Cool Job of the Week: Planetary Protection Officer

Is there anything cooler than defending Earth against alien invaders?


What about getting paid to do the job?

That’s right: this job really exists, and it’s called the Planetary Protection Officer. According to an article from Business Insider, it’s a position within NASA, and it’s currently held by Catharine Conley (who has been the original PPO since 2006).

As this brief article from Fortune notes, however, the job is more concerned with defending Earth against disease-causing microbes than little green men, coneheads, chest-busters, or any other aliens Hollywood has conjured up.

It’s also a job concerned with protecting other planets – like Mars – against human contamination. Which, as you can imagine, is quite a huge task.

Are you up for the job?

If you’ve got the right qualifications, this gig is currently taking applications through August 14, 2017.

What kinds of experience does one need to have to be considered Planetary Protection Officer material? Here’s the short, but action-packed, list:

  1. An advanced degree in engineering, mathematics or physical science
  2. One year or more of experience as a GS-15 government employee (the top pay level for civilians)
  3. “Advanced knowledge” of planetary protection needs (here’s where binge watching every sci-fi movie ever made might come in handy…)
  4. “Demonstrated experience planning, executing, or overseeing elements of space programs of national significance”
  5. “Demonstrated skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussions”

And, of course, since this is a government job, only U.S. citizens and nationals are eligible to apply.

Don’t worry if you’re not currently qualified for the gig – it’s quite a senior position, but it also runs for 3-year terms, with the possibility for an extension of an additional 2 years. That means you’ve got 3 to 5 years to build up that résumé and work experience to apply in 2020 or 2022!

Looking for more jobs at NASA?

Check out our “A is for Astronaut” post to learn more about the wonderful world of science in space.

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