A satellite engineer may design satellite equipment and write computer programs to control it remotely from Earth once it’s placed in orbit. These engineers may also with existing satellites already in orbit and test its functionality and communication system from the ground, identify areas of improvement, and update the satellite programs from the ground.
How to Become a Satellite Engineer
Step 1: Get your Degree
To become a satellite engineer, employers are looking for applicants that have earned at least a bachelor’s degree. Some prefer that you have a master’s degree but that requirement may be waived if a candidate has a wealth of experience on-the-job. There may not be a specific degree program for a satellite engineer, so employers are checking that you have an engineering degree that applies, such as electrical mechanical or aerospace engineering. While gaining your degree, you’ll want to be sure to learn how to write code, as programming can be a significant aspect of your job.
Your future employer will probably require you to submit paperwork for a thorough background check. This is necessary as you’ll likely need a security clearance due to the sensitive nature of the data the satellite may be collecting.
Step 2: Gain Experience
You may decide to start your career as an engineering technician. You can attend a two-year degree program to start gaining experience in this industry while you continue your education. If you decide to go straight through college to gain the degree and skills employers look for, you may look for positions with the words junior or associate in the title. These positions will give you the on-the-job experience required to then become a satellite engineer.
Job Description of a Satellite Engineer
A satellite engineer’s daily tasks may vary if they are working on a satellite that has yet to launch or working with a team to leverage a satellite’s capabilities while in orbit. No matter where the satellite is located though (Earth or in orbit) they must still be able to write software programs to keep them functioning and even to add new capabilities if required.
These engineers must be able to troubleshoot and diagnose issues with a satellite and design a method to fix the issue. They would also provide status updates on the satellite’s capabilities and status. Many satellite engineers are hired by defense contractors and aerospace companies. Those in this career field may also have the title of aerospace satellite engineers. If you are just entering the field, you could look for job postings with the word ‘associate’ in them, such as associate satellite systems engineer.
Image: This image is in the public domain by GPS.gov. GPS is operated and maintained by the U.S. Air Force. GPS.gov is maintained by the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing.