The Nuts and Bolts of Applying to Write at NASA

This past week I got an email from a college student who wanted to write for NASA. She took the time to read my page full of advice regarding the space-writing life and still wanted to know more. More to the point, she wanted specifics about the mechanics of applying for a job to the U.S. space agency. As is my practice, I responded to my reader by email and will now share with the rest of you what I shared with her. I’m helpful that way. 🙂

Good evening Mr. Leahy,

I came across your article and hyperlinks on your experiences with being a space writer and I was so incredibly inspired. I never knew that my two strongest passions were molded into one career path and I wanted to thank you for being such a helpful source. I have many dreams I want to accomplish in the near future and being a space writer for NASA is one of them so I wanted to email you for more information. How did you come across such an amazing opportunity? How could I do the same? I am yearning to know. As a journalism major at the University of Georgia who writes for The Red & Black, inching closer to this dream has me up at nights restless. If you are available for a phone call, or a simple email response, I would be forever grateful. Thank you so much! 


Hi, D!

Thanks for reading and for your kind words.
The short answer to finding that opportunity was–no kidding–just looking through want ads online. If you haven’t already read through the pile, I highly recommend reading through the Locations/Types of Jobs in the Space Industry section on my Writing for NASA tab, especially The Many Worlds of NASA. That’ll give you an idea where the facilities and jobs are. The closest facility to you is Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL, where I worked for six years. If you’re interested in specific aspects of the space business, you might want to read that Many Worlds of NASA blog (esp. Part II), which lays out the specialties of each NASA center. There’s also NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, where policy is made.
There are two types of jobs within the agency: civil service (government employee) and contractor (private-sector employee). All of my work has been as a contractor. There probably are civil servant writers supporting the agency, but honestly I’ve never met any. All the people I’ve worked with who had “writer” in their title or as a primary job function were contractors.
Just in case you were wondering, I am no longer working directly for NASA. In 2012 I shifted to a smaller company that supported both NASA and commercial space entities like Virgin Galactic and Vulcan Aerospace. Then I got downsized out of that company in 2013. I did some one-off work for NASA HQ in 2014. I was a reporter for 2016-2018 until I got picked up as a contract technical writer for one of the space launch companies (they won’t let me say which). I’ve been supporting them part time since then. I’m hoping to get more work from that customer in the future, but right now I pay my bills writing/editing corporate training materials for Nissan.
I’ll be happy to answer any specific questions you might have. It’s always nice to meet a fellow space enthusiast.

Bart Leahy
Technical Writer
Heroic Technical Writing

D sent additional questions, crunchier questions. I answered those as follows:

How did you find a job at NASA?

I did focused keyword searches “technical writer NASA” by specific cities (Huntsville, AL, Cape Canaveral, FL, etc.). I suspect, given your background and interests, that you’re looking to do public affairs writing.

How do I apply for a contractor public affairs writing job at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Kennedy Space Center (KSC), or NASA Headquarters?

As it happens, the same contract that handles technical writers at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC–get used to acronyms! 😉) also handles PA writing. The company that currently supports that contract is Media Fusion. The only job I saw there recently was Communications Manager, but that changes now and then. Media Fusion just won the contract in 2020, I believe. I don’t know which company has the contract for Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The company I supported at NASA HQ is now called Bryce Space & Technology. However, that was more report writing than public affairs writing.

Are there internships at MSFC? 

Take a look at this link. You’ll probably have to do some more digging after that. MSFC is in work-from-home mode like much of the rest of the country, so I don’t know how they’re handling everything, but you won’t know until you ask.

How do I apply for civil service jobs at NASA?

You might try USA Jobs. They’re the central clearing house for government (civil servant) jobs. No idea if they handle internships, but I’m sure an enterprising reporter can poke through the site and learn the truth.

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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