Careers in space – Technicians and technologists

Are you a hands-on type of person? Do you love to tinker, repair and build things? By choosing a technical career in the space sector, you might get to build and tinker with actual spacecraft!

What do technicians and technologists in the space sector do?

Technologists and technicians are very important in the space field. They are on the frontlines of the building and testing process of spacecraft and systems.

Their technical skills are used in laboratory testing, construction of test equipment and instruments, model building, and research and development. They work closely with scientists and engineers to accomplish these tasks.

What is the difference between a technician and a technologist?

According to the Canadian Council of Technicians and Technologists, the difference lies in their education levels and work responsibilities.

What should I study to become a technician or technologist in the space sector?

Programs of study

As with all space careers, there are many paths you can take depending on the fields of work that interest you. Here are some of the disciplines you could choose from:

There are many institutions and colleges in Canada that offer diplomas for technicians and technologists. You can visit the Canadian Council of Technicians and Technologists website for a list of accredited programs.

Education requirements

The education you need for a technical career in the space sector depends on the field and the level of specialization that you choose.

What are some of the fields that technicians and technologists in the space sector work in?

Below are five of the main fields they work in, along with some associated job titles. Keep in mind that there are many other fields out there – this list is just to kick-start your search for a specialization that's right for you!

Computer engineering

Computer technicians install, repair and maintain electronic systems and equipment in spacecraft. Working with an engineer, they may draw diagrams and build computer system prototypes that will be used to manipulate electronic signals. Here are some of the jobs they do in the space industry.

Electrical and electronics engineering

Electrical and electronics technologists and technicians offer technical services in the design, development and field testing of spacecraft equipment and electrical and electronic systems. Here are a few examples.

Mechanical engineering

Mechanical technologists and technicians work with engineers to design, manufacture, maintain and test the machines, parts, tools and equipment required in space technologies. Here are some of the different jobs.

Drive test for the Mars Curiosity rover

2010-07-29 – Technicians and engineers monitor the first drive test of the Mars Curiosity rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Robotics

Robotics technologists and technicians work with engineers to develop robotic manipulators for spacecraft, such as the International Space Station's robotic arm, Canadarm2, and robotic manipulator, Dextre.

Dextre and Canadarm2

2014-09-30 – An ISS crewmember captured this view of Dextre at the end of Canadarm2, carrying an instrument it removed from the trunk of the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship. (Credit: NASA)

Telecommunications

Telecommunications technicians support engineers in the development, implementation, evaluation, and maintenance of telecommunication networks that transmit digital data via physical cables, optical systems, or radio systems. As part of their work, telecommunications technicians may develop specific systems and application software, and establish maintenance and operating standards. They may also be required to analyze network problems and recommend solutions.

RADARSAT-1 Control Antenna

2005-09-28 – Satellite Mission Control antenna at Canadian Space Agency headquarters in Saint-Hubert, Quebec. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

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