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15 Degree Paths for Out-of-This-World Careers in Space Exploration

Many Americans dream of a career in the field of space exploration – often, as an astronaut exploring outer space. While astronaut roles are few and far between, the right degree could help you attain a different – and still very rewarding – role working for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Whether your passion is science, engineering, technology or communications, you can use any of the 15 degree paths below to begin preparing for a career in space exploration.

1. Ph.D. in Astronomy

Astronomy Space Exploration

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Astronomy is the scientific study of the stars, planets and other bodies that make up the universe. The scientists who work in this field, called astronomers, use data to develop theories about how the universe operates and when and how the celestial bodies came into existence. There are a number of specialized job roles within the field of astronomy, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Some, like cosmologists and extragalactic astronomers, seek to understand the history and development of the universe as a whole. Others specialize in the study of galaxies (galactic astronomers), planets (planetary astronomers), stars (stellar astronomers) or the sun (solar astronomers). There are also high-energy astrophysicists who work with energy rays. Some types of astronomers are categorized by the tools they use to study space rather than what phenomena they study. Optical and observational astronomers view their objects of study through optical telescopes, while radio astronomers utilize radio telescopes instead. Coursework in a doctoral astronomy program typically includes high-level math classes such as statistics, calculus and linear algebra as well as advanced studies in general astronomy and in subfields such as cosmology or planetary astronomy.

Some 60 percent of careers at NASA fall into the category of Professional, Engineering and Scientific roles. Since astronomy is literally the study of stars and space objects, what degree path could better prepare you for a career in the field of space exploration? To work for NASA, aspiring astronomers need a Ph.D. in astronomy. Astronomers who work as NASA scientists gather and analyze data and use their findings to better understand space and the celestial bodies that compose it, the BLS reported. They use a variety of equipment, including telescopes based on earth and probes in outer space, to study the universe. Like other scientists, astronomers conduct research to test theories, but astronomers face the additional challenge of being very far – lightyears, even – from the bodies they’re studying. About 26 percent of astronomers across the U.S. work for the federal government, according to the BLS.

Occupational Grouping: Science

Median Salary: $104,100

Similar Degree Programs: Master’s Degree in Astronomy, Master’s or Ph.D. in Physics

2. Ph.D. in Physics

Physics Space Exploration

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If you’ve ever wondered how the universe works, studying physics can help you learn the answers. Physics is the scientific study of matter, energy, time and space. Physicists study everything from tiny atoms and molecules to the workings of matter and energy across the universe. Subfields of physics include condensed matter, particle physics, nuclear physics and medical physics. Some of the studies of physics are theoretical, ccomonceptualizing how matter works. Other endeavors constitute applied physics, in which physicists put what they know about matter and energy to practical use improving medical technology, communications infrastructure, navigation systems and household electronics. In their work, physicists develop theories based on existing data and complex mathematical calculations and conduct experiments with the help of equipment such as lasers, particle accelerators and electron microscopes. In a Ph.D. program in physics, students choose a concentration such as condensed matter physics or astrophysics to study in-depth as well as taking math and science courses.

The specialty of physics is closely related to the specialty of astronomy, according to the BLS. Like astronomers, physicists who wish to work for NASA need to earn a doctoral degree. In particular, NASA offers employment opportunities for plasma physicists. These are scientists who study plasma, a type of matter that is found naturally in stars but that is also used on earth as components in television screens and neon signs. While many plasma physicists who work outside the field of space exploration focus more on ways to harness plasma as an energy source for the future, NASA plasma physicists may work more on understanding how the sun affects weather in space. Their findings can be used to safeguard satellites launched into space as well as the communication systems and power transmissions used in spacecraft. About 18 percent of astronomers across the U.S. work for the federal government, according to the BLS.

Occupational Grouping: Science

Median Salary: $111,580

Similar Degree Programs: Master’s Degree in Physics, Master’s or Ph.D. in Astronomy

3. Bachelor’s in Atmospheric Science Degree

Atmospheric Science Space Exploration

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When you think of meteorologists, it’s most likely the weather forecasters who predict weather conditions here on earth for broadcast or digital media that come to mind. Actually, though, there are numerous types of atmospheric scientists, and not all of them focus solely on earthly phenomena. In addition to familiar jobs like broadcast meteorologist and weather forecaster, atmospheric and space scientists include atmospheric chemists, climatologists, atmospheric physicists, climate scientists, forensic meteorologists and research meteorologists. Given the wide range of career roles available in atmospheric science, the subjects of study in the field can vary significantly. While many atmospheric scientists focus on predicting weather and climate events, some instead focus on historical weather or on new methods of collecting weather data. In their studies and research, atmospheric and space scientists gather data with the help of equipment such as satellite images, weather balloons and radar systems. Undergraduate students of atmospheric science study meteorology, atmospheric science, math, physics and computer programming, according to the BLS.

