Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
focusedonwhatmatters
Posts: 126
Joined: Wed Nov 29, 2017 11:49 am

Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by focusedonwhatmatters » Fri Jun 01, 2018 3:14 pm

Next year my son will be finishing his masters in Applied Physics, and unless something goes wrong he will likely finish with around a 3.9 GPA. He was a NASA Scholar until that program ended and was just named an Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Scholar which are both pretty big honors. He has wanted to be an aerospace engineer since preschool, so he is over-the-moon excited about his second NASA internship this summer.

Upon graduation I have no doubt he could get a job wherever he wants. I'm wondering if anyone in the industry could provide some insight as to whether he should target NASA or one of the many private sector companies (Lockheed, SpaceX, etc.). I'd like input both as to the financial aspect as well as the career growth opportunities.

Thanks in advance!

fowm
Last edited by focusedonwhatmatters on Sat Jun 02, 2018 3:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

barnaclebob
Posts: 3082
Joined: Thu Aug 09, 2012 10:54 am

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by barnaclebob » Fri Jun 01, 2018 3:44 pm

First of all, the world needs more people like your son instead of people who want to create an app that puts a puppy face animation on a selfie video.

I work at one of the large private aerospace companies and really love working on projects that most people in the world can recognize. The amount of knowledge it takes to put together a working aerospace product is mind blowing. The larger your company, the smaller your role so that can be frustrating for many people, but all large engineering advancements and projects come from a team effort these days. Most roles are critical in some way.

At my company its very difficult, if not impossible to advance more rapidly than the set band of pay increases and promotions are 90% based on years of service. That drives off a lot of new employees after a few years. On the plus side the pay and benefits are very good. Starting salary is around 65-70k these days I think and you should be making 100k in about 5-7 years. My work life balance is great because I generally only work 40 hours a week and depending on program budgets I might not be allowed to work OT even if I wanted to.

Finally there is a lot of inertia with a big company so its hard to change anything. However that's because most of our processes are extremely safety oriented, built on decades of experience, and have significant costs to change. I've been working over 10 years in my role and have just started feeling competent in the past couple years.
Last edited by barnaclebob on Fri Jun 01, 2018 4:04 pm, edited 7 times in total.

golfCaddy
Posts: 728
Joined: Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:02 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by golfCaddy » Fri Jun 01, 2018 3:47 pm

This isn't a NASA specific issue, but almost all federal employees are on the GS pay scale. That caps their pay at level IV of the executive schedule, which is now $164,200. A few upper level SES positions may make more, but they tend to be political appointees who come and go when there is a new administration. There's the potential to reach far higher compensation in the private sector. SpaceX is known for working its employees to death (80 weeks consistently). Most NASA employees are in the business of contract management. The real engineering gets outsourced to contractors. If he wants to do research and development, he should go work for a contractor. If he wants to become an expert in federal acquisition regulations, he should go work at NASA. Not a NASA specific benefit, but the federal government has good job security and a DB pension, FERS. To me Lockheed or Boeing would offer the best compromise between compensation and work-life balance. Jobs supporting the military or intel community may require a security clearance.

Glockenspiel
Posts: 590
Joined: Thu Feb 08, 2018 1:20 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by Glockenspiel » Fri Jun 01, 2018 3:59 pm

focusedonwhatmatters wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 3:14 pm
Next year my son will be finishing his masters in Applied Physics (BS in Engineering Physics and Computer Science), and unless something goes wrong he will likely finish with around a 3.9 GPA. He was a NASA Scholar until that program ended and was just named an Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Scholar which are both pretty big honors. He has wanted to be an aerospace engineer since preschool, so he is over-the-moon excited about his second NASA internship this summer.

Upon graduation I have no doubt he could get a job wherever he wants. I'm wondering if anyone in the industry could provide some insight as to whether he should target NASA or one of the many private sector companies (Lockheed, SpaceX, etc.). I'd like input both as to the financial aspect as well as the career growth opportunities.

Thanks in advance!

fowm
I have an acquaintance who worked for Wyle Laboratories conducting research on human health and performance in space, but recently made the switch from working there to working for NASA in Texas. Not sure why she made the switch. She got a Ph.D. in Bioastronautics & Microgravity Sciences before working for Wyle.

Jimmei1
Posts: 11
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2014 12:24 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by Jimmei1 » Fri Jun 01, 2018 4:06 pm

golfCaddy wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 3:47 pm
Most NASA employees are in the business of contract management. The real engineering gets outsourced to contractors. If he wants to do research and development, he should go work for a contractor. If he wants to become an expert in federal acquisition regulations, he should go work at NASA.
^ This.

Pay at all levels will be higher as a contractor and he's likely to have more competent supervision.

He might also look into an FFRDC (Federally-Funded R&D Center). The two most aerospace-oriented are The Aerospace Corporation and MIT-Lincoln Laboratory. Pay at these is comparable to industry, with more of a research university atmosphere.

focusedonwhatmatters
Posts: 126
Joined: Wed Nov 29, 2017 11:49 am

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by focusedonwhatmatters » Fri Jun 01, 2018 4:40 pm

Thank you for these excellent, insightful replies.

I didn't mention...my son has only just turned 19. He has always been very motivated to learn, apply his knowledge, and make his contributions. I am very proud.

At present he is very dedicated to and invigorated by the research he is doing, so the MIT and Aerospace Corp may be of great interest. I will pass on all the information you have provided.

One more question...what are your thoughts on staying in school to obtain a PhD?

