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You don’t necessarily need to spend several years in college to qualify for a career in space exploration. In fields like science and engineering, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a need for skilled technicians. It’s possible for technicians in fields like aerospace engineering, avionics and meteorology to develop the knowledge and skills they need for success over the course of a two-year associate’s degree program.
Associate’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering Technology
What can you do as an aerospace engineering technician? You work alongside aerospace engineers and assist with the process of designing, creating and evaluating spacecraft components such as rockets and missiles. Instead of spending years – and tens of thousands of dollars – earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree, aerospace engineering technicians can quickly and inexpensively prepare for their careers at a community college or technical school.
Associate’s degree programs in aerospace engineering technology are often applied science programs that incorporate both classroom learning and the opportunity to gain real-world work experience. Students should look for programs that are accredited by ABET’s Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission. These degree programs meet high standards for college-level courses in basic science, algebra and trigonometry, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.
Associate’s Degree in Avionics Technology
Avionics is another field of study for junior college or technical school students who are eager to prepare for a space exploration job at NASA. Avionics technicians maintain and repair the equipment used on aircraft and spacecraft. In avionics technician roles at NASA, these professionals are responsible for the maintenance of a variety of systems, including navigation and communication equipment. They test and repair electronic instruments and install components like instrument panels, electrical controls and even computer software.
In an associate’s degree program in avionics technology, students will take coursework such as aircraft maintenance manuals and FAA regulations. Upon completing their education, aspiring avionics technicians must understand both the mechanical and computerized aspects of aircraft and spacecraft systems, controls and flight instruments, the BLS reported.
Associate’s Degree in Meteorology or Earth Science
If your interests lie more in the life and physical sciences as opposed to engineering or mechanics, then you might prefer a role as a meteorological technician or meteorological aide, according to the BLS. These technicians assist meteorologists, or weather scientists, by measuring weather and climate phenomena to gather data. Aspiring meteorology technicians should look for associate’s degree programs in meteorology, earth science or related fields of study.
If your dream is to actually travel into space, an associate’s degree alone won’t prepare you for a career as an astronaut. NASA requires applicants to the astronaut candidate program to have at least a bachelor’s degree, and the field of study must be in biological or physical science, math, engineering or computer science. The competition for astronaut roles is fierce, since only 45 out of NASA’s 17,000 employees are astronauts. However, aerospace engineering, avionics and meteorological technicians with an associate’s degree can still make a great deal of difference in the field of space exploration.