Atmospheric scientists who are interested in a career in space exploration could seek out a role as a NASA scientist. At NASA, meteorologists and other types of atmospheric scientists use their knowledge of weather and climate factors to study the weather conditions in space. They analyze data to develop both short-term and long-term space-weather forecasts, according to the BLS. Some NASA atmospheric scientists study other phenomenon, like trade winds and the Northern Lights. Atmospheric scientist is the one type of scientist prominently employed by NASA that requires only a bachelor’s degree. However, if you don’t want to spend four years in school, you might also be able to attain a NASA job with just two years of study. An associate’s degree from a technical school or community college can help you attain a job as a meteorological technician or meteorological aide. About 26 percent of atmospheric scientists work for the federal government, according to the BLS.

Occupational Grouping: Science

Median Salary: $89,820

Similar Degree Programs: Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry, Geology or Physics or Associate’s Degree in Earth Sciences or Meteorology  

 4. Bachelor’s Degree in Biology

Biology Space Exploration

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Biology is the study of living organisms. When you study the natural or biological sciences, you learn about the growth, structure, evolution and function of various organisms. There are a number of different focuses of study available in the biological sciences. If you’re interested in the study of animals, you might become a wildlife biologist or zoologist. Scientists who study tiny organisms such as viruses and bacteria become microbiologists. Many scientists who work in biology hold interdisciplinary roles such as biochemist or biophysicist. A degree in biology or biological sciences can open a lot of career paths to you, including roles with the federal government. About 21 percent of wildlife biologists and 12 percent of microbiologists work for the federal government, according to the BLS. The executive branch of the federal government is also the industry that employs the highest number of biological scientists working in other unspecified roles, the BLS reported.

At NASA, a bachelor’s degree in biological science is one of the educational paths you can take to become an astronaut. Some Other options for preparing for a career as an astronaut include physical science, engineering, computer science and mathematics. However, aspiring astronauts should know that it takes more than an undergraduate degree to achieve the dream of visiting outer space. Just 45 of NASA’s more than 17,000 workers happen to be astronauts, the BLS reported. In fact, there have only been 338 U.S. astronauts sent into space since 1959. In addition to your bachelor’s degree, you will need years of experience flying aircraft just to qualify for the astronaut candidate program. Then you will spend another two years in the program, preparing for your mission into space. Astronaut candidates need to go through rigorous military water survival training as well as training in robotics skills and space physiology and medicine, the BLS reported.

Occupational Grouping: Science

Median Salary: $77,190

Similar Degree Programs: Bachelor’s Degree Physical Science or Mathematics

5. Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace Engineering Space Exploration

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In addition to scientists, NASA employs a large number of engineers, professionals who apply scientific and mathematical principles to solve real-world problems. Aerospace engineering is the branch of engineering that focuses on designing and building aircraft and spacecraft. Aerospace engineers typically choose one of two specializations. Aeronautical engineers design, create and test aircraft that stays within the earth’s atmosphere, such as jet planes. Astronautical engineers focus on developing the technology used in spacecraft that travels through the earth’s atmosphere and into space. In an ABET-accredited bachelor’s degree program in aerospace engineering, students take coursework in specific subjects such as propulsion, mechanics, structures and stability and control as well as general engineering principles and how to apply them. Undergraduate aerospace engineering students must develop their knowledge of aerodynamics. Aerodynamics is the study of the interaction between air and moving objects such as rockets, airplane wings and even kites, the BLS reported.

NASA aerospace engineers work primarily on designing and constructing missiles, rockets and other forms of spacecraft. At NASA, aerospace engineers solve problems that aeronautical never have to deal with due to differences between the atmosphere in earth and the conditions found in space. For example, the lack of airflow in space means that the jet engines that work within the earth’s atmosphere would fail to work in a spaceship, according to the BLS. To meet this challenge, aerospace engineers devised rockets that run on liquid oxygen and propellant. Once a NASA aerospace engineer comes up with a design idea, he or she must create a prototype to test the design’s performance and safety. Because a failure could put astronauts’ lives in danger, it’s very important that spacecraft designs work in practice and not just in principle. About 13 percent of aerospace engineers work for the federal government, according to the BLS.