Many thanks!

fowm

Jimmei1
Posts: 11
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2014 12:24 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by Jimmei1 » Fri Jun 01, 2018 5:05 pm

focusedonwhatmatters wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 4:40 pm
One more question...what are your thoughts on staying in school to obtain a PhD?
From a financial perspective, he will probably never make up the lost 4 years or so of income if he gets a PhD. If your son likes R&D, the PhD will open up opportunities, especially when he's young. Even now, at age 54, I find my PhD holds some cachet when dealing with a new customer or engineers/scientists I've not worked with before.

It's also much easier continuing to be a poor college student than to go back later for a PhD.

student
Posts: 2679
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2015 6:58 am

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by student » Fri Jun 01, 2018 5:16 pm

focusedonwhatmatters wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 4:40 pm
Thank you for these excellent, insightful replies.

I didn't mention...my son has only just turned 19. He has always been very motivated to learn, apply his knowledge, and make his contributions. I am very proud.

At present he is very dedicated to and invigorated by the research he is doing, so the MIT and Aerospace Corp may be of great interest. I will pass on all the information you have provided.

One more question...what are your thoughts on staying in school to obtain a PhD?

Many thanks!

fowm
Getting a masters at 19. I think he is in the genius level. I think he will accomplish a lot whether doing a PhD or going to industry directly. Just make sure that he doesn't get burnout.

golfCaddy
Posts: 728
Joined: Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:02 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by golfCaddy » Fri Jun 01, 2018 5:40 pm

focusedonwhatmatters wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 4:40 pm
One more question...what are your thoughts on staying in school to obtain a PhD?

Many thanks!

fowm
Staying in school to obtain a PhD is a great idea. Just do it at the best school that will admit him. Don't fall into the trap of getting a PhD at the same school as the MS out of inertia.

student
Posts: 2679
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2015 6:58 am

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by student » Fri Jun 01, 2018 5:49 pm

golfCaddy wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 5:40 pm
focusedonwhatmatters wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 4:40 pm
One more question...what are your thoughts on staying in school to obtain a PhD?

Many thanks!

fowm
Staying in school to obtain a PhD is a great idea. Just do it at the best school that will admit him. Don't fall into the trap of getting a PhD at the same school as the MS out of inertia.
Unless it is one of the top schools, in which case, I think it is fine.

golfCaddy
Posts: 728
Joined: Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:02 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by golfCaddy » Fri Jun 01, 2018 5:58 pm

student wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 5:49 pm
Unless it is one of the top schools, in which case, I think it is fine.
The OP didn't tell us where his son was enrolled now, so we have to give somewhat generic advice.

student
Posts: 2679
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2015 6:58 am

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by student » Fri Jun 01, 2018 5:59 pm

golfCaddy wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 5:58 pm
student wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 5:49 pm
Unless it is one of the top schools, in which case, I think it is fine.
The OP didn't tell us where his son was enrolled now, so we have to give somewhat generic advice.
I agree.

thx1138
Posts: 787
Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2013 2:14 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by thx1138 » Fri Jun 01, 2018 9:00 pm

He should likely plan on not being at his first employer for more than a few years. As others already pointed out most space organizations - either contractor or government - are large and slow. They tend to be very poor at internal promotions. On the flip side they often are willing to recruit heavily from the outside. Thus you find for younger folks the fastest way to increased responsibility and salary is to be prepared to change companies a few times in your first decade. Long term of course you don’t want to be a serial job hopper. But starting out you should really assume you’ll change jobs at least twice if not more and only spend three or so years each at the first few jobs. Thus don’t obsess too much over where you land at first - likely it won’t make sense to stay there very long.

On the PhD thing it depends on what he wants to do. The PhD primarily helps in getting access to positions in which you need to propose for funding for projects (e.g. DARPA or NSF). The upside is you are involved in steering where the ship is going. Downside is you are frequently more worried about feeding the sailors (i.e. finding new funding) than actually sailing the ship (i.e. doing the research itself). It is never a financial “win” to get a PhD but there are certain jobs it is easier to get if you have a PhD so if you are interested in that kind of job go for it. Otherwise it just becomes a period of reduced earnings even if you have a full ride and you find after six years of grad school the increase in salary for a PhD isn’t any different than the increase for six years experience in the industry.

random_walker_77
Posts: 640
Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 8:49 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by random_walker_77 » Fri Jun 01, 2018 9:15 pm

Congrats to your son on such an early graduation! Though really, this means he can simply work more years before full retirement age :twisted:
...unless he saves enough to retire early.

How are his people skills? I'm an engineer, but not in aero, and have observed that academia and industry reward different things. Those who succeed in academia don't always do so well working on big projects in the real world. And as bad as the average engineer might be with people skills, such skills are really important when you're talking about gigantic team projects. Working on improving the soft skills can be very valuable
SpaceX is known for working its employees to death (80 weeks consistently)
For a first job, 80hr weeks afford an opportunity to potentially learn a lot very quickly. And coming straight out of grad school, a mere 80 hr week might seem like a nice slowdown in pace. I wouldn't completely discount such an option if it meant the chance to learn from a top-notch team

golfCaddy
Posts: 728
Joined: Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:02 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by golfCaddy » Fri Jun 01, 2018 9:16 pm

thx1138 wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 9:00 pm
He should likely plan on not being at his first employer for more than a few years. As others already pointed out most space organizations - either contractor or government - are large and slow. They tend to be very poor at internal promotions. On the flip side they often are willing to recruit heavily from the outside. Thus you find for younger folks the fastest way to increased responsibility and salary is to be prepared to change companies a few times in your first decade. Long term of course you don’t want to be a serial job hopper. But starting out you should really assume you’ll change jobs at least twice if not more and only spend three or so years each at the first few jobs. Thus don’t obsess too much over where you land at first - likely it won’t make sense to stay there very long.
I would caveat that by saying, it's a lot harder to go from a fed to a contractor or the private sector than the reverse direction. I would not make government a first or even a second job.

