Main image of article Why Tech Hiring in These Aerospace and Defense Specialties Is Heating Up

Overall tech hiring for aerospace and defense has cooled somewhat since last year’s peak, but organizations are still posting a robust number of jobs. And as companies focus on opportunities that best fit their existing capabilities and customer sets, tech hiring is stabilizing to levels we saw in 2021, when every industry was rebounding after COVID. 

Because of this—and considering that aerospace and defense companies are reliably strong sourcers of tech talent, as well as generally resistant to short-term economic trends—there’s good reason for recruiters and tech professionals alike to be optimistic about the industry. 

As we were conducting our most recent research, we found two exciting subsects within the industry that are taking the charge when it comes to seeking out tech talent. The two areas? Navigation Systems and Research and Development. 

Companies working in Navigation Systems, which accounts for 64 percent of tech job postings from the industry so far this year, are looking for tech professionals to spearhead the improvement of everything from aircraft performance to satellite capabilities to a variety of military applications. Meanwhile, firms specializing in Research and Development need tech talent to shift R&D from solely improving products to generating strategic capabilities crucial for shaping future business models. 

We’ll break down why these two areas are surging. Then we’ll provide insights into the roles with the highest demand and how to land the best hires. 

Navigation Systems and R&D Lead Tech Hiring Charge

The stability offered by the aerospace and defense industry is particularly attractive for prospective tech workers, especially those coming from more uncertain industries and looking for roles they can spend years (or even decades) pursuing. Aerospace and defense industry titans continue to be assured of generous Pentagon funding, reflecting national security interests.

This means executives are often comfortable with maintaining a certain rate of hiring, especially given the long-term need to staff next-generation, technically-complicated projects. The contractors who focus on Navigation Systems and Research and Development are propelling these solid hiring rates.

Why are these subsectors driving such impressive tech talent demand? 

Navigation Systems

Navigation systems occupy a large swath of the aerospace and defense industry’s products and systems. 

When we talk about navigation systems, we’re talking about everything that has to do with search, detection, navigation, guidance and aeronautical (and nautical) system and instrument manufacturing. This includes the tech and equipment that powers aircraft cockpit displays, pressure sensors for fuel management systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, satellite communications capabilities and much, much more.  

As the aerospace and defense industries rely on increasingly sophisticated electronic components for all forms of aircraft, satellite systems and military applications, contractors will depend on tech talent to drive innovation and production. With leading companies like Northrop Grumman winning substantial government investment to develop these emergent technologies, tech professionals will only see more and more demand. 

Because navigation systems exist within the nexus of both hardware and software, the employers are looking to include those who can fill the roles of electrical engineers, embedded software engineers (who focus on various devices and machinery) and power design engineers (who work with new systems for power generation). 

Research and Development

Research and development has long been a core function for many of the largest companies in aerospace and defense. We focused on the R&D done in the physical, engineering and life sciences (we did not include R&D for nanotechnology and biotechnology in our analysis). With over half of executives planning to increase spending for engineering R&D alone over the next three years, R&D’s scope is dramatically expanding. 

Traditionally, R&D revolved around making mechanical and electrical products better and cheaper. But with the industry undergoing a substantial digital transformation, R&D will also begin to take up a breadth of software, cybersecurity and sustainability initiatives. For example, companies are pursuing the digitalization of the engineering process from initial product concept to production; exploring sustainable aviation fuels, hybrid and electric airplanes and new engine types to reduce emissions; and reimagining their business models by increasing the number of products and services they offer. 

R&D’s impact on organizations’ entire value chain will only continue to grow significantly—and companies are counting on more tech talent to make it happen. 

The tech roles that will be fundamental to this shift in R&D include systems engineers, who can approach research projects holistically; data scientists, who are crucial when it comes to analyzing testing and research data; and modeling and simulation engineers, who virtually test the durability and safety of products. 

How to land five-star tech talent hires in these key aerospace and defense subsets

Ensure your hiring process is both high quality and efficient

Landing tech talent for in-demand roles in Navigation Systems and R&D involves the same approach you need for sourcing all tech talent. When it comes to particularly high-demand roles, exceptional tech professionals know their worth and expect a white glove experience from employers. In addition to being high quality, the hiring process must be efficient. If you’re not moving as swiftly as possible (considering all the skills assessments and clearances necessary, of course), someone else will. 

It’s all about persuasive communication

Persuasive communication is an urgent necessity for a high-quality, efficient hiring. You’re selling candidates on a role with your company as much as they’re convincing you they’re the best person for the role. This especially applies to job postings. Don’t solely list out tasks and duties. If someone clicks on your job posting, it’s because they’re interested. Use that opportunity to sell talent on your company and the role. 

Make your candidates solid offers up front

As you get further along in the process with candidates, avoid too much haggling. Negotiation is an accepted part of the process… but avoid lowballing talent in hopes of scoring a bargain. The stakes have never been higher: if you find the candidate who fits your organization’s needs, make a solid offer at the start. 

Whether you're in these areas of aerospace and defense or in another subset of the industry, following these best practices and keeping tabs on industry tech hiring trends will best position you to land top talent and hit your goals for 2023 and beyond. 

For more insights into the latest aerospace and defense tech hiring trends, check out our Tech in Aerospace and Defense report.