Is the low salary of NASA engineers worth it, knowing they can earn 2-3 times (and more) elsewhere?

Updated on : January 20, 2022 by Scarlett Stone



Is the low salary of NASA engineers worth it, knowing they can earn 2-3 times (and more) elsewhere?

Sure, because they pay you in "space dollars".

Realistically, you get paid to do what you love and NASA pays "enough." If your personal goal is to be rich, then perhaps space is not your niche.

NASA and the aerospace industry typically rank first for "job satisfaction." Sure, some people can make more money figuring out how to serve ads efficiently and cheaply to the right subset of users. But when they are reading your accomplishments at your funeral, do you want "I helped explore the universe" or "Increased the ROI of ABC corp by 2%" engraved on your tombstone?

Sure, it's fun to have your stock options skyrocket,

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Sure, because they pay you in "space dollars".

Realistically, you get paid to do what you love and NASA pays "enough." If your personal goal is to be rich, then perhaps space is not your niche.

NASA and the aerospace industry typically rank first for "job satisfaction." Sure, some people can make more money figuring out how to serve ads efficiently and cheaply to the right subset of users. But when they are reading your accomplishments at your funeral, do you want "I helped explore the universe" or "Increased the ROI of ABC corp by 2%" engraved on your tombstone?

Sure, it's fun to have your stock options skyrocket and you can buy some great toys. But are you standing with a group of people at 9:00 pm outside looking at a big screen and watching a rover land on Mars and thinking "we did that - and I was there"? I have physically touched (with gloves) the last 4 things that landed on Mars from the US and, I hope, have made a positive contribution to their success. There are not a lot of people who can say they did that. It really is a unique experience.

Yes, maybe that is not important to you. And that's okay. You get satisfaction from things other than base salary and bonuses. FWIW, there is also no 2-3 times difference * in the aerospace industry * between NASA and the aerospace industry in general, unless you are very lucky.

To cut to the chase, there is an income level where, if it is above it, the additional income does not lead to significant increases in job satisfaction.

It all depends on whether you can find satisfaction doing the kind of work that only NASA can do, like designing and promoting vast conspiracies on a "round Earth", directing the largest naval fleet in history to protect the edge of the ice wall. , organize filming sessions with famous Hollywood directors that can be used to "simulate" rocket and satellite launches, and so on.

I'M KIDDING!

However, seriously, once upon a time, if you wanted to work on rockets, advanced aerospace technology, or contribute to space exploration, NASA was the only way to go. Now, even with private rocket companies springing up from left to right, the choice

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It all depends on whether you can find satisfaction doing the kind of work that only NASA can do, like designing and promoting vast conspiracies on a "round Earth", directing the largest naval fleet in history to protect the edge of the ice wall. , organize filming sessions with famous Hollywood directors that can be used to "simulate" rocket and satellite launches, and so on.

I'M KIDDING!

However, seriously, once upon a time, if you wanted to work on rockets, advanced aerospace technology, or contribute to space exploration, NASA was the only way to go. Now, even with private rocket companies springing up from left to right, the choice is less obvious, although you may want to consider the downsides of working for Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk versus the US government. The benefits aren't exactly. what used to be, but neither are the profits of public or private companies.

My father worked most of his career at NASA and contributed to the Gemini and Apollo programs. As you can guess, we didn't exactly grow up rich, but we were never short on it, and he had quite a bit of job satisfaction, especially with the moon landings!

Key Topics: Salary Comparisons Between the Private and Federal Sector

I used to work for the US EPA The fact is, federal jobs are comfortable, your health and pension benefits are better than average, and the salary is comparable; Plus, retirement is great and comes early, and you can explode your relationships once you leave federal employment.

For example, someone can get a master's degree from an Ivy League university, work for the public health service as a uniformed officer, and retire early get a military pension and work for the federal EPA and get paid there while collecting pension and military benefits. and the personal.