ReadyOrNot
Posts: 198
Joined: Sun Aug 21, 2016 1:51 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by ReadyOrNot » Fri Jun 01, 2018 11:39 pm

The aerospace industry is extremely cyclical. Sometimes it is hard to hire engineers, and sometimes there are mass layoffs. So if there are great opportunities now, I couldn't advise against them. When times were bad, lots of students coming out of school, with BS, MS, or PhD, couldn't get jobs in their fields and took permanent hits on their careers.

Anyway, go ahead and interview with both government and commercial companies. Either may present better opportunities. The information about career opportunities will be valuable, maybe eye-opening. Many jobs at government labs are actually contractor jobs. The contractor company may be a contractor house, a big commercial company, or a university or a nonprofit entity. Any could give a competitive offer. (Contractors are the first to be laid off, but when NASA shrunk, even civil service NASA employees were not safe. I suppose that with the permanent civil service workforce already shrunken, any future adjustments wouldn't be so bad.)

The intern positions you mentioned should provide a lot of information.
Last edited by ReadyOrNot on Fri Jun 01, 2018 11:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.

schrute
Posts: 246
Joined: Wed Nov 05, 2014 2:27 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by schrute » Fri Jun 01, 2018 11:49 pm

focusedonwhatmatters wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 3:14 pm
Next year my son will be finishing his masters in Applied Physics (BS in Engineering Physics and Computer Science), and unless something goes wrong he will likely finish with around a 3.9 GPA. He was a NASA Scholar until that program ended and was just named an Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Scholar which are both pretty big honors. He has wanted to be an aerospace engineer since preschool, so he is over-the-moon excited about his second NASA internship this summer.

Upon graduation I have no doubt he could get a job wherever he wants. I'm wondering if anyone in the industry could provide some insight as to whether he should target NASA or one of the many private sector companies (Lockheed, SpaceX, etc.). I'd like input both as to the financial aspect as well as the career growth opportunities.

Thanks in advance!

fowm
I worked at NASA for a while and have a lot of friends that work in the private sector (companies you named). I'll say that you're not joining these companies for lucrative financial gain. You will make a living based on what you are trained to do and it's perfectly well. I think the growth with companies in the private sector are significantly better. Having said that, I believe there's an over abundance of aerospace engineers at the moment, so overall career growth from now until the mid-career class retires is going to be very slow. Regarding the private sector, I don't know anyone that has gone to SpaceX and stayed.

I agree that unless your son wants to go into academia, a PhD is going to be a waste of money, unless he just really loves to learn things. I know people at large aerospace companies that advanced to managerial levels by taking the 2-3 extra years work experience and manage PhDs. But not sure that's possible today.

NASA contains a huge amount of unmotivated government employees. They're so expensive that they have to contract all the work out. Even then money is so badly mismanaged that there is no incentive to deliver a project on time. If you're nearing retirement, it's a great place to be as it's virtually impossible to get fired. They're just shift you from job to job.

My advice is that your son should work at either Boeing or Lockheed Martin as those are the two big players today. If he's interested in his PhD, either one will help pay while he goes to school at USC part time.

tigermilk
Posts: 536
Joined: Thu Aug 15, 2013 9:32 am

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by tigermilk » Sat Jun 02, 2018 3:33 pm

Much interesting discussion in this thread. I'll comment as someone who has worked for NASA nearly 3 decades, starting while still a student.

First some direct rebuttals regarding some of the others posts:

1) Getting the Ph.D. - I got a doctorate, and it was at a time when we'd get reimbursed for tuition. I stayed in the student co-op program during undergraduate and to the point I got my masters, at which point I converted to full time. NASA did not pay for the undergraduate or masters degrees, but once I was a full-time permanent employee, they did pick up my tuition and fees (local university). Up until about 10 years ago my center also had a handful of employees that would go on 1 year paid leave plus pay school/housing (if not local) expenses to get an advanced degree. That changed to a policy where you had to put your 40 hours in, and now all that is pretty much gone. I will say that at most field centers, you don't need a Ph.D. I know some fantastic engineers who only have their undergrad or masters degrees; engineering is about experience. At the research centers, the Ph.D. will carry more weight. The value of the Ph.D. depends on where you think your son would like to end up.

2) "Most NASA employees are in the business of contract management. The real engineering gets outsourced to contractors. If he wants to do research and development, he should go work for a contractor. If he wants to become an expert in federal acquisition regulations, he should go work at NASA." - this is wrong on so many levels. Over the course of my career I have been directly involved with the design and manufacturing of items that were used on the Space Shuttle and currently used on the International Space Station. Yes there are many engineers engaged in oversight, but there's much hands-on work being done by feds. In fact, one large program has a large, well known contractor that has not adequately staffed. Guess who is filling in the gaps for the engineering? The likelihood of doing "real engineering" all depends on where you end up.

3) I know several people who previously worked at contractors who were eventually hired at NASA. Some took pay cuts to work here.

Some advice:

1) We are an aging agency. Average employee age is around 50 years old, and hiring young people is a challenge.

2) Being in the NASA internship program - that's not necessarily a gateway into the agency. We have many types of students that work for us, but those in the Pathways program have the inside track on getting hired full time. It's unfortunate as we've had some really talented kids come through on one-time internships.

