One of the most important job occupations at NASA are their engineers. They use professional engineering theories, principles, practices and techniques to coordinate and manage professional engineering projects. In this article I interviewed Melvin McKinistry, who is a general engineer and a master planning team lead at the Facilities Management Office for the Marshall Space Flight Center.
This series covers positions managing, supervising, leading, and/or performing professional engineering and scientific work. This series is applicable when the work of the position:
requires knowledge and skills in two or more professional engineering series within the Engineering and Architecture Group, 0800, and no one discipline is paramount; or
is consistent with engineering work in this occupational group, but is not covered by an established series.
The federal government employs 25,661 general engineers or interdisciplinary engineers of which 400 work overseas. The Department of the Army, Air Force and Navy are the largest employers with 13,677 civilians followed by NASA with 3,123 and the Department of Defense with 1,495. All cabinet level agencies except for the Department of Education and some large independent agencies employ general engineers.
Q&A Melvin McKinistry
What does a Master Planner actually do?
The master planner is responsible for developing, communicating, and implementing the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) Master Plan. The Master Plan is Marshall’s concept for the strategic management and future development of the Center’s real property assets, and infrastructure. The master planner is responsible for developing, communicating, and implementing the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) Master Plan. The Master Plan is anchored by the objective that the Center will right size its assets and have high performing facilities and infrastructure to support current and future missions. The master planner accomplishes this task by leading the right studies that produce technical reports and solutions to guide decision-making about infrastructure.
What is the most challenging project you have had to work on?
The master planning process itself is very challenging. One of the master planner’s primary task is to engage multiple stakeholders. Each stakeholder may have their own objectives, and desired outcomes. It is the job of the master planner to connect with each stakeholder and find a common trajectory that is aligned with the Agency’s mission and goals. Although challenging, the rewards and outcomes are worth it!
What was the most dangerous project as a Master Planner?
As the Master Planner, you are primarily a strategic thinker and planner. The most dangerous project for a master planner is not to have a master plan! The master plan is the result of a vision supported by strategic planning that provides a pathway to meet current and future challenges yet unknown. Without a master plan that is supported by key stakeholders, an organization’s future is left only to chance. NASA’s mission is much too important to be left only to chance, fortunately our leadership understands the value of visioning and strategic planning.
Would you recommend the job occupation of General Engineer?
I would highly recommend the job occupation of Engineer. It will take talented engineers to solve the world’s problem and continue to propel the human race forward. There will continue to exist numerous technological challenges, and problems that must be solved to improve and sustain life on earth as we know it. This realization will present great opportunities for future engineers and scientist. These opportunities and possibilities will only be limited by our visions, dreams, aspirations, and most of all our compassion for all mankind!
What else would you like to add about being a Master Planner for Marshall Space Flight Center?
It is a privilege, and an honor to work at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center as the Master Planner. It is a great feeling to know that you are working with a talented and diverse workforce that is responsible for engineering and building the spacecraft that will take man to Mars and beyond. It is part of my job to make sure the next generation inherits the right facilities, and infrastructure to continue this bold mission.
Engineering & Architecture Group (GS-0800)
The GS-0801 General Engineer Series is included in the GS-0800 group which includes all classes of positions, the duties of which are to advise on, administer, supervise, or perform professional, scientific, or technical work concerned with engineering or architectural projects, facilities, structures, systems, processes, equipment, devices, material or methods. Positions in this group require knowledge of the science or art, or both, by which materials, natural resources, and power are made useful.
There are 129,130 federal engineers and architects employed in the GS-0800 Engineering and Architectural Group within most Executive Branch departments and large independent agencies including the EPA (1,994), NASA (10,602), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (1,768), and the SBA (494). The largest employers are the Department of Navy and Army which employs over 66,000 civilians in this group. All of the cabinet level agencies with the exception of the Department of Education employ workers in the GS-0800 group with mechanical and civil engineers employing over 11,000 each. The majority of Nuclear Engineers work for the Department of the Navy, Department of Energy, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Don’t overlook any agency in your search for engineering jobs as there are small numbers employed in this group spread throughout government. For example, the Federal Communications Commission employs 268 from this group while as few as 6 are employed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Additional Information on the GS-801 General Engineer Series
You must be a U.S. citizen to apply
GS-12 salary range is from $71,012.00 to $92,316.00 / Per Year
A. Bachelor’s or higher degree obtained from an accredited college or university, which included a major in engineering. To be acceptable, the curriculum must: (1) be in a school of engineering with at least one curriculum accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) as a professional engineering curriculum; or (2) include differential and integral calculus and courses (more advanced than first-year physics and chemistry) in five of the following seven areas of engineering science or physics: (a) statics, dynamics; (b) strength of materials (stress-strain relationships); (c) fluid mechanics, hydraulics; (d) thermodynamics; (e) electrical fields and circuits; (f) nature and properties of materials (relating particle and aggregate structure to properties); and (g) any other comparable area of fundamental engineering science or physics, such as optics, heat transfer, soil mechanics, or electronics.
