NASA: Launching Veterans' Careers

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is looking for a few good veterans. Bolden, himself a Vietnam veteran, has launched a major push to hire more veterans at NASA. This isn’t charity or some sort of political push. Veterans simply fit NASA’s culture and have the skills NASA needs.

Veteran-Friendly Culture

NASA has always been full of veterans. If you’ve seen The Right Stuff, you know that practically all the first astronauts were veterans. But the influence goes far deeper than that. Much of NASA’s initial staff, the people on the ground, came directly from the Air Force. Many of those who didn’t had served in World War 2 or Korea. Don’t get the wrong idea, NASA is a civilian agency; but it is a civilian agency founded and run by veterans.

That culture is still apparent today. NASA undertakes big projects, with big risks and incredible rewards. The business world has adopted a lot of military terms, but they often don’t really understand. Mission-critical at NASA means mission-critical. NASA needs people who can function under extreme pressure, when failure can cost lives. They need people who can function as part of a large team to accomplish a goal. Veterans are used to that.

Everyone knows that NASA needs pilots, engineers, and rocket scientists. But NASA also needs thousands of people in non-technical fields too. More than a third of NASA’s workforce are neither scientists nor engineers. NASA needs hundreds of accountants, HR specialists, IT technicians, and other administrators. And they’ve found the best people to fill these jobs are veterans. Last year, 11% of NASA’s new hires were veterans. This year, the Agency is shooting for 12%.

Competing for Jobs as a Veteran

When you apply as a veteran for a job at NASA, your resume will go to the top of the stack like in most Federal jobs. This is called “Veteran’s Preference,” see the Office of Personnel Management VetGuide site for details. But NASA goes beyond this standard benefit. In an effort to recruit more veterans, NASA has made you eligible to apply for more jobs than the general public. First, there’s the Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA) program, where you can be non-competitively hired into any position GS-11 or lower. This means that you can be recruited by an office or NASA center without waiting for the position to be advertised and opened up to applicants nationwide. Second, the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act (VEOA) lets veterans apply for jobs that are usually only available to current federal employees. Finally, if you are a disabled veteran, the Department of Veterans Affairs can help place you in a NASA job.

Benefits of Federal Employment

NASA employees enjoy all the standard benefits of the federal employment. Federal jobs offer excellent Health, Dental, Vision, Life, and Long-Term Care Insurance. The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) combines a defined-benefit annuity, a defined-contribution savings plan (like a 401k), and participation in Social Security to ensure a comfortable retirement, with early benefits available after 10 years of service and full benefits at age 62. The Federal Government is also a leader in flexible work schedules and Telework. Federal Jobs also provide education and training to advance your career, and can repay portions of your student loans.