3) Depending on where you are, the work may or may not be motivating. Years ago I was on a hands-on flight project that had everyone excited. Unfortunately Congress canceled it. The atmosphere that project created is similar to what I've seen at SpaceX. The big difference, however, is that while I would love to work at SpaceX because of the work they are doing, the crazy hours, HCOL, and relatively low pay are enough to leave it to the young pups. The turnover is high there, but believe it or not I know a few employees who have been there for around 10 years.

4) Career growth - much of this comes down to the center you are working for, and even with that the organization in the center. Pay is GS scale, but there's also the "locality pay" component. Some centers have higher wages because of this. Just look up "GS local pay" and you'll see the differences. If at a flight/operations center, you will find many engineers who stall out in their careers at GS-13. A few make it to GS-14, and even fewer to GS-15. Unfortunately the easier path to the holy grail of a 14 or 15 is through management. It's a shame to lose some of our best engineers to that path. We need high quality in both paths and should reward those who are exceptional in either.

5) Financial - currently, if he were to be hired, he'd be a FERS employee. That means he'll get a pension (1% for every year, 1.1x multiplier if he works to 62 or later), Social Security, and the TSP. I hired on many moons ago, so my pension contribution is rather modest at something like 0.7%. But new employees pay a significantly higher proportion of their salary to the pension (I believe in the 3-5% range). Some of the Boeing friends I've made over the years get a pension from Boeing, but I don't know if that's the same for new hires. Never have heard about other contractors getting pensions. Depending on the contractor, you'll get better compensation than NASA. But there are several other contractors who earn less.

6) Research - the research centers have had their budgets slashed significantly in the last decade+. There's less foundational research going on in favor of spending money on the human and robotic spaceflight missions. There is no change in sight for this, and it is a sore spot for those who who at the "R" centers. The "R" centers have had active applied engineering work in areas they traditionally did not. It's been an interesting ride to work with them due to the difference in cultures.

OneWorld111
Posts: 152
Joined: Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:59 am

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by OneWorld111 » Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:23 pm

What a future lies ahead!

NASA is overrated and I think better off with Boeing or Lockheed Martin or any other private company. I have worked with NASA employees and they typically outsource the work to subcontractors. The quality is average but it has the name of NASA.

Within first few years of his employment in private company, he and the company will realize his potential and he may end up doing MBA ( much more valued in corporations than Ph.D).


Thanks
Companion

OneWorld111
Posts: 152
Joined: Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:59 am

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by OneWorld111 » Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:26 pm

What a future lies ahead!

NASA is overrated and I think better off with Boeing or Lockheed Martin or any other private company. I have worked with NASA employees and they typically outsource the work to subcontractors. The quality is average but it has the name of NASA.

Within first few years of his employment in private company, he and the company will realize his potential and he may end up doing MBA ( much more valued in corporations than Ph.D).


Thanks
Companion

User avatar
Strayshot
Posts: 403
Joined: Thu Mar 05, 2015 8:04 am
Location: New Mexico

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by Strayshot » Sat Jun 02, 2018 6:22 pm

Someone earlier mentioned FFRDC’s, I will put in a vote for Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. I believe that Sandia was named highly in Forbes Best places to work and was like the #1 for Aerospace and Defense companies (ahead of NASA and several other Aerospace organizations).

golfCaddy
Posts: 728
Joined: Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:02 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by golfCaddy » Sat Jun 02, 2018 8:34 pm

Don't be so fixated on one agency, NASA. There are military satellites. There are intel satellites. Look at NRO. Even DOE is involved in space. Then, there's the commercial side of space.

FERS is of little value unless you are a lifer. The lump sum you get from FERS is low if you leave federal service. If you leave federal service with at least five years of creditable service, you can elect for a deferred retirement. However, the calculation will be based on your high three years of service. If nothing else, inflation will substantially reduce the real value of the high 3 if there's a large gap between leaving federal service and starting retirement.

MadDwag
Posts: 19
Joined: Wed Apr 05, 2017 9:07 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by MadDwag » Sat Jun 02, 2018 9:46 pm

I talked with a SpaceX recruiter. Was going to be a significant pay cut, and the recruiter kept mentioning long (70+) hour weeks. For the high cost of living area, it didn't make much sense. It was clear they were banking on the "sexy" factor of SpaceX to make up for the hours and low pay.

I echo the contractor path suggested above.

jayk238
Posts: 458
Joined: Tue Jan 31, 2017 1:02 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by jayk238 » Sat Jun 02, 2018 10:36 pm

golfCaddy wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 3:47 pm
This isn't a NASA specific issue, but almost all federal employees are on the GS pay scale. That caps their pay at level IV of the executive schedule, which is now $164,200. A few upper level SES positions may make more, but they tend to be political appointees who come and go when there is a new administration. There's the potential to reach far higher compensation in the private sector. SpaceX is known for working its employees to death (80 weeks consistently). Most NASA employees are in the business of contract management. The real engineering gets outsourced to contractors. If he wants to do research and development, he should go work for a contractor. If he wants to become an expert in federal acquisition regulations, he should go work at NASA. Not a NASA specific benefit, but the federal government has good job security and a DB pension, FERS. To me Lockheed or Boeing would offer the best compromise between compensation and work-life balance. Jobs supporting the military or intel community may require a security clearance.
I disagree. My bil was a nasa engineer and worked in engineerig side specifically and not for a contractor. He worked there for past 10 years and recently jumped ship to a major aeuronotics company known to pay the highest wages in the market for this work. No PhD just bs in mech e

MattE
Posts: 123
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:44 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by MattE » Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:24 am

I got my B.S. in Aerospace and worked as a satellite operations and systems engineer for a Fortune 100 company as a NASA contractor for 5.5 years out of college before completing my Master's (in Systems Engineering) and moving on to better position in a different field at a non-profit research lab.