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Key Topics: Salary Comparisons Between the Private and Federal Sector

I used to work for the US EPA The fact is, federal jobs are comfortable, your health and pension benefits are better than average, and the salary is comparable; Plus, retirement is great and comes early, and you can explode your relationships once you leave federal employment.

For example, someone can earn a master's degree from an Ivy League university, work for the public health service as a uniformed officer and retire early, get a military pension, and work for the federal EPA and get paid there while collecting pension and benefits. military and begins at the pay grade you retired at PHS in

then retire early to EPA, collect a federal pension there, and start a business and sell lab services to both EPA and PHS while collecting two pensions and enjoying excellent credit from Pentagon Federal Credit Union, all before the 40 years.

This career has few risks and huge compensation opportunities that continue to accumulate.

First, NASA jobs are much safer than those in the private sector.

Second, the civil service pay is much better than half or a third of the private sector pay that assumes the question.

Lastly, there are some people who are true space enthusiasts and NASA is the best place to influence and participate in US space activities.

A2A: "Is the low salary of NASA engineers worth it, knowing that they can earn 2-3 times (and more) elsewhere?"

Depends on what you want to do with your life I guess. One thing is for sure, there is no shortage of people who would like to work there.

I've done this dance with Doctors vs. Engineers before, but like Engineers, Attorneys have a fairly wide range of income, depending on the branch of law they practice.

  • Do Doctors Earn More Than Engineers? Why or why not?

Also keep in mind that if you graduate from any university as an engineer, you could go straight to work (and more often). Or you could apply to law school and spend even more money for another three years. After all, not everyone has the stomach for three more years of school. In addition, engineers also have the option Ms, PhD.

  • For lawyers, you have the bar exam.
  • The engineering equi
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I've done this dance with Doctors vs. Engineers before, but like Engineers, Attorneys have a fairly wide range of income, depending on the branch of law they practice.

  • Do Doctors Earn More Than Engineers? Why or why not?

Also keep in mind that if you graduate from any university as an engineer, you could go straight to work (and more often). Or you could apply to law school and spend even more money for another three years. After all, not everyone has the stomach for three more years of school. In addition, engineers also have the option Ms, PhD.

  • For lawyers, you have the bar exam.
  • The engineering equivalent is getting your PE, but it is not required (about 20% get your PE and a significant number are civil engineers).

So, to the numbers (including fonts):

  • Average Salary for a Lawyer: How Much Does a Lawyer Make? - NerdWallet

Lawyers earn a median salary of $ 120,910

It's not bad pay, but most people think of partners in big law firms, or the kind we see on television. Not the guy who makes real estate contracts for $ 80,000 a year. But large law firms represent only 20% of all lawyers.

  • Big Law Attorneys: $ 190,000 (20% of all attorneys)
  • Corporate lawyer: $ 109,951.
  • Patent Attorney: $ 92,720.
  • Government: $ 90,391 (from Payscale, and includes state, local, and federal)
  • Immigration attorney: $ 77,224.
  • Family Lawyer: $ 74,324.
  • Environmental lawyer: $ 64,708.

It was more difficult to get a "generic engineer" GPA (Glassdoor seemed very low, in the mid-$ 70s). Also, since engineers have several different fields, I tried to group them together logically. If I'm wrong, please curse me in the comments. Here is the source of the numbers:

  • How Much Money Do 19 Kinds of Engineers Really Make?
  • Civil Engineers: $ 86,640
  • Geological and mining engineers: $ 92,250
  • Petroleum Engineers $ 137,170
  • Environmental Engineers: $ 87,620
  • Industrial Engineers: $ 87,040
  • Mechanical Engineers: $ 87,370
  • Biomedical Engineers: $ 88,550
  • Materials Engineers: $ 92,390
  • Aerospace Engineers $ 115,220
  • Electrical Engineers: $ 96,640
  • Computer Hardware Engineers $ 114,600
  • Chemical Engineers: $ 104,910
  • Nuclear Engineers: $ 107,600

Also keep in mind that location will also affect salary. Silicon Valley is known for stupid high-tech salaries. In many cases, they will earn more than the doctors.

