If you are someone considering a career in aerospace, you may have people telling you it’s not a good time for it. You might be telling yourself this too. A bad recession, layoffs in the defense industry, some major accidents…
Yes, these are real and unfortunate. Times are tough in many ways. A lot like the state of affairs when I graduated from college with my new aeronautical engineering degree from Purdue. I’ll date myself, but it provides a good example I think. The year was 1993. The cold war had recently ended so we were in (another) major contraction of the aerospace and defense industry. I got only 3 interviews I believe…one of them was McDonnell Douglas, based in St. Louis. But I had two big things going for me. First, I was a co-op with the company already. I had 5 assignments in 5 different departments during my undergrad years. It made my college take 5 years instead of 4, but it was SO worth it. Worth it for many reasons which I can elaborate on later. But here’s a huge one: That spring the company only made offers to TWO new graduates in aerospace engineering! Both of us were from the co-op program–me and a woman classmate from Purdue.
The point is, even in bad times, rocket scientists are needed. That includes new, young ones. There may be more or less in certain years and in certain sectors or certain disciplines. Conditions are always changing. The more you can get a head start by identifying and embracing your passions, the sooner you will find or make opportunities to start contributing in one form or another. I knew it was a very tough market when I was graduating. I just told myself, “well, I’ll just have to be the most remarkable, driven, and competent young engineer out there looking for a job.” I’m sure I wasn’t the most. But that attitude served me well. I at least knew I was the best that I could be.
I almost forgot–the 2nd big advantage I had going for me (besides being a proven and known person to people in the company) was that it was obvious that I was passionate about aerospace. I was active with AIAA (the professional society). My hobbies included radio control airplanes and hang gliding. I think it was obvious that I wasn’t just looking for a job–I was intent on making this a long term career. When it is a tough and competitive environment (like today) that is what other people need to see and notice.
There are lots of opportunities in aerospace now and in the near future. And the more distant future. Unmanned aircraft, major programs, commercial space, NASA commercial crew development, satellites, air traffic system upgrades…if you want a career as a rocket scientist, this is a great time. The baby boomers are entering mandatory retirement in greater numbers too–whether by policy or by this persistent phenomenon we call “death”…so fix your mind on a goal and realize the best time to start is NOW.