Occupational Grouping: Engineering

Median Salary: $107,830

Similar Degree Programs: Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering or Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Systems Science

6. Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering

Computer Engineering Space Exploration

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Another branch of engineering is computer hardware engineering. Computer hardware engineers apply the principles of engineering to computers. Unlike software developers, who focus on programs and applications, computer hardware engineers work on the physical components of computer systems. They develop the circuit boards, processes and memory devices used in individual devices as well as the networks and routers used to connect these computers. Undergraduate computer engineering students complete coursework that combines electrical engineering principles and practices with extensive studies in computer science. The very technical coursework required for this degree means that students must have a strong foundation in science and mathematics to build on during their undergraduate studies. Because computer technology is constantly and quickly evolving, aspiring computer hardware engineers should plan on lifelong learning to keep pace with new technological developments. Most computer hardware engineers work in industries like computer systems design, computer equipment manufacturing and electronics component manufacturing, but the federal government employs about six percent of computer hardware engineers, the BLS reported.

The spacecraft, instruments and equipment used in space exploration often rely heavily on computer technology. After all, these instruments are used to measure activity and matter in space – sometimes from the earth’s surface. Given the high-tech nature of space exploration equipment, it’s no surprise that NASA needs skilled computer hardware engineers who understand how the physical components of these computers and computer systems work. Specifically, computer hardware engineers who work for NASA are responsible for the research and development of computer equipment used to collect data both in space and from earth. In addition to developing the design of data-collecting equipment, NASA computer hardware engineers also create a working prototype that they can test to make sure the instrument works as intended. Computer hardware engineers at NASA don’t just design computer equipment for themselves to use. They must make their designs accessible for other NASA personnel by noting down in detail how the product works.

Occupational Grouping: Engineering

Median Salary: $111,730

Similar Degree Programs: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or Electrical Engineering

7. Bachelor’s Degree in Electronics Engineering

Electronics Engineering Space Exploration

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Computer hardware is far from the only kind of technology engineers develop. Electronics engineering is the branch of engineering that involves the design and construction of electronic equipment. Electronics engineers must determine how to design and construct complex electronic systems, components and devices that meet the functional needs of the user without being too expensive to produce, too difficult to maintain or too unwieldy to use. The work of electronics engineers plays a role in a wide variety of industries, from medical treatment to military purposes. There is often a lot of overlap between the disciplines of electronics engineering and a related branch of engineering called electrical engineering. In an ABET-accredited electronics engineering degree program, students cake coursework in differential equations, electrical circuit theory and digital systems design. Electronics engineers can begin working in entry-level roles without attaining state licensure, but many choose to earn their Professional Engineering (PE) license during the course of their careers, the BLS reported.

The electronics engineers who work for NASA specialize in designing and developing electronics used in space exploration. Satellites and the instrument panels and broadcast and communications systems are just a few of the projects electronics engineers may work on when employed by NASA. The environmental conditions in space differ from earth and can be much harsher, exposing the equipment to radiation as well as extreme temperatures. The instruments a NASA electronics engineer designs must be capable of withstanding these conditions. While developing new equipment systems and components is an important part of a NASA electronics engineer’s responsibilities, it’s still only one part of the job description. Electronics engineers also need to plan ahead for maintaining the equipment and develop in-depth procedures for safe and effective maintenance practices. In addition to coming up with a design for the equipment, electronics engineers inspect, test and maintain existing electronics for safety and performance. The federal government employs 13 percent of electronics engineers, the BLS reported.

Occupational Grouping: Engineering

Median Salary: $95,230

Similar Degree Programs: Master’s Degree in Electronics Engineering or Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering

8. Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering Space Exploration

IMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain.

Engineers are problem-solvers – and mechanical engineers are perhaps the most versatile problem-solvers of all. Mechanical engineering is among the broadest engineering disciplines, encompassing the creation of various kinds of mechanical devices, the BLS reported. Among the wide range of devices mechanical engineers develop are batteries, electric generators, escalators and elevators, engines, conveyor belt systems, medical devices, appliances, tools and turbines. Mechanical engineers aren’t just the brains behind these products. Mechanical engineers use computer technology that analyzes data and simulates machine testing as they build, test and tweak prototypes of their designs to perfection. The end result is a product that functions precisely as needed to solve the problem at hand. To earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, students need to take a variety of math and science classes in addition to their engineering and design courses. For mechanical engineers, a state-issued Professional Engineering license is beneficial and, in some cases, mandatory, according to the BLS.

