How to Get a Coding Job at NASA

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by Charlotte Cornbrooks

Published on June 10, 2022

Edited by Madison Hoehn
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NASA is known for its intelligence, innovation, and boundary-breaking projects. Many children grow up dreaming of going into outer space. For some, those dreams evolve into plans to explore engineering, physics, and computer science in hopes of working in aerospace.

While computers have almost always been a part of space exploration, the variety of computer needs and functions in the aerospace industry continues to grow. Computers are used by the thousands of people working for NASA and even by the vehicles going into space.

With this much technology at NASA, tech jobs are also in high demand. Coding bootcamp grads get a job at NASA with the right skills and experience. Your portfolio, your course of study, and your interest in working for NASA will all be important factors for a successful application.

What Kind of Coding Jobs Does NASA Hire for?

Primarily, NASA hires software engineers for their labs. The good news is that many bootcamps offer software engineering programs that can prepare students with the necessary skills for such a job.

Software engineers at NASA can work in a variety of departments — from aeronautics to data and image processing to propulsion. Keep in mind that your background and experience may influence where you are hired as a software engineer.

What Qualifications Do I Need?

NASA's requirements depend on the job. NASA acknowledges that some jobs do not require a college degree, though "professional, scientific, and engineering positions" require at least a bachelor's degree.

A degree in math, engineering, physical science, or computer engineering will give you an advantage in the application process. But experience in the field of software engineering is valued as well.

Even so, there are always exceptions. Mike Spangler attended Flatiron School, a well-known coding bootcamp. His background was in film and television, but after completing a software engineering program, he was hired by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Is It Hard to Get a Job at NASA?

NASA is a government agency, which means it will move slower in the hiring process than your average tech company. Like many large businesses, NASA starts with a resume scan program to identify keywords.

The next step in the hiring process will involve a screening from an HR professional working with the hiring manager. HR will then give a list of possible candidates to the hiring manager. Keep in mind that internal applicants may receive preference.

If you make it to the interview round, take lots of time to prepare! Familiarize yourself with the job description, look over your portfolio and work experience, and practice ways to articulate your passion for the work.

What Do Coders Do at NASA?

As mentioned before, coding is vital to the work at NASA. Software engineers work in a variety of departments.

Generally speaking, software engineers work with lead engineers to design and build programs that are used in almost every element of NASA's work, from spacecraft to mission control and IT security. NASA works with massive amounts of data — several petabytes worth.

With many long-term projects in motion at once, coding for NASA might move a little slower than working at a small startup. In addition, safety procedures are a major factor in NASA's procedures, which puts constraints on the code written.

How Much Do NASA Coders Make?

As you would expect in most companies, salary varies based on factors such as department, years of experience, education level, and ability to meet specific job criteria.

Salaries for NASA software engineers can range from $60,000 to $150,000, with an average of $113,000. This is on par with national average salary for software engineers: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, software engineers earned $110,140 on average as of May 2021.

Does SpaceX Offer Coding Jobs?

The primary difference between SpaceX and NASA is that SpaceX is privately owned by Elon Musk. Because SpaceX is privately owned, their priorities are different.

For example, software engineers at SpaceX work on rocket codes and satellites to increase access to reliable internet around the world and manufacture advanced hardware quickly. This is in contrast to NASA's somewhat limiting priority of safety, mentioned earlier.

SpaceX also hires coders. They are looking for those with C++ fluency and other computer software engineering proficiencies.

Frequently Asked Questions About Coding Jobs at NASA

Does NASA need coders? true

Yes, they do, but they rarely refer to them as coders. Most jobs posted by NASA or subcontractors are for software engineers who write code for NASA. Because most of NASA's priorities involve computers, many job openings are available for those who know how to code and program.

If you are interested in browsing their current job openings, you can search through their Careers Page or on third-party sites like LinkedIn.

Does NASA use C++? true

Yes, NASA uses C++ for some programs. There are job postings that target C++ coders specifically.

You will find that NASA posts open source code (also known as free code) written in C++. NASA's work covers a broad range of topics and projects. Therefore, they use a variety of coding languages and tools to complete their work.

Does NASA use Python?

Yes. Python code powered part of NASA's July 2020 mission to Mars. When the rover landed on Mars, five cameras began recording the planet's surface. Python code relayed those images to the command center on Earth, enabling scientists and people around the world to view the surface of Mars in a new way. It would be smart to research a Python coding bootcamp to get you started on your path to working at NASA.

Can I work for NASA without a degree?

It depends on the job! It's possible to get a job at NASA without a college degree for non-scientific and engineering roles. However, relevant experience is necessary to be successful in these roles. At least one year of experience is preferable.

Because NASA is a government agency, there are standard vetting processes you will go through that match you to various jobs. You may meet the basic qualifications for many jobs but emerge as a stand-out candidate for just a handful of jobs.

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