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NASA Engineer vs Navy Pilot

Which one?

  • NASA Engineer

    Votes: 5 16.7%
  • U.S. Navy SNA

    Votes: 25 83.3%

  • Total voters


Active Member
Had a job offer from doing a co-op United Space Alliance, took pilot easy. Your job offer sounds much more exciting.. And obviously this forum will lean heavily towards aviation.

That said, the engineers I worked with were all jealous of my opportunity. I guarantee you that if you went there and talked to the engineers, they'd be jealous of what you'd be doing. Best decision I ever made


DD-214 in hand and I'm gonna party like it's 1998
Sort of an analogy, in the reserves it's not unusual for a transitioning active duty pilot, who is a good prospect, to have a few irons in the fire and get offered a desirable flying slot at a reserve unit, another slot in a guard unit, maybe yet another slot in another reserve unit. I never saw any point in getting offended if that person picked a one over another... everybody will still survive.


Living the GeoBachelor dream...
The opportunity to become part of a select group of pilots that fly off boats is knocking...right now...and it won’t knock again. NASA will probably still exist ten years from now and I suspect Mars isn’t going anywhere. Wouldn’t it be nice to someday tell your grandchildren that you were a shit hot fighter pilot before you were a shit hot rocket scientist?

(Actually, your grandchildren won’t care, but you might.)
Technically, Mars is always going SOMEWHERE...it’s just an elliptical orbit allowing to stay near enough to be reachable in another decade...

HAL Pilot

Well-Known Member
No Naval Aviatior has ever said, "Man, I had the opportunity to work for x company, but I turned it down for this and I regret it everyday.”
Not very often but it happens. We have a pilot at Hawaiian (Dad and Granddad both Hawaiian too) that had a chance to join Hawaiian out of college (plenty of flight time) but turned it down to be a Navy pilot. Flew helos and C-12s than got out and came to Hawaiian. Says the Navy was the biggest mistake of his life. He absolutely hated it and gets really pissed at himself over the lost seniority.

But he’s the only one I’ve heard express this regularly.


Active Member
One of my previous (Reserve) skippers (commanding officer) was also a NASA Pilot and SES for NASA.

My point, there are a number of opportunities to fulfill both of your dreams. Astronaut is not the only one. NASA has several types of aircraft in their inventory (S-3s, P-3s etc.)and they fly pretty cool mission sets from what he shared with me.

One other thing to consider. You mentioned the gov shutdown. Depending on the political environment, NASA mission funding can easily be slashed to include the Mars program. Military funding is just as easily impacted but I would consider whether your stability will be higher as a Naval Pilot than a junior Engineer for NASA if/when funding priorities change in the future.

Finally, if you have always wanted to be a pilot, don’t let this opportunity slip by. You don’t want to wonder “what if” 10-20 years down the road. It will be too late. At 27, you are blessed to still even have SNA as an option.


Sans Remorse
One decision may make you look back and be mildly curious of what could have been if you did the opposite. The other decision may make you regretful for the rest of your life. Over to you where those options break out, but it'd be a no-brainer if I were in your situation; I'd take Navy pilot 10/10 times. I've met/worked with a lot of talented and successful engineers through my career, and I have the utmost respect for their work. They wish they were in my shoes significantly more than I wish I were in theirs.


Thanks to everyone for all the awesome answers!
I still haven't decided yet but soon I will. Just so I don't get very biased opinions here, I also asked the same question at a forum for NASA. If you guys are interested in what they have to say. Here is a link: NASA forum

Thanks again for all the feedback!