How to Become a Rocket Scientist in The US

Man first traveled into space in 1961, and landed on the moon eight years later. Although history celebrates the astronauts who achieve these extraordinary feats, little is told about the professionals who work behind the scenes to design the spacecraft that transports them into space. If you are a science enthusiast with superb innovative skills, you could be a rocket scientist in the making. Read on!

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1. What Do Rocket Scientists Do?

The duties of rocket scientists include:

  • Conducting research to identify materials that can be used to build rockets, missiles and other spacecraft – This involves analyzing their strength, weight and corrosion resistance
  • Using computer software to design rockets, rocket engines and their space flight systems
  • Analyzing existing rocket systems and identifying ways to make them more efficient
  • Estimating the production costs of rockets and establishing quality control procedures
  • Participating in the selection of vendors of rocketry supplies and building materials such as aluminum and titanium
  • Compiling research reports and presenting them to research and development managers
  • Participating in the investigation of space accidents

2. Work Environment

Rocket scientists work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. They spend most of their time in labs, where they use various cutting-edge technologies to do the design work.

Occasionally, they join other professionals to conduct flight tests. So you should be prepared for some space travel!

3. Salary

Rocket scientists are some of the highest paid scientists. According to Indeed, they take home an average salary of $95,000 per year.

4. Entry Requirements

It takes hard work and superior intellect to earn such a high salary. Right from high school, maths and physics should be your favorite subjects.

Professional training begins at undergraduate level, where you should earn a bachelor’s degree in any of the following fields:

  • Aerospace engineering,
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Space physics.

Aerospace should be your most preferred field, as it provides training in fields such as aerodynamics, space structures, aerospace systems design and flight and orbital mechanics.

Here are some of the universities offering aerospace degrees:

5. Important Qualities

To be an accomplished rocket scientist, you need:

  • Exceptional innovative skills
  • Superb critical-thinking skills
  • A high level of creativity
  • Excellent skills in computer design
  • Excellent research skills
  • Excellent analytical skills
  • Excellent problem-solving skills
  • Excellent math skills
  • A genuine love of science
  • Good teamwork skills
  • Good report-writing skills
  • Good presentation skill
  • An interest in space studies

6. Career Development

After obtaining your bachelor’s degree, you can find employment as a scientific assistant in rocket labs. To enhance your chances of being hired as a rocket scientist, pursue a master’s degree in aerospace engineering.

The National Association of Rocketry is the professional organization for rocket scientists and other aerospace professionals. By becoming a member, you will be able to network with other scientists and access a range of educational resources.

7. Job Opportunities

The employers of rocket scientists include:

  • NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
  • Private rocket labs
  • Aerospace engineering firms
  • Defence Contractors

With vast experience as a rocket scientist and an advanced degree, you can advance to become the head of a department, such as research and development. If you wish to nurture other rocket scientists in colleges, pursue a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering.

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Finally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 7 percent job growth for all aerospace engineers, including rocket scientists, between 2012 and 2022. Although this is slightly slower than the 11 percent national average for all jobs, many rocket scientists who are currently in practice are aging and about to retire. This is likely to create more positions for newly-qualified scientists.

So if you have been dreaming of becoming a rocket scientists, you now know what you need to make your dreams take flight.