Working for the contractor I did was awful, and was ultimately the reason I left. Employees were faceless numbers, raises were small, standardized, and issued on a forced bell curve system amongst teams regardless of their size (so a high-performing 4 or 5 person project team was still going to have 1 or 2 people forcibly rated 'below expectations' on performance evals), promotions were handed out based on time-in-service rather than merit, and HR was a vector for automaton-ish enforcement of square-peg-round-hole corporate polices rather than an advocate for employees. I was a top performer (won both a major NASA award and my company's Outstanding Engineer of the Year award while I was there), but my pay was tied to the regional median salary for the industry and I had to fight tooth-and-nail for anything beyond that, including early promotions in situations where I took over responsibility of areas previously handled by much more senior staff. While I liked the people I worked with, the projects I worked on, and the job was pretty low-stress, a large part of the stress part was due to a total lack of positive [contractor] employee morale or motivation that bred a culture of complacency and monotonous repetition of tasks in the same way they'd always been done.

I worked at Goddard Spaceflight Center, where there are about 3000 civil servants (vice 7000 contractors, which is a much, much lower contractor:CS ratio than NASA as a whole), of which 60% are technical staff (scientists and engineers) though even a significant percentage of the managerial\administrative staff come from the engineering ranks (e.g., my deputy program manager while I was there had previously spent 20+ years as the lead GNC engineer for a number of major satellite missions, as was the mission director of the primary project I supported). In that environment\location, it's the civil service staff that are doing a large percentage of the fundamental research, concept development, and early design work and largely fill out the engineering lead\principal investigator positions on new projects; by comparison contractor staff largely support production, integration & test, and operations & sustainment functions. As such, there is\was relatively little emphasis or reward in contractor organizations for Ph.Ds, while they were relatively common in the civil service technical staff. The civil service staff also had\have many more opportunities available to them in terms of mobility between projects and things like rotational programs between departments. And while the raw salary was meaningfully lower than what the contractors were making at comparable position levels, the overall benefits package was WAAAAAAY better -- much, much more paid time off, much better healthcare, and significantly better retirement benefits.

All in all, if I had been offered a civil service position at GSFC prior to leaving I probably wouldn't have been looking to leave in the first place. [Aside: it's hard to say leaving wasn't the right move, period, just because of how fantastic my current employer is, but the timing on that turned out to be poor as about a year after I left there was a hiring surge in anticipation of a hiring freeze post-Trump election and a lot of the other 'rock star' contractor engineers were offered civil service positions to make sure they stayed around.]

schrute
Posts: 246
Joined: Wed Nov 05, 2014 2:27 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by schrute » Sun Jun 03, 2018 11:44 am

Boeing, Lockheed, Northrop, and SpaceX are all pretty much the same in terms of what they do. They all build rockets, airplanes, or satellites with the U.S. as it's biggest customer. Nothing is being re-invented. Rockets are marginally more efficient, but the same thing as was used 20-30 years ago. Truthfully, we can live without spaceflight, but it is really sexy in terms of what you're saying you do.

NASA is continuing to figure itself out on what it's doing. We're bringing manned spaceflight back and going to the Moon to build a base and go to Mars. No, now we're just going to Mars. No, wait, let's cancel our manned spaceflight program and we can focus on redundant things with other government agencies. Needs major focus.

Valuethinker
Posts: 36735
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by Valuethinker » Sun Jun 03, 2018 11:49 am

focusedonwhatmatters wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 3:14 pm
Next year my son will be finishing his masters in Applied Physics, and unless something goes wrong he will likely finish with around a 3.9 GPA. He was a NASA Scholar until that program ended and was just named an Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Scholar which are both pretty big honors. He has wanted to be an aerospace engineer since preschool, so he is over-the-moon excited about his second NASA internship this summer.

Upon graduation I have no doubt he could get a job wherever he wants. I'm wondering if anyone in the industry could provide some insight as to whether he should target NASA or one of the many private sector companies (Lockheed, SpaceX, etc.). I'd like input both as to the financial aspect as well as the career growth opportunities.

Thanks in advance!

fowm
Given his age he probably does his Phd. He's likely to be one of the wonderworkers of his generation in the field, given that he will be at the cutting edge of it starting at such a young age. Assuming he does not burn out or get diverted, first.

However a couple of years of real work experience would be good for him, before he jumps into a doctoral programme. Time to grow up a bit, learn some real world skills (delivering projects to a real world standard, working in teams with people, office politics etc.). It will make him a more effective and successful graduate student, understanding more about the world outside.

I would suggest doing those at NASA.

Why? Because everyone else in Aerospace will recognize that name for the rest of his life. What he does there will be relevant to his fields of future work and study. They may sponsor him for further education.

And because it's NASA. Kids don't grow up wanting to work for some defence contractor. They grow up wanting to work for NASA. This is the agency that sent Man to the Moon. A friend of mine worked in Houston, and described how his heart skipped a beat the first time he saw Mission Control. Go re-watch Apollo 13 and see what I mean: "Roger Houston, we have ignition". Or the documentary The Farthest (about the 2 Voyager probes - that's JPL in Pasadena, but there's the same sense of human beings at the edge of what it is that humans do, what it is that makes us human at our best moments when we stare into the blackness of space together and say "yes, go there").

