level jobs at NASA that will enable you to have a meaningful impact on the space program and NASA’s other endeavors.
NASA is a large government agency with many entry-level jobs, so instead of identifying each job opening, we’re going to guide you through how to their jobs website and help you find the information that you need before you decide to apply for a job. Usually, we complain that companies shortchange job searchers in terms of career related information on their website, but with NASA the problem is one of too much information. Maybe it’s a test to weed out candidates who can’t deal with navigating through complex situations, but we were a bit overwhelmed by NASA’s jobs site. Before you jump in and start looking around the site, you might want to read NASA’s Applicant Guide. It’s audaciously long, but it covers everything you need to know to get a job at NASA. If we left you to navigate the site, it would probably take you quite a while to find the guide, but we think it’s important to reward our loyal readers with shortcuts straight to meaningful content (if you like shortcuts, subscribe to One Day, One Job).
If you read our post about entry-level jobs at the US Forest Service, then you’re aware of the fact that all jobs with the United States government are posted on USAjobs.gov. Since NASA does not accept applications for unspecified positions, you must go through this site and search specifically for NASA jobs. We couldn’t find any information on an application process tailored specifically to entry-level candidates (probably because there isn’t one); however, there is a guide for college students who are seeking employment. There are also lists of occupation types, applicable entry-level pay ranges, and NASA locations to help you determine which jobs you should apply for. NASA also offers a FAQ for students. Like we said, there’s a ton of information.
In addition to NASA’s jobs site, there are a few other sites that are worth mentioning. First is NASA People, which is a site that appears to be targeted towards current NASA employees. It covers almost any question that you could have about what it’s like to work at NASA, so serious job searchers should spend some time browsing this site. Second is the annual ranking of Best Places to Work in the Federal Government, which ranks NASA at fourth. This gives in-depth statistics about what kinds of people are more likely to be happy working at NASA (most employees), and what types of people are less likely to be happy at NASA. It also breaks down the rankings into a number of factors that may or may not be important to you.
Finally, there is this Wired article that details the struggles that NASA is having connecting with young people. The problem is pretty obvious. The space race to put the first man on the moon created an amazing amount of interest in NASA for our parents’ generation, but we have been given technology like the Internet to explore the world that we live in. Many young people don’t see the point in exploring space, when there is so much to discover right at our fingertips. The article includes a presentation that was given to NASA management by some of NASA’s younger employees on how to improve engagement with Generation-Y/Millennials/whatever you want to call us by emphasizing NASA’s continued relevance to the issues that concern our generation. Even people who are not interested in jobs at NASA would do well to read this article as it brings up a lot of important questions about NASA, science, and the workplace. The Wired article ends by pointing to OpenNASA.com, which is a blog by NASA employees. It’s excellent, and as authentic of a resource as you’ll find on what working at NASA is like – especially for someone who is not far removed from college. Although the blog is unofficial, it’s the type of resource that every company could use to improve their recruiting practices.
If you want an entry-level job at NASA, you’ve got a lot of research to do. Get moving!
Note: On April 25th we revisited entry-level jobs at NASA.
Links to Help You Begin Your Research
Want an internship at NASA? They have a lot of them, and we’re talking about them at One Day, One Internship.
We've identified NASA as having career opportunities in the following categories:
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