How to Get a Job at NASA – ThomasNet News

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Remember when you were in the first grade and your teacher asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up?
Sure, there was a handful of well-adjusted kids already harnessing ambitions to be doctors, politicians, or bank managers. But a significant majority of four-year-olds aspire to be fairies, pop stars, astronauts, or princesses.
For the most part, we have to let go of our unrealistic childhood aspirations. But in the wake of COVID-19, the Great Resignation has seen millions of workers quitting their jobs to focus on following their dreams and finding a career they truly love.
So if you spent your childhood imagining what it might be like to work for NASA, that goal might be in closer reach than you think. Here’s everything you need to know about getting a job at one of the coolest organizations on the planet.
As its website states, “NASA is more than astronauts.”
“We are scientists, engineers, IT specialists, human resources specialists, accountants, writers, technicians, and many other kinds of people working together to break barriers to achieve the seemingly impossible.”
NASA employs more than 17,000 people at its nine centers across the United States, with just 48 of those being “active” astronauts
Visit USA Jobs to see the full list of current job openings, which includes a range of full-time, short-term, and seasonal positions. At the time of writing, roles advertised include everything from Information Technology Specialist, Director: Astrophysics Division, and Explosives Safety Specialist to Materials Engineer, Resources Analyst, and Criminal Investigator.
More general career information can be found on NASA’s website. This includes information about life at NASA, details about the application process, and tips on writing a federal resume. This Frequently Asked Questions page is another useful resource.
NASA’s astronauts must meet a very specific set of criteria, including a master’s degree in a STEM field and the ability to pass the long-duration flight astronaut physical. But outstanding credentials are expected of all prospective employees — not just those who would be voyaging into outer space.
Technical requirements will vary vastly depending on the role for which you apply, but NASA only hires the best of the best.
You’ll need appropriate qualifications (most likely a degree from an accredited university) and several years of diverse academic and practical experience working in your chosen field. More generally, NASA is always looking to recruit high-caliber candidates with a specific set of core soft skills.
Adventurous
Astronauts are not the only employees expected to have a flair for exploring the unknown. NASA wants to hire people who are curious, investigative, and disruptive in all that they do — those who can help the company continue to achieve the impossible and make unparalleled discoveries.
Emotionally Intelligent
NASA is a high-powered and potentially high-stress environment. Employees need to be able to respond calmly and effectively in challenging circumstances, understanding the priorities and drivers of other colleagues and empathizing with their needs. 
Collaborative
For NASA to continually push boundaries and drive innovation, it needs to leverage the collective power and expertise of its entire employee base. For this reason, building a workforce of collaborators and team players is absolutely crucial.
Passion
Not only is NASA arguably one of the most exciting organizations in the United States, but it’s also a pretty great employer. As a NASA employee, you can expect a very good starting salary and a broader compensation package. With jobs in such high demand, NASA can pick the cream of the crop, which means you need to be truly passionate about your field. Candidates who pursue further learning outside of the workplace, spend time on research projects, or make sure to stay up-to-date on industry trends and news are far more likely to stand out to NASA’s hiring managers.
The application process for NASA is rigorous and competitive. In 2017, for example, 12 astronauts were selected from an 18,300-strong talent pool.
While other positions may be a little less over-subscribed, you’ll need to ensure your resume, application form, and cover letter are carefully tailored to address specific job requirements. Leticha Hawkins, a recruiter at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley says “when you’re looking at your resume, make sure that you can point to experience that you see repeated in the vacancy announcements. [Try to make sure] that the language closely matches how it was described in the vacancy announcement.”
Once you’ve applied for a role via the USA Jobs website, your resume will be reviewed by NASA’s hiring managers. If successful, you’ll be invited to attend the next stage of the assessment process, which often includes interviews, physical exams, situational assessments, and team-building exercises.
Make sure you are fully prepared for your interview — conduct extensive research to learn more about the role and NASA itself and be prepared to talk articulately about your experiences to date. This MockQuestions feed for 29 NASA interview questions and answers is a useful resource to help you prepare.
Image Credit: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock.com
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