I'd take NASA over all the other opportunities. Unless someone could really persuade me the opportunity was so amazing.

bogglizer
Posts: 193
Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2016 8:56 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by bogglizer » Sun Jun 03, 2018 11:58 am

I have worked in aerospace (UTC: did not enjoy it) and am now at JPL, which is one of the larger FFRDCs, at 6000 people. The FFRDCs pay industry salaries, as stated in their prime contracts with NASA. For a complete list, just look up FFRDC on wikipedia. JPL has paid internships that often lead to employment.

Theseus
Posts: 457
Joined: Sat Jan 23, 2016 9:40 am

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by Theseus » Sun Jun 03, 2018 12:07 pm

How about working for some interesting startups in the aerospace industry? This reminded me of a Planet Money series of three episodes about how things are in that industry. Even if he decides a different direction it’s a great story.


Below is the link I found to the first episode.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/pla ... 0395436422

jym
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed May 02, 2018 9:00 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by jym » Sun Jun 03, 2018 12:51 pm

Good discussion here. I wanted to make sure this was in black and white:

Any gifted PhD student in engineering in the US should have their tuition covered by their department and should also be receiving a stipend to cover cost of living (perhaps $30k/year, highly variable). If this is not the case, there is something wrong with the department, and you should run away. This is not to say the department won't gleefully accept NSF, NASA, or Lockeed's money to pay your tuition (and perhaps raise your stipend).

If your son is seriously considering a PhD, this is hopefully because he knows people who spun PhDs into careers he finds attractive. These are some of the best people to ask the PhD question, though there will be some confirmation bias. If they are his professors, they hopefully think of this as part of their job.

schrute
Posts: 246
Joined: Wed Nov 05, 2014 2:27 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by schrute » Sun Jun 03, 2018 3:32 pm

Theseus wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 12:07 pm
How about working for some interesting startups in the aerospace industry? This reminded me of a Planet Money series of three episodes about how things are in that industry. Even if he decides a different direction it’s a great story.


Below is the link I found to the first episode.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/pla ... 0395436422
If you're just coming out of school, I disagree with working for startups. I know many of these companies and the pay is not excellent and the skills do not transfer super well to larger firms. If you're bought into the mission (re-think drinking the kool-aid) maybe it's for you, or the possibility of the startup getting bought and you have sizable equity interests you. I would say this would be more similar working in the tech industry, 60 hour weeks, etc.

golfCaddy
Posts: 728
Joined: Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:02 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by golfCaddy » Sun Jun 03, 2018 7:31 pm

Valuethinker wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 11:49 am
Given his age he probably does his Phd. He's likely to be one of the wonderworkers of his generation in the field, given that he will be at the cutting edge of it starting at such a young age. Assuming he does not burn out or get diverted, first.

However a couple of years of real work experience would be good for him, before he jumps into a doctoral programme. Time to grow up a bit, learn some real world skills (delivering projects to a real world standard, working in teams with people, office politics etc.). It will make him a more effective and successful graduate student, understanding more about the world outside.
If he wants a PhD, I would suggest he do it right away. A PhD isn't like a MBA program, where real world experience is useful for admissions. Academically, he'll forget some of his coursework working, which sets him behind in preparing for the qualifying exam. Career wise, any experience he gets will become irrelevant once he has a PhD. Financially, it can be a hard adjustment going from living off a real job's salary to living off a grad student's stipend.

User avatar
triceratop
Moderator
Posts: 5757
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 8:20 pm
Location: la la land

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by triceratop » Sun Jun 03, 2018 8:19 pm

If your son wants to work at NASA/JPL I can think of one university where there’s a straightforward and well-traveled path to employment from a PhD program in aerospace.
"To play the stock market is to play musical chairs under the chord progression of a bid-ask spread."

User avatar
Rocco Sampler
Posts: 37
Joined: Wed Aug 23, 2017 6:59 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by Rocco Sampler » Mon Jun 04, 2018 8:52 am

My two cents. It’s true that a lot of NASA work is contract administration and it’s not very scientific. NASA pays Space-X (Space Station), Orbital ATK (Space Station), Boeing (Space Station, SLS), Lockheed Martin (Orion), etc. to do the work. An advanced degree in applied physics teaches abstract thinking skills that will never be utilized managing contracts (that are subject to Federal Acquisition Regulations). As far as salaries and benefits, here in Florida the NASA contractors lose with every new contract award. They’re making less now than during the space shuttle days. Their security is subject to continued NASA funding and winning the contract by being the low bidder. NASA (and all federal) salaries are ok, but not spectacular and there is talk of cutting federal benefits. In real dollars NASA’s budget has decreased substantially over the past 30 years and now the government deficit means big time NASA funding is a no go. Also consider the major space locations and their desirability. I would consider energy or medicine (bio-mechanics, biophysics, etc.), other areas that are growing, or even the nuclear Navy.

focusedonwhatmatters
Posts: 126
Joined: Wed Nov 29, 2017 11:49 am

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by focusedonwhatmatters » Mon Jun 04, 2018 2:47 pm

Thank you all for contributing your thoughts and experiences to this discussion. It has given my son a lot to think about!

fowm

User avatar
HomerJ
Posts: 11964
Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2008 12:50 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by HomerJ » Mon Jun 04, 2018 3:15 pm

schrute wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 11:44 am
Truthfully, we can live without spaceflight, but it is really sexy in terms of what you're saying you do.
Heh, living without satellites would be a very different world
The J stands for Jay

User avatar
HomerJ
Posts: 11964
Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2008 12:50 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by HomerJ » Mon Jun 04, 2018 3:16 pm

triceratop wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 8:19 pm
If your son wants to work at NASA/JPL I can think of one university where there’s a straightforward and well-traveled path to employment from a PhD program in aerospace.
which one?
The J stands for Jay

