Space science graduates stand at the intersection of academic achievement and a promising career in a rapidly evolving field. As space exploration and related technologies advance at an unprecedented rate, the demand for qualified professionals in this domain continues to surge. Recognizing the importance of practical experience in this sector, many leading organizations, from renowned aerospace companies to groundbreaking research institutions, offer internships to bridge the gap between formal education and real-world application. Such internships not only foster skill enhancement and hands-on exposure but also pave the way for potential future employment. However, for many space scientists, compensation remains a crucial factor during this early phase of their careers. This article provides a concise overview of the top-paid internships tailored specifically for space science graduates, ensuring they are well-informed and well-compensated as they embark on their professional journeys.
Space Exploration Technologies Corp., more commonly known as SpaceX, is an American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation company founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk in 2002. With its headquarters in Hawthorne, California, the company was established with the primary goal of reducing the cost of space exploration and eventually making it possible to colonize other planets, particularly Mars. It runs a transformative year-round intern program for budding professionals passionate about space exploration and is suitable for students from accredited four-year universities, especially those nearing graduation. The program offers roles in both engineering and business operations. Engineering interns will participate in the development and testing of spaceflight hardware, while business operations interns will support core organizational objectives. While SpaceX recruits from top U.S. universities, they prioritize candidates with both academic achievements and practical project experience. Importantly, due to U.S. space technology export regulations, the program is restricted to U.S. citizens or those with specific lawful statuses.
Salary: SpaceX interns earn an average of $25.96 per hour, which is nearly 50% above the national average for intern salaries in the U.S.
Ball Aerospace is a prominent American aerospace manufacturer and defense contractor. A subsidiary of Ball Corporation, Ball Aerospace is known for developing spacecraft, advanced instruments, sensors, components, and data exploitation systems for both civil and defense applications. Ball Aerospace provides a prime opportunity for students eager to make a mark in fields like engineering, IT/cybersecurity, finance, and more. It’s open to those who’ve completed their sophomore year in undergrad or are in a graduate program. Students should remain enrolled at their accredited institution for at least a semester post-internship. The program, running 10 weeks at 40 hours per week, offers interns a competitive wage plus a stipend, with out-of-state interns enjoying travel reimbursement. Positioned mainly in Colorado, the onsite experience includes training, networking, and the unique chance to engage with the Ball Intern Remote Sensing Team (BIRST), where interns witness a project’s journey from design to launch. The internship culminates in presentations, allowing students to showcase their remarkable accomplishments. Potential applicants should be aware of the U.S. Citizenship requirement due to the company’s specialized work scope.
Salary: According to data from Indeed, interns at Ball Aerospace earn an approximate average of $23.57 per hour.
NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is an independent agency of the United States government that is responsible for the civil space program, aeronautics research, and space research. NASA internships, ranging from the Pathways Intern Program to the STEM Intern Program, allow undergraduate and graduate students to gain hands-on experience in space science and exploration. Beyond these, NASA offers additional internship opportunities tailored specifically for those with a keen interest in astrophysics, cosmology, and related fields. These internships present aspirants with a chance to work on advanced research projects, delve into the intricacies of the universe, and collaborate with leading astrophysicists. Eligibility criteria include being a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, maintaining a certain GPA, and being enrolled in a degree program pertinent to space science or exploration. NASA’s outreach is global, as evident in the International Intern Program, which welcomes non-US citizens to work on collaborative space science projects. All interns benefit from networking events, mentorship, and professional development sessions.
Salary: Interns at NASA can expect a competitive compensation rate of $25 per hour.