When it comes to space exploration, mechanical engineers play an important role. Successful space missions depend on engines, tools, sensors, machines and other equipment that function optimally. With skilled mechanical engineers on the NASA team, the space exploration program can be sure that the equipment they use has been designed with all of the potential space-related challenges in mind. Mechanical engineers don’t always work alone. Often, they collaborate with engineers who specialize in other disciplines. At NASA, it’s not unusual for mechanical engineers to work alongside aerospace engineers, combining their expertise to make sure every tool and machine onboard a spacecraft meets its users’ needs. The steering mechanism used on rocket nozzles is just one example of the work mechanical engineers – along with their collaborators in other branches of engineering – do for NASA, according to the BLS. About six percent of mechanical engineers work in aerospace parts manufacturing roles, according to the BLS.

Occupational Grouping: Engineering

Median Salary: $83,590

Similar Degree Programs: Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering or Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology

9. Associate’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering Technology

Aerospace Engineering Technology Space Exploration

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Aerospace engineers who are working on major projects can’t do everything themselves. Technicians – engineering professionals who have formal technical training but not an extensive academic education – often work in roles that support the efforts of full-fledged engineers. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians get their training from a technical school or junior college. ABET, the same entity that accredits science and engineering programs at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels, also has a separate Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission that awards accreditation to engineering technology degree programs. To earn ABET accreditation, an aerospace engineering technology degree program must include classes in science, college-level algebra and trigonometry, according to the BLS. Community colleges are more likely to offer more studies in the theory of aerospace engineering technology and in the liberal arts and sciences and to award associate’s degrees. Technical schools, on the other hand, more commonly focus on practical applications of aerospace engineering technologies and may award a certificate or diploma instead of an associate’s degree, the BLS reported.

While most of the careers involved in space exploration require at least an undergraduate degree, aerospace engineering and operations technician is one NASA job you can get with only an associate’s degree. In a role at NASA, aerospace engineering and operations technicians assist engineers and scientists with their projects to design, develop and especially test spacecraft. Aerospace engineering technicians contribute toward building spacecraft by installing the instruments and components engineers design. Technicians also create the conditions necessary to rigorously test spacecraft and the systems they employ. An aerospace engineering technician’s role in testing aerospace equipment can take many forms, from building test facilities and installing components to calibrating test equipment and actually running computer simulation tests and recording the results of various tests. Due to their close involvement in testing spacecraft, aerospace engineering technicians play an important role in the safety and quality assurance. One-third of aerospace engineering technicians work in the industry of aerospace products and parts manufacturing, the BLS reported.

Occupational Grouping: Technology

Median Salary: $66,180

Similar Degree Programs: Technical School Diploma or Certificate in Aerospace Engineering Technology

10. Associate’s Degree in Avionics Technology

Avionics Technology Space Exploration

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When the complex electronic equipment onboard aircraft and spacecraft needs to be fixed, who works on it? A type of installation, maintenance and repair professional called an avionics technician fulfills this vital job duty. Avionics technicians perform both regular scheduled maintenance procedures and urgent repairs that result from a malfunction or other problem. Unlike the related roles of aircraft mechanic and repairmen, avionics technicians specialize in maintaining and fixing the electronic systems onboard a plane or spaceship. They work with aircraft and spacecraft equipment such as voltmeters, circuit testers, oscilloscopes, navigation aids, radio communication devices and radar systems, according to the BLS. As part of their testing, avionics technicians need to review flight test data for signs of malfunction. If they encounter any performance problems, they need to know how to fix or replace the malfunctioning part to avoid any risks to the safety of the aircraft or spacecraft’s occupants.

Like aerospace engineering technicians, avionics technicians can land a job at NASA with just an associate’s degree. While a role as an avionics technician might not require a comprehensive academic background, it does require strong mechanical skills and a great deal of troubleshooting skills and physical dexterity. A NASA avionics technician needs to be comfortable working with a variety of tools, ranging from hand tools to power tools and even soldering irons, according to the BLS. Part of an avionics technician’s job is to assemble parts like electrical controls and junction boxes and install new and replacement instrument panels as needed. Avionics technicians must also be familiar with digital technology so they can effectively maintain the computer systems that are utilized by the spacecraft’s electronic instruments. About 30 percent of avionics technicians work in the aerospace parts manufacturing industry, and another 11 percent work for the federal government, the BLS reported.