MotoTrojan
Posts: 2684
Joined: Wed Feb 01, 2017 8:39 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by MotoTrojan » Mon Jun 04, 2018 3:31 pm

NASA provides nice pensions etc but I would consider it later in life, and also skip the PhD unless research is his thing. He will learn more in the 1st three years at a SpaveX than all of schooling combined, and be much more well-rounded than a focused job at NASA. Equity at space start-ups is also a nice financial incentive if successful.

baughman
Posts: 10
Joined: Wed Nov 19, 2014 11:40 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by baughman » Mon Jun 04, 2018 3:49 pm

I worked as a landing systems engineer (brakes, landing gear actuation, steering) at Boeing Commercial Airplanes for 4 years. I worked in Everett, WA. I was paid pretty well coming out of undergrad ($56k in 2006). Pay raises to just shy of $100k after a promotion to Level 2 engineer and a few normal raises.

Pros of Boeing:
* 40 hrs/week (7-3:30 is a normal shift to avoid Seattle rush hour)
* Paid OT if approved (I never worked an hour of overtime)
* Good benefits
* Good location
* Meritocracy

Cons of Boeing:
* All real engineering (in my group) was outsourced to subcontractors.
* LOTS of dead wood.
* Very, very, very specialized. I know people who spent their entire careers on hydraulic brackets. Or landing gear actuators. Or whatever. In a massive company, it pays to specialize. As a young engineer, I hated the lack of variability.
* Frustratingly flat pay structure & slow promotional opportunities.

I didn't see a huge advantage of advanced degrees while at Boeing. Perhaps that's because those with advanced degrees went to more interesting groups (Boeing's Phantom Works, etc). If your son wants a job with decent pay, great location, and unheralded work-life-balance, then look no further than Boeing (a colleague of mine told me once "you can't get paid more to work less anywhere else in the country"). If your son wants to do interesting engineering work and avoid the bureaucracy of a large firm, I'd look hard at a smaller engineering firm.

I ended up jumping ship from engineering, getting an MBA then PhD in business and now teach business. So take my comments with a grain of salt as a short-timer in the field having never worked in engineering outside of Boeing.

User avatar
triceratop
Moderator
Posts: 5757
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 8:20 pm
Location: la la land

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by triceratop » Mon Jun 04, 2018 6:06 pm

HomerJ wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 3:16 pm
triceratop wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 8:19 pm
If your son wants to work at NASA/JPL I can think of one university where there’s a straightforward and well-traveled path to employment from a PhD program in aerospace.
which one?
The one which owns and operates JPL — JPL is not actually run by NASA.
"To play the stock market is to play musical chairs under the chord progression of a bid-ask spread."

User avatar
FiveK
Posts: 5863
Joined: Sun Mar 16, 2014 2:43 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by FiveK » Mon Jun 04, 2018 6:08 pm

triceratop wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 6:06 pm
HomerJ wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 3:16 pm
triceratop wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 8:19 pm
If your son wants to work at NASA/JPL I can think of one university where there’s a straightforward and well-traveled path to employment from a PhD program in aerospace.
which one?
The one which owns and operates JPL — JPL is not actually run by NASA.
I.e., CalTech.

investor997
Posts: 374
Joined: Tue Feb 07, 2017 3:23 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by investor997 » Mon Jun 04, 2018 6:21 pm

Here in SoCal, my understanding is people start at SpaceX, burn out from the long hours and then transition to other nearby aerospace options which support a better work/life balance. JPL in Pasadena is a popular choice, but so are the other big defense guys like Boeing, Northrup Grumman and Raytheon. All of a presence in the "south bay" area of LA County. There are also other, smaller companies such as Millenium Space Systems.

scrunchy
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Jan 18, 2018 8:47 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by scrunchy » Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:04 pm

What does he want to do? What area is he interested in? That will enable some more targeted advice. If he just wants to work in aerospace then any company will do. Some think a PhD is not necessary and prefer a MBA, but it will depend on what he wants to do? If he wants to work on the cutting edge in electric propulsion for an organization that is world class in that field, then might I suggest a PhD. If he just wants to be a design engineer, then a masters is likely sufficient.

Don't discount the opportunity to work at SpaceX even for insane hours. I have heard of someone from Caltech turning down an offer from another company to work at SpaceX for less, because of the experience and they could work for another company anytime later. There is a lot of energy at a company like SpaceX and a lot of responsibility to be gained early in a career by working there.

Some have suggested that it is useful to skip around companies initially, because that is the way the game is played. Skip around too much and employers will take notice. Companies are also trying to figure out how to attract junior staff, reward them and reduce turnover in that demographic. Companies may vary, but I would not automatically assume you are going to leave in 2-3 years. I personally would not be interested in hiring someone who will only stay at the company for 2-3 years.

Again, depending on interest, he may want to consider a "new space" company.

