So you want a job in the space sector?

Great choice! Did you know that the UK space industry employs tens of thousands of people and has an annual income of billions of pounds? The government aims for the UK to make up 10% of the global space economy by 2030. As technology advances and space applications become more ambitious, new jobs are being created all the time.

There is no fixed route into the space sector. Everyone’s journey is different. However, here are some of our top tips, combined with useful links and insights shared with us by our network of Lead Educators, Scientists and Space Communicators.

1. Talk to lots of people, ask lots of questions
There’s no such thing as a stupid question. The space sector is very broad. Everyone has a different perspective so speak to a variety of people working in multiple areas of the space sector.

Social Media can be a great resource to find opinions and information. So can careers conferences (like the ones we run) and space meet ups.

Be cautious. Nobody knows everything. Take on board everyone’s advice but build your own path. Even when you’re a successful space scientist; there is always something new to learn.

2. Study STEM. but don’t forget about the other subjects
Continue with Physics and Maths, and Engineering if you can, at secondary level. A traditional route is to focus on these and then go on to study Maths, Physics, Computer Science, Astrophysics, Materials Science or Engineering (Aerospace, Electronic and Mechanical) at university.

However, Politics, Business and Communication all play a part in current space roles. Geography can be applied to Geology and Planetary Science; Psychology is useful in assessing the impact of space travel on the human mind, Earth Observation Science uses Biology and Chemistry. Can you choose another subject alongside the more traditional ones or join a society to work on these areas?

3. Consider apprenticeships and graduate entry schemes
Many people enter the space sector by doing an apprenticeship. Airbus and Rolls Royce are two examples of big companies within the aerospace and space sectors who offer apprenticeships.

Some apprenticeships will fund you through university. This suits some people better as you can learn on the job and pick up valuable experience and insights from people currently working in the field.

Take a look at this page for some inspiration.

4. Follow your interests
Employers like to see evidence of wide interests, adaptability and practical skills, as well as good qualifications. Doing things that interest you will help you succeed, and you’ll pick up lots of transferrable skills. 

Director of the National Space Academy prof Anu Ojha is a skydiver in his spare time. He’s even delivered a talk at a British Parachute Association’s Sky diving expo on how parachuting and skydiving are integrated into astronaut and cosmonaut training programmes. Follow your passion; you never know where it might lead!

5. Apply for placements and internships
You’ll meet likeminded people and get first-hand experience of the sector. It’s also good practice for future job applications you might have to do.

We like NASA’s International Space Applications, The Satellite Applications Catapult and UK Space Agency’s Space Placements in INdustry scheme (SPIN), The University of Leicester’s Space School UK, ‘Year in industry’, The Engineering Education Scheme, The Nuffield Foundation and ESA (European Space Agency) Internships. There is so much out there; do your research!

6. Read, Listen, Learn
There are space communities and space conversations happening all over the world, all the time. 

Search on social media for space topics. The Royal Aeronautical Society, British Interplanetary Society and The Royal Astronomical Society all have lots of information about careers on their websites. 

The UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (UKSEDS) is part of the world’s largest student space enthusiasts organisation. They run Space Careers UK which has lots on information and questionnaire to help you discover your space science niche.

7. Go to events, conferences and meetings
This is a continuation of ‘Talk to lots of people, ask lots of questions’ really. However, going to places and asking questions to actual living breathing people is important. Try Farnborough International, The Royal Observatory - Greenwich, Spaceport - Merseyside, The Science Museum, Glasgow Science Centre and others. Many have public events running throughout the year and will have experts on hand. We run careers conferences at The National Space Centre.

Science and engineering STEM Ambassadors from companies such as Airbus and Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) run outreach schools and hands-on workshops. Many universities run outreach programmes too. The South East Physics Network offers student and teacher workshops to promote careers in space. The Science and Technology Facilities Council offers school outreach projects.

There will be something near you, you just need to find it. 

8. Enter competitions

It’s not always about winning. Going through the process of working on a project from beginning to end, doing your research, working in a team and demonstrating your interest in space science outside of school all look very impressive to prospective universities and employers.

Space has thrived on competitions to uncover talent. The X Prize space competitions, the Ukayroc Rocketry Challenge and The UK Space Agency’s SatelLife Competition are all examples.

9. Learn a language and develop an understanding of different cultures
Space activities are international. See those internships in no.5 and the competitions in no.8? Securing one in another country could be a very wise move…If you can’t get a space internship abroad, consider other ways to develop your language and culture knowledge. Can you volunteer at a science festival or summer camp overseas?

10. Be positive
We’ve spoken to lots of successful space people who say that a positive mental attitude is incredibly important if you want to successfully secure a career in the space sector. Positivity breeds positivity. 

The space sector is growing, and the roles are becoming more diverse. 

There is space for you.

Try out these 10 tips, create your own path, share what you’ve learnt with others and keep on aiming for your dream job.

Good luck, and keep in touch!

Career Tips