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Selecting a university for your undergraduate or graduate study may seem a daunting task. Not only do you need to consider school reputation, course offering, location or financing, you also need to think about how the selected school will put you on the right track to pursue a career in the space industry.

However, bear in mind that a career in space does not necessarily require a specific study programme or discipline. You don’t even need to participate in the space- or astronomy related program while studying for your degree. Many engineers, managers or scientists in the space sector have a degree in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics, physics, chemical engineering, computer science or other disciplines. All of the above mentioned fields are widely applicable within the industry.

Space-related courses at your university may include some of the following:

  • Asteroids, Meteors
  • Celestial Mechanics
  • Combustion Systems
  • Deep Space Communications
  • Human Factors in Space
  • Intro to Orbital Mechanics
  • Spaceflight Dynamics
  • Observational Astronomy
  • Cosmology
  • Satellite Information Processing
  • Space Science and Exploration
  • Space Vehicle Design
  • Theory of Propulsion

Even if you have chosen a study program that is seemingly unrelated to the space industry, chance are that there at least a few academics at your school involved with disciplines that can be applied to the space industry. There are plenty of positions within the industry in the fields of management, finance, sales, law and the like. The non-technical courses may include the following

  • Communications Policy
  • Fundamentals of Marketing
  • Remote Sensing Policy and Law
  • Space Law
  • Strategic Implications of Space
  • Strategic Planning

Graduate Study Programs

A graduate degree is more and more considered an asset by employers and can opens up a variety of leadership positions in the industry. You can become a better expert in your chosen field by narrowing your specialization, or you can add an additional discipline to your qualifications.

Governments offer hundreds of millions of dollar/euros to fund research at universities. In addition, private companies may also offer to sponsor various research activities. The most important things to look at while choosing a graduate program is your academic advisor and your research project. It is crucial that you find the environment that will help you to pursue the exact specialization that you desire. In order to achieve this, you will again need to do a bit of research to find out what the current options are. Again, you can refer to the list of universities along with the contact at the end of this chapter to seek out more information.

However, before you start inquiring information from different schools, I highly recommend that you talk with the professionals in the industry who are working in the same specific field you are wishing to pursue. They might be able to give you some valuable insights about their specializations, some of which the universities would normally not share with you.

There are different ways how to connect to industry professionals. Every university maintains an alumni network and therefore they should be able to connect you with them. Many contacts can also be found online, whether at the professional network LinkedIn or in specialized forums. You can find more about those in the next article about networking.

Education and the Aerospace Industry

Further Reading


Vault Guide to Space Exploration Jobs

Space Careers by Leonard David and Scott Sacknoff

Image Credits: NASA

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