Space sector

You don't have to be an astronaut to work in space. Discover the many different roles in this fast-growth sector.

The space sector has become part of our daily lives through innovations in technology such as home appliances, improved medical instruments and mobile phones. Space development and innovation will continue to create a growing workforce. 

Is it a growing sector? Are there any geographic centres? 

The UK space industry is seeing very ambitious growth. According to the Size & Health of the UK Space Industry 2022 GOV.UK report, almost 48,800 are employed in the UK space industry with 126,800 more jobs across the supply chain. There are 1,590 space-related organisations.

All UK regions/nations are home to headquarters of space organisations, though industrial sites (and employment) are concentrated in London, the South East, South West & East of England, and Scotland.

GOV-UK - Size & Health of the UK Space Industry 2022

By 2030, the space sector could be worth £4 billion to Scotland. Edinburgh is aiming to become the Space Data Capital of Europe by 2030. Find out more information by watching this short video from the Bayes Centre: 

Bayes Centre News - Edinburgh's bid to be space data capital of Europe

 Scotland has strong roots in satellite manufacturing, rocket manufacturing, data and ground-breaking research…Glasgow manufactures more satellites than anywhere else in Europe

Scottish Development International

Scottish Development International

What roles are in demand? 

According to the Space Sector Skills Survey 2020: research report, “As space equipment becomes more complex, and computing capacity in space increases, it is anticipated that there will be a need for those with the skills to deliver this. Software engineering, artificial intelligence, and machine learning skills are important to the future of space.”  

Page 45 of the report lists examples of the diverse roles expected to be recruited in the future: 

GOV.UK – Space Sector Skills Survey 2020 

What’s it like?

You don’t need to be an astronaut to work in space. There is a wide range of roles within the sector that don’t actually involve going into space but will allow you to follow your dreams and work in the sector. For example, engineers (electrical, mechanical, civil and chemical), chemists, astrophysicists, computer scientists, data scientists, lawyers, project management, policymakers, science communication and marketing. 

SpaceCareers.uk provides a comprehensive list of job profiles: 

SpaceCareers.uk - job profiles

You can view more career profiles at RAL Space: 

RAL Space career profiles 

 

“As a freelance journalist and as a communications consultant, I do lots of work in the space sector. I produce and host a podcast, the latest series of which is called "Great British Lift Off" and I write stories for newspapers and magazines, or broadcast for the BBC, on the subject of space. I absolutely love my job, I find all the different facets of the space industry totally fascinating and the people I interview always inspire me. The challenges are around distilling complex science into stories people can understand and accessing the right experts for your story within a timeframe.” 

Kim McAllister 
Senior Communications Consultant at Connect/BBC radio presenter 

Looking for some inspiration? 

Delighted to share these varied case studies from alumni and professionals working in the space sector: 

Space - case studies

Kristina Tamane, Business Development Lead for the space sector at the University of Edinburgh, shares her thoughts on how the sector is contributing to a sustainable future…and where the jobs are:

Inform.ed blog – How can the space sector offer a career in sustainability?

Building experience and getting started 

The great news is that since the Space sector covers many disciplines, there are lots of ways you can get involved at the University of Edinburgh. 

Space-related student societies  

The University of Edinburgh has a Space and Satellites Centre at Bayes. They have a great section on student engagement which provides advice on involved in space and satellites, including student teams, Asteria and endeavour: 

Space and Satellites – student engagement 

“I'd say join endeavour! All jokes aside, I think making sure you're actively looking for opportunities & networking events is really helpful as space sector can be a bit daunting at first, more so because Edinburgh doesn't have an aerospace department. Conferences and networking events can be a great opportunity to network and find further study/career path that you've never thought of. And I'd also say don't be afraid to just give it a try! You miss 100% of the shots that you don't take.”

Ann Lee, Operations Lead at endeavour  
2021 alumni, BEng Mechanical Engineering, University of Edinburgh 

HYPED, a team of students dedicated to advancing the Hyperloop concept, a futuristic system intended to transport passengers over land in pods. There are opportunities to participate in international competitions: 

HYPED 

Physics and Astronomy Society run events such as networking, observatory tours and presentations with guest speakers from industry: 

Physics and Astronomy Society – Facebook page 

External societies 

UKSEDS (UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space), is the UK’s national student space society with opportunities to get involved in volunteering, competitions and outreach. They run an annual conference that brings together students, employers and speakers from a range of space-related fields: 

UKSEDS – get involved 

UKSEDS also have a bi-weekly podcast, “Preparing for Launch”, which provides an insight into space careers and features guests. For instance, in one episode, Kristina Tamane, Space Sector Business Development Lead at the University of Edinburgh, discusses climate change, space sustainability and shares some careers advice as someone who got into space non-traditionally:

UKSEDS - Preparing for Launch podcast

The Royal Aeronautical Society offers a free affiliate student membership where you can access lectures and events, conferences and sign up to their Young Persons Network: 

Royal Aeronautical Society – student membership 

Royal Aeronautical Society – Young Persons Network 

Internships and work experience 

RAL Space, part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, offer industrial and summer placements. For full details and eligibility criteria, visit their website: 

RAL Space - vacancies 

SPIN (Space Placements in INdustry) programme is overseen by the UK Space Agency and supported by the Satellite Applications Catapult on behalf of a number of space companies. Opportunities are open to any discipline and any year of study. Keep up-to-date with opportunities: 

SPIN – Satellite Applications Catapult 

SpaceCareers.uk is a project of UKSEDS and you can search for internships: 

SpaceCareers.uk - job search

Is postgraduate study expected? 

Masters and PhDs are common in some sectors of the space industry so it’s advisable to look at job adverts to see what their requirements are. You can build on this by looking at vacancies on specialist job sites (see Where can I find job vacancies?) 

How can I develop my skills?  

Take a long-term view. Think about what you can be doing now regardless of what year of study you are in. Here are some suggestions: 

Stay up-to-date with current news through SpaceNews: 

SpaceNews 

Rocketeers is a site run by one of the UK’s space researchers, Dr Duncan Law-Green of Leicester University: 

Rocketeers 

Consider upskilling through LinkedIn Learning. The University has a campus-wide licence offering students access to an extensive library of high-quality video courses in business, creative and technical skills: 

LinkedIn Learning 

Space Scotland have excellent resources such as a Talking Heads video of the New Voices Group which features students and recent graduates giving an introduction to the aims and work of this group: 

Space Scotland

The New Voices in Space Group are working with the space journal, ROOM, to foster diverse articles in the space sector: 

Room – the Space Journal 

Where can I find job vacancies? 

Search for graduate roles ranging from multinationals through to start-ups and universities at SpaceCareers.UK: 

SpaceCareers.uk - job search

Use specialist jobs websites such as: 

Stellar Jobs

Royal Aeronautical Society 

The Engineer 

View the list of SME and start-ups on UKspace, the trade association of the British Space industry – consider approaching speculatively: 

UKspace SME members 

UKspace start-ups  

Our webpage on creating your own opportunity gives more advice on this speculative approach: 

Create your own opportunity 

Specialist recruitment agencies include: 

HE Space 

Nebula Space

Check out our information on how to find and register with recruitment agencies in this sector: 

Using recruitment agencies