What to study if you want to work in space

Space career options

Astronauts aren’t the only ones who can enjoy a career in space. Read on for all the space career options!

Whether it’s the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope or the Zhurong Mars rover, superpowers like the US, Europe and China dominate headlines about space. But Australia has a strong and growing space industry too. 

The Australian Space Agency (ASA) isn’t even five years old, but boy does it have big ambitions. The ASA aims to create 20,000 more space jobs over the next decade, tripling the size of the Australian space sector. So, in order to reach these goals, Australia needs passionate people with a range of different skills to get excited about working in the sector.

There’s a tonne of space career options. As an astrophysicist, you could spend your career looking out into space, researching things like distant planets or gravitational waves. Earth observation scientists use satellite and other data to see how the Earth is changing. As an avionics engineer, you could help design and build electronics systems of new spacecraft for companies like Queensland-based Gilmour Space Technologies. Gilmour is preparing to launch the country’s first fully homegrown rocket this year. 

Cyber security specialists are also in high demand in the space industry. Our communications systems rely on space infrastructure, and they’re all vulnerable to cyber attacks. As a cyber security specialist, you would use programming skills and computer network knowledge to protect and respond to cyber attacks on our communications satellites and systems.

Launch your career!

With strong links to the Australian space industry, QUT is the perfect place to launch your space career. For example, Dr Michael Cowley coordinates the Evolutionary Map of the Universe (EMU) survey, which is using data from the new ASKAP radio telescope, owned and operated by CSIRO, to observe about 40 million galaxies over the whole Southern sky. 

“Some of my research has shown us that black holes could be life-givers. This contrasted past studies in the field, which argued supermassive black holes were likely a driver of shutting down star-formation, somewhat of a controversial result,” says Michael.

Other QUT scientists are developing the eyes of a new lunar rover that’s being developed and built entirely by Australian scientists. The rover will be part of the NASA Artemis mission, which aims to use innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. Meanwhile back on Earth, the uni is part of an effort to build Australia’s largest covered outdoor facility for testing equipment, robotics and materials processing techniques in realistic Moon, Mars and asteroid conditions!

QUT experts lead a host of courses you can tailor to a career in the space industry. If you see yourself expanding our knowledge of the universe as an astrophysicist or space scientist, QUT’s Bachelor of Science (Physics) is a great place to start. The course has a strong applied emphasis and provides you with an introduction to a range of core science disciplines. The astrophysics minor offers a rounded overview of all the fundamental topics of astrophysics and observational tools, including telescopes, sensors and software.

A Bachelor of Science (Earth Science) degree is made for you if you want to understand how the Earth and other planets work. You will learn how to analyse data from the ground and from Earth observation satellites to understand complex issues around resources, climate, environment and societal development. You can add minors in geology and climate science to really specialise in this exciting field of exploration. Plus, you’ll be at the only uni with a team across, earth science, physics, chemistry, robotics, software development who can contribute to real research on the Mars Perseverance rover!

A course more focused on the technology behind the space industry is the Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Electrical and Aerospace). This degree builds up your knowledge of the electronic systems of aircraft, spacecraft, satellites and related systems. QUT is a major player in national avionics research and has strong partnerships with government and industry. As a result, you will be involved in research projects, work integrated learning and work experience that will build professional skills for your future career. You can move straight into the second year of this degree by taking the Diploma in Engineering at QUT College. 

What’s your space vibe? Suss out these space career options!

“I want to answer questions about the universe”

Careers: astronomer, atmospheric scientist, plasma physicist

“I want to solve problems”

Careers: aerospace engineer, computer hardware engineer, electronics engineer, mechanical engineer, project manager

“I want to get hands-on”

Careers: aerospace engineering technician, avionics technician, meteorological technician

“I want to explain what’s going on”

Careers: PR specialist, technical writer, journalist

Start your career here

Space Study

Want to work in space? Take a look at these degrees!

Space Jobs

Here are some space career options to consider…

  • Astrophysicist: $61K–$121K
  • Data scientist: $64K–$135K
  • Aerospace systems engineer: $66K–$92K
  • Avionics engineer: $49K–$125K
  • Program manager (aerospace): $46K–$159K*

Salaries according to payscale.com

Space role models

This article was created in partnership with QUT and originally appears in the QUT STEM Guide 2022.

Ben Skuse

Author: Ben Skuse

Ben Skuse is a UK-based former mathematician turned professional science writer, who has written for the Careers with STEM magazines for over 5 years. You can follow him on Twitter @BenSkuseSciComm.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.