Virgin Galactic is an American spaceflight company within the Virgin Group, founded by Sir Richard Branson. The company aims to provide suborbital space flights for tourists and suborbital launches for space science missions. For students with an eye for the stars, Virgin Galactic offers a 10 to 12 weeks paid internship program running from May through September. This immersive experience grants interns the chance to work on groundbreaking projects, from space travel technology to refining the space tourist experience. Besides gaining hands-on expertise, interns collaborate closely with seasoned engineers and scientists, even contributing to the company’s marketing and communications endeavors. Completing the program may pave the way for a full-time position with Virgin Galactic. The program emphasizes mentorship, skill development, and the chance to contribute to real-world projects that support the company’s mission. Those accepted into the program benefit from a stipend, with transportation and housing costs also covered by the company. To be eligible, applicants should have obtained a bachelor’s degree from a recognized institution, be under the age of 25, be proficient in English, and hold citizenship from a UN member country. The internship opportunities are available in various prime locations, including Mojave, CA; Tustin, CA; Washington, DC; and Las Cruces, NM.
Salary: According to data from Glassdoor, interns at Virgin Galactic are compensated at an approximate rate of $26 per hour.
The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) was established in 1981 to provide scientific support for the Hubble Space Telescope. STScI scientists and engineers are responsible for planning and executing Hubble observations, developing new astronomical tools, and communicating the science of Hubble to the public. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) offers immersive internship opportunities that plunge young scientists into the heart of astronomical research and instrument operations. Interns at STScI have a unique chance to work alongside world-renowned astronomers and engineers, contributing to missions such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, and the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. The internships encompass a diverse array of fields, from data analysis and software development to public outreach and science communications. Beyond hands-on projects, interns participate in seminars, workshops, and networking sessions, gaining an in-depth perspective on the vastness and intricacies of space science. The supportive environment at STScI ensures that every intern is equipped with the resources and mentorship they need to thrive. Interns can choose a full-time onsite experience or a blend of onsite and offsite work. To be eligible, interns are required to reside in either Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Pennsylvania, or West Virginia. The program is open to high school juniors and seniors, undergraduates, and graduate students.
Salary: As per Zippia’s records, the average annual compensation for interns at the Space Telescope Science Institute stands at $33,138.
Blue Origin is an American private aerospace manufacturer and spaceflight services company founded by Jeff Bezos. It is dedicated to building a future where millions can live and work in space. For aspiring space enthusiasts, Blue Origin offers exceptional internship opportunities. Eligible candidates are those enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs with at least one semester remaining post-internship. Additionally, they must be U.S. citizens, nationals, permanent residents, or possess refugee/asylum status. Internship sessions span across three terms: Spring (January-April), Summer (May-August), and Fall (September-December), with distinct application and interview timelines for each. These internships are not only paid but also come with housing and relocation provisions. The interns will work on spacecraft design, propulsion systems, or operational logistics for suborbital and orbital missions. Responsibilities can range from data analysis, engineering simulations, and prototype testing to contributing to mission planning and execution. Blue Origin believes in the holistic development of its interns, exposing them to multiple facets of aerospace technology and business.
Salary: Interns at Blue Origin are reported by Indeed to earn an average hourly rate of $26.41.
Lockheed Martin is a global aerospace, defense, and security giant revered for its advanced technologies and significant contributions to aeronautics, space, and military sectors. With a legacy spanning over a century, the company has been at the epicenter of numerous landmark projects that have expanded the horizons of modern aerospace and space exploration. For space science graduates, Lockheed Martin offers meticulously curated internship programs. This initiative aims to provide entry-level space scientists with a platform to apply their academic knowledge to real-world space missions and projects. Interns have the opportunity to work alongside some of the industry’s most seasoned professionals, gaining insights into spacecraft design, satellite technologies, and deep-space exploration strategies. Responsibilities bestowed upon interns vary from research, data analysis, and systems engineering to hands-on roles in mission simulations and operations. This program not only equips graduates with invaluable experience but also fosters a nurturing environment for innovative thinking and professional growth. Eligible applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, be under 25 years old, demonstrate proficiency in English, and be citizens of a UN member country.
Salary: Compensation for the position is competitive, with an hourly salary range falling between approximately $22.60 and $25.
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