A key challenge facing the Aerospace industry today is attracting top talent as tech and even automotive companies dip into the candidate pool. The allure of unlimited vacations and casual work environments entice candidates who might have only considered a career in aerospace 20 years prior. Assistant professor of clinical entrepreneurship at USC reflects on the golden era of aerospace in Southern California and industry growth, “It won’t be the gold rush it was during Apollo or the space shuttle, but it will be more sustainable.” The industry has seen a sizable decline in employment compared to its heyday, in Southern California alone the sector was sized at 273,000 employees in 1990, today that number is closer to 92,000 but experiencing significant growth globally.
While it might sound exciting to have a name like Apple or Google on your resume at the start of your career, industry veterans know there are several considerations to take into account, before leaving Aerospace for tech. A career in aerospace sets employees up for success through compensation, regular hours and experienced leadership.
According to pwc, the Aerospace and Defense industry accounted for $709 billion in revenue for 2016. The median salary for an Aerospace engineer is $100,000, well above the U.S. National average, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When employees don’t have to worry about finances, they’re better equipped for optimal job performance.
While a job in Silicon Valley might be a great networking opportunity, you’d be hard-pressed to find a supervisor with 20 years of management experience under their belt. The average tech manager is 42 as tech workers tend to move up the ranks quicker than their non-tech counterparts. Quick mobility is excellent for individual success but not necessarily an ideal scenario for a subordinate fresh out of school whose supervisor has 2-3 years of management experience. Comparatively the average age of an aerospace manager is 47, setting an example through expertise and excellence.
The Promise of a Balanced Personal Life
What does work-life balance mean in an employment era of email on mobile and the expectation that a manager has permission to text/call after work hours? When weighing two offers or stepping into a job search, work-life balance is a consideration for many. 60-hour work weeks might be normal by Silicon Valley standards for the sake of “paying your dues,” in the span of a 30+ year career, the question of sustainability comes into play. It is possible to set course on a lucrative career that is both rewarding and respects personal time. Hiring managers at aerospace consulting firms are quick to share their structured work schedule as they’ve seen former colleagues jump ship for tech only to discover that some corporate cultures breed burnout and reward late nights. The Aerospace industry has its roots in the 1950s, a time when men were the primary or only breadwinner and home in time for dinner. Very little has changed from the perspective of work hours.
Every company and management team will have their own practices and standards but knowing what to expect is half the battle. When embarking on a new career or entering the workforce for the first time, it comes down to what is most important for you. If you’re an engineer that values work-life balance a career in aerospace might be for you.