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.

Cool Job of the Week: Marketing Coordinator

I recently had a chance to speak with Kelly Johnson, Marketing Coordinator at Nubik. She told me a bit about the ins and outs of being a marketing coordinator, including some of the best (and worst) parts of the job. Here’s what she had to say!

Can you give us a brief explanation of your job?

As Marketing Coordinator, I plan and manage company events, manage our social media accounts, write web copy, send out emails and newsletters, and also take care of online ads and SEO.

What made you choose this job?

I just really love writing and have a knack for communicating written messages. I am well-spoken, but I much prefer sitting behind a screen and writing.

How long have you been in this position?

Almost 10 years now.

Did you need any specific college degree to get this job?

I didn’t. I have a degree in Linguistics. Over time, I decided I wanted to be a writer, and I got hired at an online marketing agency. They taught me SEO and HTML and I just continued from there.

How would you describe a typical workday?

I work from home and we have a virtual office, so I take a shower, get dressed, grab breakfast, see my kids out the door, and then sit down in my home office and log into work. I work like anyone else would in a regular office. I go for lunch, manage my tasks, meet with coworkers and log out at the end of the day. Only difference is rather than a commute, I just walk out of a room in my house.

What do you like most about your job?

The part I like most, aside from working from home, is the fact I’m the “voice” of the company. When people come to our website or our social media accounts, it’s a first impression. My words and my message introduce them and help them make a decision to use our services.

What do you like least about your job?

There are often last minute issues that need addressing – especially when we have events. So work rushes can be stressful.

What personal qualities are most valuable for this kind of work?

To work from home and not have a boss breathing down your neck, you need to be disciplined and self-motivated. If you are someone who needs more support day to day, it’s not the best. When it comes to writing and marketing tasks, you have to meticulous and organized. I juggle many different tasks in a day – from content creation to event planning, there are a lot of moving parts. Being okay with constant change and actually loving it are important aptitudes.

Any advice for students interested in this kind of work?

Don’t just learn social media or just writing, learn how websites work, learn all the behind the scenes – the code, the CMS. You’ll be much more valuable.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Have fun and make it happen!

You can learn more about Kelly by following her on Twitter or Instagram @KBronJohn.

Cool Job of the Week: AUTHOR

This week’s Cool Job of the Week is one that’s near and dear to my heart: AUTHOR!

“Woman working Macbook” (photo credit:

Yes, I’m quite biased here, being one of the tribe. But if you can think of anything cooler than reading and writing for a living, I’d like to hear about it.

Okay, yes, there are many things that one might define as cool. Not all of us enjoy reading and writing. But for those that do, being an author is pretty much the epitome of awesome.

So, what does an author do all day?

An excellent question.

Depending on the type of author you are (fiction vs. nonfiction, and variable by genre), you will probably spend the majority of your day like so:

  • Researching material for your latest book
  • Scouring the internet for answers to obscure questions
  • Actually writing your book
  • Writing blog posts that relate somehow to your book
  • Writing proposals for books you’d like to write in the future (more so for nonfiction authors)
  • Pitching ideas or manuscripts to agents
  • Emailing back and forth with your agent/editor/publisher
  • Editing your book
  • Going over copy edits and/or proofs of your book
  • Receiving author copies of your book (yay!)
  • Checking out your Library of Congress listing (yay!)
  • Trying not to run off and start writing another book while you’re already working on something with a deadline
  • Checking your Amazon sales
  • Updating your author bio
  • Trying to figure out how to sell more books
  • Making plans to attend various in-person events to try to sell more books
  • Being witty on Twitter
  • Being sassy on Facebook
  • Trying to come up with something worthy of Pinterest and Instagram, when most of the stuff you’re dealing with is words on a screen
  • Jotting stuff down in various notebooks
  • Drinking coffee
  • Drinking more coffee
  • Attending writer’s group meetings and critique groups
  • Writing critiques, reviews, and blurbs for fellow authors
  • Responding to fan mail and messages
  • Drinking wine
  • Writing never-ending To Do Lists to keep track of all of the above AND MORE!

In short, an author’s work is never done! It’s an endless cycle of writing, revising, emailing things out for critique or publication, waiting to hear back, more editing, more emailing, and possibly, eventually, someday publication.

If that sounds horrible, you are not meant to be an author. You may instead be a writer of another sort! (Be forewarned: many writing jobs work in a similar fashion, and almost all require writing skill beyond that of conjuring up academic papers at the last minute.)

Authors are a special breed. We are probably crazy, deep down – or even just below the surface. We are definitely strange. We enjoy solitude, and prefer to be left alone with our computers and books.

But we also crave community, sharing our insanity with our fellow scribes. And that’s part of what makes the job so very weird.

So if you like to write things, no matter how serious or strange, perhaps you’re meant to be an author.

Got questions?

I’ve got answers! Heave ’em into the comments section, and I’ll do my best to respond in a short-but-sweet manner.