There is lots of exciting work in the government, FFRDC or for a contractor. There is also lots of boring work in the government, FFRDC or for a contractor. What's exciting for one person may be boring for another, etc.

golfCaddy
Posts: 728
Joined: Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:02 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by golfCaddy » Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:15 pm

There is lots of exciting work in the government, FFRDC or for a contractor. There is also lots of boring work in the government, FFRDC or for a contractor. What's exciting for one person may be boring for another, etc.
This may be a nitpick, but FFRDCs are contractors.

scrunchy
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Jan 18, 2018 8:47 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by scrunchy » Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:33 pm

golfCaddy wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:15 pm
This may be a nitpick, but FFRDCs are contractors.
Yes, they are. But they are also a special kind of contractor with a whole set of restrictions placed on them because of being a FFRDC. See: "48 CFR 35.017 - Federally Funded Research and Development Centers." They typically cannot compete with industry, they establish a long term relationship with their sponsoring government agency, and they may participate in the pre-acquisition phase of a program, and potentially advise the government during source selections. They will also typically get a view that spans contractors and programs and will often have access to and be required to protect proprietary information across the contractor community.

sjl333
Posts: 78
Joined: Sun Apr 20, 2014 2:59 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by sjl333 » Tue Jun 05, 2018 12:07 am

Hello,

Feel free to read my previous posts, as I am also an aerospace engineer. This may sound like a humble brag, but I am in a very niche, always in high demand field in aerospace. Pay rates for a good, experienced analyst can range anywhere $75/hour up to $120/hour, but this is contract type work. If he is doing it for the love of the science, good for him...but he will soon start to realize that he will be lagging behind his peers in terms of pay if he doesn't get in to the right type of specialization. He may not care.... but I highly doubt so. So it all depends on what he decides to really specialize in, and if he is content with the 2-3% raises. There is money in aerospace, you just need to look and have the right type of skillset to make the big bucks.

I can't speak for NASA since I have never worked there, but I have worked for a large aerospace company (think Boeing, Lockheed, Northrop) and currently work for a tier 1 aerospace supplier. All big companies are the same, with tons of bureaucracy, politics, mediocre raises, lots of old timers that are dead wood, etc, etc. Hopefully he is passionate about it because he probably will be living a normal middle class life and will make starting 75K/yr - 150K/yr (after 15-20+ years experience) throughout his career. If he is okay with that, than nothing wrong with pursuing that...but he may soon realize that he will want to get out of the rat race and will come to the conclusion that more money will need to be made. Just my two cents.

golfCaddy
Posts: 728
Joined: Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:02 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by golfCaddy » Tue Jun 05, 2018 12:42 am

sjl333 wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 12:07 am
Hello,

I can't speak for NASA since I have never worked there, but I have worked for a large aerospace company (think Boeing, Lockheed, Northrop) and currently work for a tier 1 aerospace supplier. All big companies are the same, with tons of bureaucracy, politics, mediocre raises, lots of old timers that are dead wood, etc, etc. Hopefully he is passionate about it because he probably will be living a normal middle class life and will make starting 75K/yr - 150K/yr (after 15-20+ years experience) throughout his career. If he is okay with that, than nothing wrong with pursuing that...but he may soon realize that he will want to get out of the rat race and will come to the conclusion that more money will need to be made. Just my two cents.
I agree with the above, but clearances play a role. If he's working on a NRO bird, he will likely be well compensated, at least by government contractor standards.

JBTX
Posts: 4280
Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:46 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by JBTX » Tue Jun 05, 2018 1:36 am

focusedonwhatmatters wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 4:40 pm
Thank you for these excellent, insightful replies.

I didn't mention...my son has only just turned 19. He has always been very motivated to learn, apply his knowledge, and make his contributions. I am very proud.

At present he is very dedicated to and invigorated by the research he is doing, so the MIT and Aerospace Corp may be of great interest. I will pass on all the information you have provided.

One more question...what are your thoughts on staying in school to obtain a PhD?

Many thanks!

fowm

Aerospace engineering is a field that tends to have its ups and downs due to swings in military spending and space funding.
Last edited by JBTX on Sat Aug 04, 2018 8:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ponyboy
Posts: 612
Joined: Fri Feb 06, 2015 10:39 am

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by ponyboy » Tue Jun 05, 2018 6:34 am

This is no different than working for the government vs private contractor.

Government has more stability, having to work less hours, good benefits, less pay

Private contractor has less stability, having to work more hours, benefits arent as good, pay is almost always much more


Doesnt matter if its NASA or any other government agency...the same rules apply.

mmmodem
Posts: 1503
Joined: Thu May 20, 2010 1:22 pm

Re: Any aerospace engineers? Pros v. cons of working for NASA v. private sector

Post by mmmodem » Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:53 am

We used to joke that a Physics PhD = a poor doctor when I was an undergrad. 10 years later, this has proven mostly true. You get the PhD because you truly love the science not because you want to make a lot of money.

I found that a Physics degree didn't get very far at NASA JPL. I interned there but despite my efforts failed in securing a job as everyone wanted engineers. There were plenty of theoretical physics PhD's on site already. I failed to realize that JPL sends robots into space. They need more mechanical engineers than they do physics majors.

Instead of going for a PhD, I took my physics BS and went to work as an engineer. I work at a sub tier contractor for the major aerospace companies. Our customers are Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, DOE, NASA, etc. The work has been challenging every day. Sometimes I pull 80 hours weeks. I spent 36 hours at work once booking the conference rooms for quick naps. I can echo all the replies you've read on this thread. What I would add is that there are a lot of sub tier companies with variety. Some pay well, some do not. Some are high stress, some are not. Some are high paying, some are not. Research tends to not be high paying unless you find a major breakthrough.

So what do I think after 10 years? First of all I made the right choice not pursuing a PhD. I am plenty challenged at my current line of work. PhD's certainly gets more clout but they are usually talking heads. It's the engineers like me that get to go into the lab and do the hands on science. Because I chose R&D, my salary does not reflect what a typical engineer would make with my years of service. But I wake up everyday motivated and eager to tackle the day's challenge. My salary while not as good is enough to have a family live comfortably while DW can be stay at home if she wishes and own our home in Bay Area, CA.

P.S. My 6 month NASA internship was and still is critical to my career. Every job interview I go to starts with or every time I am introduced to someone, "So you worked at NASA..." For an introvert, that is a big networking intro.

Post Reply