Occupational Grouping: Technology

Median Salary: $58,540

Similar Degree Programs: Military Training or Certificate from an FAA-Approved Aviation Maintenance Technician School

11. Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting

Accounting Space Exploration

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Not all jobs with NASA are based in engineering or the sciences. For example, accountant is one of a number of professional roles needed at NASA. Accountants are the business and financial professionals who are responsible for an organization’s financial records. They create many types of financial statements and documents, including income statements, balance sheets, statements of cash flow and statements of changes in equity. An accounting professional must also review financial statements for accuracy, identifying any indicators of intentional fraud or unintentional accounting or mathematical errors. In a bachelor’s degree in accounting program, students take courses such as the principles of accounting and auditing, internal auditing, business communications and business law, according to U.S. News & World Report. Accountants may also study various types of accounting and may pursue a concentration in a subject like taxation, financial accounting, cost accounting or management accounting. Many accountants choose to spend a fifth year in college to earn a master’s degree and prepare to earn the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential.

Accountants play an important role in many types of industries, and a government entity like NASA is no exception. As a large and busy organization, NASA has a lot of financial transactions going on at any given time. There are checks to process, receipts to write up and budget and cost data that someone must keep track of to prevent any inaccuracies in financial recordkeeping. Accountants are the personnel with the skills and education to organize all of this information into a financial report that captures this information. NASA has an accounting system which is used to keep track of cost and budget data. The organization’s accountants may be responsible for entering, analyzing and processing using this system. Accountants who work for NASA may also serve on organizations and committees within the space exploration program in financial roles such as treasurer, NASA reported. About eight percent of accountants work for the government, the BLS reported.

Occupational Grouping: Professional

Median Salary: $67,190

Similar Degree Programs: Bachelor’s Degree in Auditing or Business Administration 

12. Bachelor’s Degree in Communications

Communications Space Exploration

IMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain.

NASA also needs skilled media and communications professionals to publicize the space exploration program’s findings and achievements. Technical writers play an integral part in NASA communications. These media and communications professionals need to be experts at communicating complex technical information in a way that readers who don’t have a background in science can understand. They use various formats to distribute this technical information, ranging from journal articles to instruction manuals and how-to guides. While the term ‘writer’ implies that these communications professionals express information only in written text, that’s not the case. Technical writers are sometimes called technical communicators and are responsible for creating imagery and other non-written materials used to communicate technical ideas. A bachelor’s degree in communications or a related subject often is sufficient to meet minimum education requirements. However, technical writers also need knowledge in the technical field they plan to write about, such as medicine or engineering, the BLS reported.

The technical writers who work for NASA interact with a variety of scientists and engineers in the course of their job duties. Technical writers research the science they need to write about and speak with the scientist and engineers who designed and developed the product so that they clearly understand what it does and how it works. Then they translate that knowledge into written format. Some of the work NASA technical writers might create includes operating and assembly instructions for space exploration equipment. Technical writers must break complicated findings about space exploration down into organized chunks of information, and they must develop a style of writing that is clear and specific. Often, the use of imagery can help make the technical space exploration findings discovered by NASA scientists easier to understand. NASA’s technical writers are also responsible for creating these visual materials, such as charts, animations, drawings and diagrams, as well as attaining pictures taken by NASA photographers. Technical writers must often undergo some short-term on-the-job training when they begin working at NASA, according to the BLS.

Occupational Grouping: Media and Communications

Median Salary: $70,240

Similar Degree Programs: Bachelor’s Degree in English or Journalism

13. Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations

Public Relations Space Exploration

IMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain.

When a government entity is as well-known as NASA, there’s bound to be a lot of public interest in its projects. Public relations specialists are media and communications professionals who cultivate a positive reputation for a company, organization or individual. They accomplish this goal through carefully managing the company’s written communications, speeches and other messages that promote a favorable image of the company. In a bachelor’s degree program in public relations, students take courses such as the foundations of public relations principles and practices, design for public relations messages, public relations writing, strategic communications, media relations, marketing and advertising and journalism. In addition to learning public relations theory, students in public relations degree programs will develop a portfolio of the work they have completed over the course of their college education, the BLS reported. It’s often beneficial for public relations majors to gain some real-world work experience, and make contacts within the industry, by completing an internship experience.

