Want to Work at SpaceX? Here Are the Degrees You’ll Need.
September 20, 2021
On average, engineering managers and software engineers are among the highest-paid employees at SpaceX, earning $125,721 and $110,757 per year, respectively.
Have you ever wanted to build rockets or spacecraft? Do you want to know what it feels like to be part of a mission control team? Do you envision yourself exploring the stars and paving the way for the possibility of life in space?
Aerospace company SpaceX might just help you fulfill your space dreams. Here on Earth, the company snagged the second spot in Hired's 2019 list of employers that tech workers would most like to work for. Similarly, engineering students in the U.S. named SpaceX as the most attractive employer based on Universum's 2019 rankings.
SpaceX employee benefits include paid time off, health insurance, stock options, and free lunch and snacks. The company values people who are driven, hard-working, passionate about what they do, and get things done. But this also means that the culture at SpaceX might not be for everyone.
Are you thinking of launching a career at a future-forward aerospace company? We've got you covered with the degrees you'll need to land a job at SpaceX, as well as advice to help you stand out when applying to the company.
Founded in 2002 by Elon Musk (who also owns Tesla), SpaceX designs, manufactures, and launches rockets and spacecraft. The private company's historic milestones include its Falcon 1 liquid fuel rocket reaching Earth orbit in 2008, its Dragon spacecraft returning from Earth orbit in 2010 and visiting the International Space Station in 2012, and the first reflight of an orbital class rocket in 2017. In another significant first, SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission successfully sent four civilians on a three-day trip to space in 2021. For its Artemis space exploration program, NASA recently selected SpaceX “to continue development of the first commercial human lander that will safely carry the next two American astronauts to the lunar surface."
SpaceX has more than 6,000 employees across the US, including in its headquarters in Hawthorne, California; offices in Texas, Virginia, Washington state, and Washington, DC; rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas; and launch facilities in Florida and California.
The company is estimated to have logged $2 billion in launch revenue in 2018.
What kind of jobs are available at SpaceX?
SpaceX employees are part of teams in the areas of avionics, materials engineering, mission management and space operations, satellite development, test operations, and vehicle engineering, among others. According to data from Glassdoor, SpaceX employees aren't compensated as high as those working for tech giants like Facebook or Google.
Here are some of the highest-paid positions at SpaceX, listed by average base salary:
Director of software engineering management: $237,621
This role leads the charge of the software development team, spending nearly half their time on writing production software, while simultaneously hiring, training, and managing the department. The role requires over 12 years of leadership experience and more than 15 of C++ development.
Senior manufacturing engineering manager: $205,182
A manufacturing engineer is a highly design-focused role, covering everything from assessments of mechanical, electrical, and aerospace construction to performing quality assurance. The engineering manager must also lead one of the many SpaceX manufacturing teams.
Director of supplier quality: $186,567
This person acts as a link between the supply chain and production team, ensuring the highest quality materials for each project. The role also requires vendor management, budgeting, and design knowledge for proper purchasing recommendations.
Senior certification engineer: $171,158
The certification engineer gathers and interprets data and results from each SpaceX design to prepare and present it to the U.S. government. They also ensure all designs meet government regulations.
Director of test engineering: $154,887
Test engineers must have an in-depth understanding of their assigned technology, such as a satellite or specific software. These pros build tests and regulations for integrating the technology into the mission.
Senior structural analyst: $151,996
These experts test, simulate, and recommend changes to new technology while working in tandem with several different design and regulation departments. The role must be able to write simulation code and alter technology quickly and safely.
Senior GNC engineer: $144,825
GNC stands for guidance, navigation, and control. In aviation, these engineers design, test, and implement technology that guides each of these aspects. A senior engineer will both lead design efforts, as well as manage a larger team.
Manager of vehicle engineering: $118,143
These engineers work directly on spacecraft and launch vehicles, ensuring all operations and design teams work in tandem to constantly improve the design and implementation of the SpaceX technology.
Principal optical engineer: $142,995
Optical engineers work with the control of light and vision—in this case, especially for the SpaceX flight hardware. This expert must be able to design, build, and test the customized technology, as well as provide data to its effectiveness.
Principal hardware engineer: $141,082
Among all the crucial hardware at SpaceX—such as launch, GNC, optics, electrical, and test hardware—a principal hardware engineer oversees the team of experts to ensure a cohesive design and construction process.
Degrees you'll need for jobs at SpaceX
A closer look at the SpaceX careers site reveals various open space jobs in areas such as build and flight reliability, propulsion, information technology and security, and software development.
Build and flight reliability jobs at SpaceX
When it comes to build and flight reliability, SpaceX has roles for build reliability engineers, a flight reliability engineer, and a metrology engineer. You'll ensure the company flies the safest and most reliable vehicles possible through analyzing and creating reliability plans for vehicle programs, designing and developing inspection plans, implementing systems safety processes, and participating in pre-flight readiness and build reviews.
To do the job, you'll need a degree in aerospace engineering, manufacturing engineering, materials engineering, mechanical engineering, or a related engineering field.
Propulsion jobs at SpaceX
In the propulsion arena, SpaceX has listings for additive manufacturing engineers, propulsion build engineers, and propulsion development engineers. Here, you'll have the opportunity to create advanced rocket and spacecraft propulsion systems and work with other engineering teams to get parts built and assembled, as well as optimize new parts and refine the design of existing ones.
Job seekers interested in these roles will need a degree in aeronautical engineering, astronautical engineering, mechanical engineering, or a relevant engineering discipline.
Information technology and security jobs at SpaceX
In the IT and information security realm, SpaceX is looking for an application packaging engineer, an executive IT support specialist, a Linux systems engineer, site reliability engineers, and a senior manager for cybersecurity operations and threat intelligence. You'll be responsible for designing, building, managing, and supporting information and security systems.
A degree in information technology, information systems, cyber security, or a similar technical discipline will equip you with the necessary skills for the job.
Software development jobs at SpaceX
In the software development space, positions are available for avionics engineers, front-end software engineers, full-stack software engineers, embedded software engineers, wireless protocol software engineers, software test engineers, and solutions architects. These roles entail designing, coding, testing, maintaining, and documenting flight software and enterprise web applications.
Earning a degree in computer science, computer engineering, electrical engineering, math, or a related scientific discipline is essential for success in the role.
Other ways to be part of the SpaceX mission
Offered year-round, the SpaceX internship program is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. Interns obtain hands-on experience in business operations, engineering, or software roles, with those in engineering and software playing a significant part in the design, development, testing, and manufacturing of spaceflight hardware.
Meanwhile, associate engineer roles are available for engineering majors who have completed an undergraduate or graduate degree or are currently enrolled in a graduate program. Associate engineers will have the opportunity to work on actual space hardware development projects. Interns and associate engineers are paid and can be assigned to different SpaceX locations, including the company's headquarters, launch sites, and rocket and satellite development facilities.
Find your place in the SpaceX legacy
In an interview with Glassdoor, Brian Bjelde, vice president of human resources, shared the three things SpaceX is looking for in candidates: drive, passion, and talent. To gauge this, the company not only looks at resumes but also gives potential hires a practical exam.
During the interview process, hiring managers and other interviewers want to discover what makes a person tick, any motivations allowing them to do their best work, and how they like to be challenged. "We also seek to understand what they didn't put on the resume, the items people tend to not want to brag about in an interview—things like what failures they experienced along the way and how they worked through them," Bjelde said.
To stand out from the numerous applications that SpaceX receives, Bjelde offers this advice: "People articulating the exceptional things they've done really helps them stand out. We're out there looking for people that want to help us achieve that goal of making humans multi-planetary."
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