Press Release

Half of early career space jobs require programming

Almost half of early career space jobs require programming skills. This is according to new research by the Space Skills Alliance which looks at the demand for certain skills in space job adverts.

A total of over 800 adverts for early career space jobs were analysed to identify which skills were mentioned in them. The analysis found that 49% asked for programming skills, in particular expertise in C and C++, Python, MATLAB, and Java. By comparison the next highest technical competency was knowledge of electronics, which was asked for in just 17% of all jobs.

Programming skills are asked for in 40% of mechanical, thermal, and propulsion engineering roles, 50% of electrical and electronic engineering roles, and as many as 71% in mission operations and remote sensing roles.

Demand is high across all segments and sizes of employers, but particularly in downstream companies where it’s 60%. This is significant because the downstream space sector – space applications and data companies – employs the vast majority of space sector workers and is growing fast, so demand for these skills will only increase.

The importance of programming skills has been highlighted previously. A 2014 report by the Space IGS highlighted a ‘lack of technical computing and programming skills in the workforce as a whole and recent graduates in particular’, but this is the first time figures have been put on the size of that demand.

The figures suggest that the space skills shortage is part of the UK’s larger tech skills shortage. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee said in 2016 that the UK ‘faces a digital skills crisis’, and found that the digital skills gap is affecting 93% of UK tech companies. In 2018 the Edge Foundation reported that there were more than 600,000 tech vacancies.

Joseph Dudley, Director of the Space Skills Alliance said:

This has significant implications for the design of the sector’s recruitment pipeline from school outreach right through to ongoing professional development training. Programming skills must be a priority in the sector’s skills strategy.


Notes to editors

  • The Space Skills Alliance is a think-tank working to address the skills shortage in the space sector.
  • It was set up in September 2019 by Joseph Dudley and Heidi Thiemann, who previously created SpaceCareers.uk, an award-winning early careers jobs and advice website for the sector.