Public relations specialists who work for NASA make sure that discoveries made in the field of space exploration can find their way into public consciousness. Through the work of a public relations specialist, news media outlets across the country are made aware of NASA’s activities and findings so they can report on the story. Public relations specialists at NASA are responsible for devising and implementing a communication strategy that paints the space exploration program in a positive light. Press releases and news releases, articles, media advisories and blog posts are just a few of the types of content public relations specialists at NASA might create. They also assist with speeches, coordinating opportunities for speeches, fielding requests from schools for educational speakers and writing the speeches company representatives give, according to the BLS. Some NASA employees who work in public relations go by slightly different job titles, such as public affairs specialist or press secretary.

Occupational Grouping: Media and Communications

Median Salary: $56,770

Similar Degree Programs: Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, English, Communications or Business

14. Bachelor’s Degree in Film

Film Space Exploration

IMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain.

You probably associate producers and directors more with blockbuster films or Broadway plays than with space exploration, but these entertainment professionals also play a role in NASA’s educational efforts. Directors and producers are the creative minds behind a performing arts production, whether it’s a much publicized high-budget movie or an educational film for students. While directors and producers don’t themselves appear on camera as actors do, their vision for the projects is what determines the look and feel of the film. Producers focus more on the financial aspects of securing funding and keeping expenses within budget, while directors typically are more involved in the artistic aspects of the film. A bachelor’s degree in film or cinema is the most common educational path for producers and directors, the BLS reported. In these degree programs, students study topics such as screenwriting, film history, the filmmaking process, editing and cinematography, according to the BLS.

Producers and directors who work for NASA focus their efforts on creating educational videos about space exploration. NASA’s educational videos cover subjects such as science concepts, inventions and innovations made possible by NASA for youth and adult audiences. These videos make complex concepts and technical processes, like assembling a telescope, easier for an audience to understand, according to the BLS. The directors involved in a NASA video project are responsible for choosing the creative elements of the film, like what subjects to film and how actors should portray their characters. Producers, on the other hand, take the role of overseeing the budget and production schedule. They hire a crew and ensure that the entire filmmaking process goes smoothly so that the final product is ready when it’s supposed to be ready and without going over the budget. Both the director and producer may have a hand in choosing the cast members who appear in the educational film.

Occupational Grouping: Media and Communications

Median Salary: $68,440

Similar Degree Programs: Bachelor’s Degree in Acting, Writing, Communication, Business or Art Management

15. Bachelor’s Degree in Photography

Photography Space Exploration

IMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain.

If you’re good with a camera, your photography skills could be your ticket to a career in the field of space exploration. Professional photographers make a living taking pictures. Some photographers specialize in portraits of individuals or groups, while others create photographs as a form of fine art or for commercial, news or scientific purposes. For aspiring photographers, having strong natural artistic abilities and a “good eye” for what makes a photo aesthetically pleasing is more important than pursuing a formal college education, the BLS reported. However, earning a degree in photography can help students develop their skills and learn the technical aspects of the art, including what makes a photograph good and how photography equipment works. Photography majors often take classes in photography techniques, processes, equipment and design and composition, according to the BLS. Perhaps more importantly, they begin developing a portfolio filled with their best photos that they can show to prospective employers or clients. 

At NASA, experienced photographers are necessary for capturing the space exploration program’s milestone events and discoveries. NASA photographers aren’t the ones who take photographs of space phenomena, because these media and communication professionals are based here on earth. However, their work in photographing the activities of NASA scientists and engineers plays an important role in preserving the history of the space exploration program and showing the progress NASA has made. Technically, even NASA photographers don’t necessarily need a college education. A highly skilled photographer with only a high school diploma may have a good aesthetic eye, strong artistic abilities and an impressive enough portfolio to attain a role taking pictures for NASA. However, photojournalists and scientific photographers are among the types of photographers that most often need a bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS. Whether or not they have a bachelor’s degree, NASA photographers typically need some long-term on-the-job training to succeed in their career.

Occupational Grouping: Media and Communications

Median Salary: $31,700

Similar Degree Programs: Bachelor’s Degree in Art

Editor’s Note: Choosing the right degree path is only one part of preparing for a career in the field of space exploration. While none of these majors can guarantee you a future working for NASA, they can help you take the first steps. For more information about space careers, check out this article by the BLS, the federal bureau which served as the source for the salary, occupational grouping and degree information data found in this article. Please note that the data contained above reflects salary data and job duties for these occupations in general and is not specific to NASA employment.

Find The Right Degree Now!

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