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NASA Engineering Salaries

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  • Thread starter DinjiP
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Main Question or Discussion Point

I am really interested in NASA, but after doing a little research on starting salaries I quickly became concerned. If this website is correct (http://nasajobs.nasa.gov/jobs/entrypay.htm [Broken]), NASA starting salaries are almost half of what I am expecting from my other potential offers.

Before someone lays into me about following passion, I am going to just say I am being realistic. I am not going to take a 50% pay cut to work at NASA, unless its 50% of a very large number.

Based on first hand or really reliable second hand experience are these figures accurate and up to date? And how long before these salaries become competitive? How many years to 60+, 70+, 80+... Ten years down the road, assuming all other things equal, will my salary be relatively the same no matter where I start?

Thank you
 
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A lot of people want to work for NASA. There are only so many amount of jobs so if they can find people at X wages they wont bother to raise wages to X+Y.
 
  • #3
phinds
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WOW ... those are very low starting salaries even considering how many people want to work for NASA. I can see why you are concerned.
 
  • #4
AlephZero
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This looks like a more comprehensive table of pay by grade including "locality pay" at the different sites (and note the comment about the entry level grades for BS and PhD degrees with no experience)
http://nasajobs.nasa.gov/benefits/pay.htm [Broken]
 
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  • #5
D H
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That $33K to $44K per year salary looks terrible. It's not quite as bad as it looks. Those are base salaries. No civil servant working in the contiguous US receives just base salary. There is always a locality adjustment, minimum of 14%. The locality adjustment can be as high as 35% (San Francisco). 20% to 30% above base is typical. Many localities also have special rates for certain jobs due to competition with the private sector. A GS7 engineer (entry level for an engineer with a baccalaureate degree only) typically will get a $10K/year supplement on top of base pay plus locality pay.

That said, civil servants aren't extremely well paid. Some NASA contractors have much more competitive salaries. Others don't. It depends on the contractor. The contractors who have a 3.0 GPA cutoff because anything less is suspect tend to pay well. The contractors who have a 3.0 GPA cutoff because anything higher will kill their salary curves tend to pay not so well.
 
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  • #6
SteamKing
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I think looking solely at salary for the jobs a NASA is somewhat misleading. You'll be working in the federal civil service system (with the GS level grades) which used to provide excellent benefits and retirement after so many years service. While you are working in federal service, you'll get good health benefits and won't be thrown to the mercy of the ACA (at least for now). Some of these benefits can continue after you retire from govt. service, which is why you need to look at more information than just starting salary.
 
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Most engineering jobs provide health benefits and a 401k plan. I dont think ive heard of an engineering position at a contractor where you dont get health care benefits.
 
  • #8
SteamKing
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Most engineering jobs provide health benefits and a 401k plan. I dont think ive heard of an engineering position at a contractor where you dont get health care benefits.
It depends on the size of the firm. There are a lot of small engineering firms out there which may only provide a group health plan and you get to set up and contribute to your own retirement 401k or IRA by yourself. Also, the healthcare snowglobe in the US has just been vigorously shaken up by the ACA and all of its upheavals, so don't count on what health plans that are there today being there in several years.

The civil service retirement used to be calculated based on your years of service and the salary you were paid during your service, i.e., it was a defined benefit plan, the kind which is rapidly disappearing from the business world and which are being replaced by investment-based plans like the 401k. With the government, if Wall Street catches a cold, your retirement plan doesn't get sick like a lot of those 401k plans which are invested in stock funds.
 
  • #9
D H
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The civil service switched from defined benefits to weird mix of defined benefits and defined contributions a long time ago (1987), SteamKing. Any new hires come under the new rules.
 
  • #10
SteamKing
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Still, it's less of a crap shoot with your retirement. People always complain about how government service doesn't pay as much as the private sector, or these benefits aren't comparable, or whatever, yet the jobs don't go begging. You might find a job in the private sector paying $100K with great benefits now (which would be great considering the general economic climate), but will the job still be there in five years? Ten years? The govt. may downsize your job after you retire, but it's unlikely they'll lay you off flat w/o at least offering you a transfer to another job.
 
  • #11
D H
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Still, it's less of a crap shoot with your retirement.
Not anymore. The rather draconian caps on permanent employees means that most of the people NASA hires nowadays are initially classified as temporary or term employees. Those new hires have to hope that they will be transferred to permanent status before the time limit on their employment runs out.
 
  • #12
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Astronauts $60,743 -$71,780
Engineers & Scientists $33,151 - $44,034 + Locality Pay
Medical Doctors $68,137 - $84,741 + Locality Pay
Technicians (Includes Safety, Quality, Aircraft, Engineering, etc.) $25,501 - $37, 744 + Locality Pay

.
.
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Senior Management $102,300 + Locality Pay

Come on...
 
  • #13
analogdesign
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First, please note this is entry-level pay (I imagine with a new BS). Experienced professionals earn more. I work for the DOE at a national lab and the salary scale is similar (although I'm experienced so I make more than the top of the Engineer level shown on the website). You accept a lower salary because you are doing incredibly interesting work with good people, there is less pressure to work on weekends to meet arbitrary deadlines (like in industry), and you get a pension. That's the deal.

I work with some of the most amazing technology and on some of the most interesting projects I have ever seen but I make significantly less than I did 7 years ago i industry. I consider it a good trade. I was making tons of money in industry but working 55 - 70 hour weeks. It just wasn't worth it.
 

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