Disclaimer: There were a number of websites that listed the salary. I chose the two sources I chose for the way they broke down each career field. Other surveys may be more accurate, or even consider entry level versus median income. For engineering, magazines like Electronic Design News (EDN) or Machine Design have annual salary surveys that look at various demographics and are very accurate, but they are also quite limited in scope (EDN focuses on electrical / electronic engineers, for example).

Now for some Dilberts attorneys!

People at NASA are public officials or contractors. Contractor pay scales depend on the contract and competition in that subsection of the industry.

The pay of NASA civil servants is determined by the General Program (GS). The GS covers 1.5 million government employees in professional, technical, administrative and clerical positions.

The general schedule is divided into 15 grades (GS-1 through GS-15) and each grade consists of 10 steps. Each step is assigned a fixed dollar amount. Typically, employees work their way up the steps, with a stepping up that occurs annually for the first 3 steps and

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People at NASA are public officials or contractors. Contractor pay scales depend on the contract and competition in that subsection of the industry.

The pay of NASA civil servants is determined by the General Program (GS). The GS covers 1.5 million government employees in professional, technical, administrative and clerical positions.

The general schedule is divided into 15 grades (GS-1 through GS-15) and each grade consists of 10 steps. Each step is assigned a fixed dollar amount. Typically, employees work their way up the steps, with a step increase annually for the first 3 steps and every 2 years for steps 4-6 and then every 3 years for steps 7-9. If the job supports it, a grade-to-grade upgrade may occur without completing all the steps. Many jobs have fixed grade ranges and once an employee reaches the maximum for that grade, they no longer progress.

GS tables for the current year can be found on the US Office of Personnel Management website - www.OPM.gov. Those tables are divided into geographic regions. Most salaries for civil servants include a pay per location that is based on competing job salaries in the geographic area, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Within NASA, most professional employees will be within the GS-9 to GS-15 ranges. University cooperatives are at the GS-9 level. Engineers are usually between GS-11 and GS-13. GS-14 is usually a management position. Astronauts are usually GS-13 to GS-15. Senior management is at GS-15. Some of the people at the highest level, such as the Administrator and other key executives, are on a different scale (SES - Senior Executive Service).

If you are talking specifically about aerospace engineering, I still doubt there is anything close to NASA. Other national space centers are evolving and have interesting projects. JAXA's Hayabusa mission was an engineering challenge and they are having more such projects. Roscosmos and ESA also have several space exploration projects. Also, the new guys from the CNSA block have many secret projects and have managed the space docking capability and the astronauts. ISRO has achieved good economic payload deployment for small satellites.

But these are all state organizations and they get some of

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If you are talking specifically about aerospace engineering, I still doubt there is anything close to NASA. Other national space centers are evolving and have interesting projects. JAXA's Hayabusa mission was an engineering challenge and they are having more such projects. Roscosmos and ESA also have several space exploration projects. Also, the new guys from the CNSA block have many secret projects and have managed the space docking capability and the astronauts. ISRO has achieved good economic payload deployment for small satellites.

But these are all state organizations and they draw some of the best talent from their respective countries. But with private companies on the scene, there are now several more lucrative opportunities for engineers. However, it is like the debate about pilots, who has it better, fighter pilots or civilian pilots? Fighter pilots can pull off insane maneuvers and shoot 8g at Mach 1.6, adrenaline rush. Civilian pilots get paid a lot, but they are essentially chauffeurs. Working for a company that makes parts for the aerospace industry won't come close to making and firing a rocket into space. Something like NASA's Mars Curiosity rover is a much more interesting engineering challenge than making a high-speed car (though that's no less fun, either). Then,

Yes, but not often, and being a software engineer on a NASA project can be unique and incredibly frustrating.

First, your code will be revised in a way that makes it feel violated and dirty. Mission critical means something very different and very serious at NASA. Second, it's a safe bet that the hardware you're running on is custom-built, and not as current or as well-featured as you'd like. Older chips (think 386 and 486 chips, and early Pentium chips) will often be used because of their resistance to cosmic radiation and low power requirements.

