Astro-not to Astronaut
A comprehensive guide of how to advance your space career during isolation.
Within just the last few months, the world has seemingly turned upside down due to the current COVID-19 pandemic with leaders around the world requesting that people stay home in order to save lives. The effects of these measures have managed to seep into all aspects of our lives. Particularly, for university students, this has led to significant uncertainty with regards to their studies and consequently, their careers with many internships, extra-curricular activities, projects and events being cancelled for the foreseeable future.
But there is still hope! Although many events and activities are not possible under the current restrictions, this guide is intended to show what you CAN do as a student right now without leaving your home! This period of isolation may be a great opportunity to try something you’ve never done before, learn something new or even get you excited about what you might want to do in the space industry in the future. From learning how to access, view and use Earth Observation data, designing your own Mars habitat or reading about the history of rocketry to getting 1-2-1 careers advice, finding internships and getting stuck in with space communities, there are almost endless things that you can do from the comfort of your own home! Getting started on your space career early is a useful, easy and super fun thing to do, and won't take up that much of your time either. You can discover a plethora of ways to launch your space career in our list below, or by visiting our early careers website SpaceCareers.uk. Its always useful to begin early, and we would definitely recommend utilising all the fantastic opportunities available to you as a student, even in these difficult times.
Below is a TL;DR of what you can do with links to further information. This will be periodically updated with any more
What you can do:
- Apply for internships - Spinternships, SpaceCareers.uk
- Apply for a space-related masters or PhD
- Read about different space careers - SpaceCareers.uk 3 design competitions, Citizen science projects, SETI
- Stargaze - Satellites websites, spot the ISS, general stargazing apps (Android, Apple)
- Volunteer for student space organisations and get involved - UKSEDS and SpaceCareers.uk, RAeS, SGAC, RAS
As you can see from the list above, there is an enormous amount of things you can do right now during this period of isolation, some fun and some incredibly useful for your career. It is these ones in particular that I’d like to draw your attention to. Whilst many aspects of society seem to have been effectively “paused” during this period, students are still hurtling at the same speed towards the end of their studies and wondering what they might do once they finish their studies and consequently, how to get there. This can be a very stressful period on its own trying to juggle exams, career planning and job applications all at once without the chaos brought about by this pandemic. So we’ve compiled for you a short guide to help make it a little bit easier to get the career information you’re looking for.
One of the best resources to help you if you’re thinking about a career in space is to get careers advice. This is one of the few things that remains largely unaffected by the current crisis as much of the material is already online. SpaceCareers.uk already offers many articles and information about different careers within space including job profiles and interviews of people in different roles in the industry from engineers to disaster response coordinators to policy makers that you can explore at your own leisure. Recently, SpaceCareers.uk have been creating and releasing careers webinars to give useful advice in CV writing that is aimed at students who want to get into the space industry specifically.
Beyond this, there are not only general careers advice services available to explore such as the national careers service, many professional bodies offer careers advice services and ample suggestions on how best to forward your career at any stage. Some, such as the Royal Aeronautical Society, offer email conversation and even 1-2-1 video calls so that you can discuss your goals to someone who has a good understanding of the industry. Similarly, if you are a university student, your university may have career services running that you can use during this period as well.
With many plans during this period and over the summer that have become uncertain, postponed or even sadly cancelled, you may wonder what you can do instead to further your career during this difficult period. One great way of not only learning about the industry itself, networking and helping other students get involved in the space industry is to volunteer at student space organisations. Joining these societies, such as UKSEDS is an excellent way to do more within the space industry and gain responsibilities to plan events, outreach and how best to help other students with many other like-minded students. Alongside student societies such as UKSEDS there are also young person networks with many other professional bodies or independent student societies that you can join. If you are already working within the STEM field, you can join the STEM Ambassador program and help other students learn more about STEM fields. All of this is invaluable experience in the industry and looks great on your CV when applying for future jobs and placements as well as for your own personal growth and learning.
Finally, another thing that you can do is to learn a new skill. During this time, many educational institutions have put many useful courses and information online to allow students at home to continue to learn new skills. This is an exciting way that you can advance your space career and have even more skills that you can take forward into whatever you may do! In particular, there are a number of interesting MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) such as the Copernicus MOOC, where you can learn how to access, explore and utilize earth observation data from ESA’s Sentinel Satellites.