B. Combination of education and experience — college-level education, training, and/or technical experience that furnished (1) a thorough knowledge of the physical and mathematical sciences underlying professional engineering, and (2) a good understanding, both theoretical and practical, of the engineering sciences and techniques and their applications to one of the branches of engineering. The adequacy of such background must be demonstrated by one of the following:
1. Professional registration — Current registration as a professional engineer by any State, the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico. Absent other means of qualifying under this standard, those applicants who achieved such registration by means other than written test (e.g., State grandfather or eminence provisions) are eligible only for positions that are within or closely related to the specialty field of their registration. For example, an applicant who attains registration through a State Board’s eminence provision as a manufacturing engineer typically would be rated eligible only for manufacturing engineering positions.
2. Written Test — Evidence of having successfully passed the Engineer-in-Training (EIT) examination, or the written test required for professional registration, which is administered by the Boards of Engineering Examiners in the various States, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
Applicants who have passed the EIT examination and have completed all the requirements for either (a) a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology (BET) from an accredited college or university that included 60 semester hours of courses in the physical, mathematical, and engineering sciences, or (b) a BET from a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) may be rated eligible for certain engineering positions at GS-5. Eligibility is limited to positions that are within or closely related to the specialty field of the engineering technology program. Applicants for positions that involve highly technical research, development, or similar functions requiring an advanced level of competence in basic science must meet the basic requirements in paragraph A.
Because of the diversity in kind and quality of BET programs, graduates of other BET programs are required to complete at least 1 year of additional education or highly technical work experience of such nature as to provide reasonable assurance of the possession of the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for professional engineering competence. The adequacy of this background must be demonstrated by passing the EIT examination.
3. Specified academic courses — Successful completion of at least 60 semester hours of courses in the physical, mathematical, and engineering sciences and in engineering that included the courses specified in the basic requirements. The courses must be fully acceptable toward meeting the requirements of a professional engineering curriculum as described in paragraph A.
4. Related curriculum — Successful completion of a curriculum leading to a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology or in an appropriate professional field, e.g., physics, chemistry, architecture, computer science, mathematics, hydrology, or geology, may be accepted in lieu of a degree in engineering, provided the applicant has had at least 1 year of professional engineering experience acquired under professional engineering supervision and guidance. Ordinarily there should be either an established plan of intensive training to develop professional engineering competence, or several years of prior professional engineering-type experience, e.g., in interdisciplinary positions. (The above examples of related curricula are not all-inclusive.)
The general engineer plays a vital role in helping NASA accomplish their mission of space exploration. In our final article in this series we will have a Q&A with Barry E. “Butch” Whitmore, Navy Captain, Aviator and Astronaut assigned to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX and “Butch” is his Navy Call sign which followed him to NASA.
Angela D. Storey, Public Affairs Officer, Marshall Space Flight Center
The information provided may not cover all aspects of unique or special circumstances, federal and postal regulations, and programs are subject to change. Our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic human resource guidance and factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM, the postal service or any federal entity. You should consult with school counselors, hiring agency personnel offices, and human resource professionals where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.
About The Author
A Pennsylvania native, Betty Boyd moved to the Tennessee Valley in 1994. She retired in early 2012 after 30 years of Government service. Boyd was an Acquisition Manager/IT Manager/ Project Manager during her 30-year career. Boyd also served as a supervisor and team leader during her career. In 2012 Boyd founded a consulting firm, Boyd Consulting Services, which offers writing services to clients and companies. For more information about these writing services see the following website: http://www.BettyBoydWriting.com/.
Betty attended Athens State University, Athens, AL and received a B.B.A. in Management of Technology in 2000. She received her Masters of Science degree from Syracuse University with a concentration in Information Management in 2007. Boyd is a certified Level III contracting professional and she received a Masters level certificate in Project Management from the National Defense University in 2008.