Likewise, no

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Yes, but not often, and being a software engineer on a NASA project can be unique and incredibly frustrating.

First, your code will be revised in a way that makes it feel violated and dirty. Mission critical means something very different and very serious at NASA. Second, it's a safe bet that the hardware you're running on is custom-built, and not as current or as well-featured as you'd like. Older chips (think 386 and 486 chips, and early Pentium chips) will often be used because of their resistance to cosmic radiation and low power requirements.

Likewise, don't expect to be able to code something in Java or C # and run it in a spaceship. Most of the time it's C or C ++, with all sorts of cool custom libraries to help manage energy costs, compute cycles, and all sorts of crazy stuff. If you're coding for, say, a laptop on ISS, this is less true, but you generally expect to be close to the hardware or doing some sort of data analysis on weird raw data.

Lastly, expect to spend at least four times more time documenting and characterizing your code than writing it.

All that said, it's insanely cool when something you helped write is running on another planet or in space for the first time, and it works like it should.

NASA has about 17,000 public employees and about three times as many contractors. The answer to this question will have more than 70,000 answers.

Here's my answer ... for most of the people I talk to, myself included, working for NASA has been their lifelong dream.

Yes, budgets have been steadily dropping in real dollars and yes, there is a lack of clarity to our mission and yes, SpaceX is the sexiest space program right now, but most of us love what we are doing and not We would trade it for anything

On the one hand, space exploration is a noble quest that we do for the benefit of all humanity. SpaceX is

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NASA has about 17,000 public employees and about three times as many contractors. The answer to this question will have more than 70,000 answers.

Here's my answer ... for most of the people I talk to, myself included, working for NASA has been their lifelong dream.

Yes, budgets have been steadily dropping in real dollars and yes, there is a lack of clarity to our mission and yes, SpaceX is the sexiest space program right now, but most of us love what we are doing and not We would trade it for anything

On the one hand, space exploration is a noble quest that we do for the benefit of all humanity. SpaceX is cool and all. But at the end of the day, they run a trucking company to make money. We operate science missions to explore the universe with instruments and humans.

For two, again we are not a for-profit company. We work for the benefit of American taxpayers. I remind myself every day and try to give taxpayers the best value for their money. It gives me great satisfaction to know that I am serving my country.

Finally, where else can you come to work every day and think about conducting human missions in space? NASA is the only place in the United States where you can do that today.

Eventually there will be commercial manned space flights in the United States and I look forward to that day. When that day comes when you can buy a ticket to low Earth orbit, NASA will look further afield to Mars. Can you buy a ticket to Mars? NASA will look to Jupiter and beyond.

It's a bit more complex than looking for it on Glassdoor or equivalent.

If the question is really "how much does a software engineer who works for NASA make," that includes the tens of thousands of contractors who work for NASA. If it's NASA employees (actually US government civil servants) you're talking about, then you just have to look at the GS scales.
With only a 4-year degree, you would enter as a GS-5, with each year of specialized experience moving to GS-7, GS-9, GS-11 ... A newly created PhD would enter a GS-11 or GS-12.

GS-7 is 34.6k to 45.1k
GS-11 is 51.3k to 66.7k
GS-14 is 86.4k

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It's a bit more complex than looking for it on Glassdoor or equivalent.

If the question is really "how much does a software engineer who works for NASA make," that includes the tens of thousands of contractors who work for NASA. If it's NASA employees (actually US government civil servants) you're talking about, then you just have to look at the GS scales.
With only a 4-year degree, you would enter as a GS-5, with each year of specialized experience moving to GS-7, GS-9, GS-11 ... A newly created PhD would enter a GS-11 or GS-12.

GS-7 is 34.6k to 45.1k
GS-11 is 51.3k to 66.7k
GS-14 is 86.4k to 112.3k

That's the base scale, there are changes for specific locations, etc.

You can go to the official federal government job site. Here you will find a java job search.
Official job site of the federal government.

It seems that they are in the cube 11,12,13.

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