• Fraser Harper

Towards a Space Technology Occupational Map

The space technology industry is large, global and rapidly growing1. It splits into three major areas: Upstream; Downstream; and Beyond Earth2. Within each of these general areas it splits down further and further. We show the sub-sectors of the industry – with numbers of UK firms active in each sub-sector – below:

This map, however, does not quite align with the categories used in the various size and health reports of the space industry.  Nor do the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE)  occupational maps3 align with the industry.  In fact, we find that the core occupations which underpin the space industry are found across at least six of the occupational maps: Construction; Creative and Design; Digital; Education and Childcare; Engineering and Manufacturing; and Health and Science.  Also, there are a more maps where occupations are impacted by the outputs of the space industry, these being Agriculture, Environment and Animal Care; Legal, Finance and Accounting; Protective Services; and last but by no means least, Transport and Logistics. So, we have the industry spread across 10 occupational maps. This position is well demonstrated on the main career guidance website too4.

Seeking to establish the range of occupations which might work across the space industry, a simple search of the O*NET5 occupational information database comes up with over 200 occupations (about 20% of all occupations) of which only 17 are specific to aerospace technologies.  By comparison, searching for those occupations which handle and work with data in some form, we find that 583 occupations are listed.  It is also clear that while a huge range of occupations are critical to the space industry, the industry is truly global, being spread across 50-60 countries with major concentrations in most continents6.  Many space companies operate across multiple countries, too.  This means the pool of talent in the space industry is also global, with careers often spanning several countries.

Now, as regards plotting the occupations in some coherent way, the Space Awareness programme in Europe7 is one place to start.  It promotes two core themes – Science and Engineering – but then quickly goes into history, fashion design, textiles etc.  This takes us back to other careers advice you find at many a university careers office.

In our opinion, there are probably five major clusters of disciplines (skillsets) across six major application areas of the space industry, which might populate a grid like this:

This idea may be worth testing:

  1. Use the Seraphim Space Tech map of the industry and listing of companies.  While this is start-up biased and covers 282 companies, it does, therefore, capture those firms which are generating jobs by creating new technologies in the main, and represents a useful sample.

  2. Explore each company on LinkedIn and scrape the job titles.  Most companies have a listing on LinkedIn and provides job titles which are the main interest of this study

  3. Link the job titles to O*NET occupations.  O*NET is the US-based occupation information system which covers nearly 1000 occupations with close to 60,000 job titles. Using this data set allows detailed occupation data to be accessed across over 250 variables.

  4. Use the O*NET occupation content to allow clustering and mapping of related and similar occupations.  By clustering, it is possible to view the distance (similarity) between jobs and occupations, and create natural groupings based on work content (tasks), skills and knowledge.

  5. Produce an appropriate map for the space industry.

We’ll explore this idea in a second post in this blog, where we’ll also show our first draft of the application of this approach.


  1. The Size and Health of the UK Space Industry 2018 and The Size and Health of the UK Space Industry 2014. Both reports by London Economics for the UK Space Industry. Also see: House of Commons Exiting the EU Committee (2017) Space Sector Report.

  2. This structure of the space technology industry is derived from the Seraphim Space Technology Map for 2020. See: www.seraphimcapital.com

  3. To see the most commonly used occupational maps in the UK see: https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org

  4. See: https://www.spacecareers.uk – here they list 24 job profiles right across the industry and this is amplified on degree options too: see: https://www.degreequery.com

  5. See: https://www.onetonline.org

  6. Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Australian National Government (2017) Global Space Industry Dynamics. Report by Bryce Space and Technology LLC.

  7. Space Awareness (2017) Space Careers. Inspiring a new generation of space explorers. https://www.space-awareness.org

#OccupationalMaps #Space

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