Finding a Job in Aerospace

In general, the best way to find a job in any industry is to know where the jobs are and who to talk to about landing one of them. In the Aerospace Industry, you have three basic paths to choose from--private industry, government and private research institutions, or academia. A career in academia usually requires a PhD while the other two options usually require a BS or MS depending on the position.

So let me say a little about the differences between each of these paths. Industry tends to focus mainly on products: the development, production, and sale of hardware or services. The pay is usually better, but workers usually do not have much flexibility in switching between jobs. If your job is structural design, it's unlikely you'd ever get to do any aerodynamic analysis or flight testing. Government positions are more focused either on research and development or administrative oversight. The pay tends to be lower, but you do tend to get the chance to move around and try new things to a greater degree. Academic positions may pay quite well depending on the employer, but these are very small in number. Most are held by professors with advanced degrees and involve teaching as well as conducting research.

The job market in industry and government is reasonably strong right now. The big aerospace companies like Boeing and Lockheed aren't hiring that much, but Raytheon has been growing rapidly. The government is also hiring on quite a bit. NASA and the Department of Defense were under hiring freezes for almost a decade, but enough people retired or moved on and there's enough new projects coming along that the need for new people is strong.

So that brings me to the heart of your question--how do you find these companies and get your foot in the door. I think the best way to answer that is to be persistent and to use every tool at your disposal:

  1. Go to your school's job fairs and give your resume to every company you think might have the slightest interest in someone with your background. Not only are there aerospace companies, but industries like automotive, computer (especially flight simulation), and consulting also hire aerospace engineers.
  2. Sign up for as many on-campus interviews as possible. Even if the company doesn't sound that great, just talking to people in the industry can help you find new possibilities and help you figure out how to get the attention of recruiters. If you don't really see a match with the company, ask the recruiter for advice. There may be other divisions in the company or the recruiter may be aware of other positions out there better matched to your interests. Find out names of people you can talk to for more information. The key is to get your resume into the hands of a real person interested in someone with your skills and in a position to hire you.
  3. Mail your resume to as many companies as possible. Just about every company has a website where you can submit an electronic copy of your resume or get a mailing address. To be honest, this doesn't work that well (see the previous point), but you can usually get a few responses using this approach. There's too many companies to list them all, but try the Aerospace Links site for starters.
  4. Check out on-line job search sites:
    There are also several focused just on the aviation industry:
    JP Space
    Airline Jobs
    If you're interested in a government job, check out these:
    Office of Personnel and Management
    US Air Force
    US Navy
    Naval Air Systems Command
    US Army
  5. Talk to friends or professors or anyone you know in the industry. Networking is a powerful tool to finding a job.
Much of this answer includes general ideas that really apply to looking for any job, but there are so many specializations in aerospace that it's hard to focus in on any one approach. Your particular job search will depend on your background (degree, job experiences, courses, etc.), interests (aircraft, spacecraft, design, analysis, research, etc.), and what part of the country (or world) you want to live in.
- answer by Jeff Scott, 31 December 2001

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