Career Definition of a Satellite Engineer
Satellite engineers design programs that direct orbiting satellites and keep them functioning properly. They create satellite command systems that remotely control satellite activities from ground stations, develop software that will support the operations of a particular mission, monitor satellites for problems, conduct testing of communication systems, collect data that tracks satellite trends and behavior and write status reports. Satellite engineers are primarily employed by defense contractors and aerospace companies.
|Education||Bachelor's degree in aerospace, electrical or mechanical engineering required; master's degree preferred|
|Job Skills||Analytical, good with details, specialized knowledge, ability to write computer software programs, excellent communication skills|
|Median Annual Salary (2018)*||$115,220 for aerospace engineers|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)*||6% growth for aerospace engineers|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Most employers require a bachelor's degree in electrical, mechanical or aerospace engineering; however, a master's degree may be preferred for some positions. Experience in satellite engineering or operations may also be a plus. Satellite engineers just out of school may enter the workforce as junior-level associate engineers. Professional associations, such as the IEEE, formerly known as the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Inc., can also provide networking opportunities via local chapters throughout the United States (www.ieee.org).
Satellite engineers must be detail-oriented and analytical, with an understanding of spacecraft subsystems, satellite communication systems, spacecraft operations and ground control systems. They must have excellent computer skills and the ability to write software programs, as well as strong written and verbal communication skills. Satellite engineers working for defense contractors typically must be able to obtain a security clearance.
Economic Forecast and Career Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 6% growth in employment for aerospace engineers throughout the 2016-2026 period. In 2018, aerospace engineers made a median annual salary of $115,220, also per the BLS.
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If becoming a satellite engineer sounds interesting to you, you might want to look into becoming an aerospace engineering technician or an electrical engineer instead, since these professions are similar in many ways.
Aerospace Engineering Technician
For those wanting to work in the field of aerospace engineering who don't want to complete engineering educational requirements, becoming an aerospace engineering technician may be the right fit. In an effort to determine how safe spacecraft and aircraft parts are, these technicians construct testing equipment. They also set up simulations, assemble parts and machines, run computers and equipment during the test and compile reports from collected data.
Earning an engineering technology associate degree is how most enter the profession, but vocational school training could also be sufficient for some employers. Many aerospace technicians working for the government might also have to meet the qualifications needed for a security clearance. The BLS expects average employment growth of 7% for aerospace and operations technicians from 2016-2026. The BLS determined that these professionals earned a median salary of $67,010 in 2018.
If designing and overseeing the manufacturing of electrical components for automobiles, communication systems or electric motors sounds interesting, consider becoming an electrical engineer. Engineers in this field explore how electricity can be used to improve products and make life easier. They design manufacturing schematics and instructions, work with production facilities during product creation, execute performance tests and collaborate with managers to make sure all activities meet project goals and budgets.
Employers require a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, and obtaining Professional Engineer (PE) licensure can provide an advantage in a competitive job market. To qualify for licensure, engineers must complete education and work experience requirements, as well as pass two examinations. As projected by the BLS, electrical engineers should see 9% growth in job openings between 2016 and 2026. The BLS estimated the median yearly salary of these professionals to be $96,640 in 2018.