How To Become A Nuclear Engineer
Nuclear engineers are scientists who specialize in nuclear energy. They spend their careers studying nuclear energy and radiation, and how nuclear energy can benefit society. They research and develop new processes to study nuclear energy, and develop equipment and instruments. It takes many years of education in order to become a nuclear engineer.
Why Become A Nuclear Engineer
Nuclear engineers study nuclear energy and radiation. Currently, about 18 percent of the electricity in the United States is produced by nuclear energy. Nuclear engineers are interested in studying this energy and ways to make it more efficient.
Nuclear engineers design and develop nuclear equipment. They help with setting up new nuclear power plants. They visit power plants on a regular basis to make sure that they are operating safely and efficiently. They monitor the nuclear power plants, go through testing, quality control, and check for operational practices. If an accident occurs, they act quickly and gather data to make sure it does not happen again. They may shut down a plant in case of an emergency. They perform experiments to test nuclear materials. They are involved in research and development.
There are many uses that nuclear energy has. This energy is used by many different industries. Nuclear engineers help to maintain nuclear reactors and nuclear power plants. Nuclear energy is an important part of medicine. Nuclear energy has helped play a key role in diagnostic imaging, x-rays, MRIs, radiation therapy, and many more treatments. There are also nuclear weapons, which is a component of this field.
If you enjoy engineering, if you have an analytical mind, and you like working on complex problems, then you may enjoy a career as a nuclear engineer.
Nuclear Engineers should possess the following qualities and skills:
- Problem solver
- Good communicator
- Good researcher
Nuclear Engineer Work Environment
Nuclear engineers work in an office environment. They are part of a large team, which works together on projects. A nuclear engineer must be comfortable with teamwork. Nuclear engineers often leave the office in order to go to job sites. They go to nuclear power plants in order to learn about the job site and examine its conditions. They do testing, research and check for quality control at the nuclear power plant.
Nuclear Engineer Salary
The median annual salary for a nuclear engineer was $102,220 in 2016, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A nuclear engineer is a highly specialized occupation, which results in a lucrative salary for this position. Many years of education are required to become a nuclear engineer. Salary may vary depending on which industry an engineer decides to take a position in. Nuclear engineers who are involved in research and development tend to have higher than average salaries, while those employed by the government earn less money on average.
Average Nuclear Engineer Annual Salary
The average annual salary for nuclear engineers is $108,910 a year. Salaries start at $66,400 a year and go up to $159,330 a year.
Average Nuclear Engineer Hourly Wage
The average hourly wage for a nuclear engineer is $52.36. Hourly wages are between $31.92 and $76.60 an hour.
Stats were based out of 16,700 employed nuclear engineers in the United States.
Highest Paying States For Nuclear Engineers
- 1. New Mexico $66.81 / hr $138,970 / yr
- 2. Georgia $63.57 / hr $132,220 / yr
- 3. California $62.08 / hr $129,120 / yr
- 4. Tennessee $61.12 / hr $127,120 / yr
- 5. Idaho $59.11 / hr $122,950 / yr
Top Paying Cities For Nuclear Engineers
- 1. Silver Spring, MD $64.63 / hr$134,430 / yr
- 2. Chicago, IL $62.29 / hr$129,560 / yr
- 3. Knoxville, TN $61.27 / hr$127,440 / yr
- 4. Idaho Falls, ID $59.21 / hr$123,160 / yr
- 5. Syracuse, NY $57.88 / hr$120,390 / yr
Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Nuclear Engineer Career Outlook
Employment for nuclear engineers is expected to decline by four percent from 2014 to 2024. Approximately 700 jobs are expected to be lost during this time period. The industries that nuclear engineers are typically employed by include the federal government, electric power companies, and research and development. Nuclear engineers are involved in the installation and maintenance of nuclear power plants.
In recent years, there are budgetary restrictions that will be limiting the employment of nuclear engineers. There have been restrictions on the operation of nuclear power plants. While the United States generates about 18% of our electricity from nuclear power, scientists have a vested interested in looking at other renewable resources, such as wind and water, to power our energy.
Nuclear Engineer Degree
If you would like to become a nuclear engineer, read below for more information.
Step 1: Undergraduate education. As a nuclear engineer, it is essential that you have at least a bachelor’s degree. There are some entry-level positions that you may be able to receive with simply a bachelor’s degree. There are programs to choose from in college, such as nuclear engineering, chemistry, physics, nuclear technology, and more. Courses in math and science will give you a strong foundation in this field. It takes four years to receive a bachelor’s degree.
Step 2: Graduate education. A graduate degree will open you up to even more job opportunities in the field. There are some master’s degrees and doctorate degrees available. Some universities offer a joint degree program, where students will earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. During your graduate program, you will take more advanced classes. You will combine classwork with hands-on techniques. You will be involved in the classroom, working in a laboratory, and doing research.
Step 3: Licensing. A nuclear engineer is not required to become licensed in the beginning of their career. Licensing occurs later on when the engineer has more experience. The Professional Engineering (PE) license can be acquired later on. States allow a person to qualify for licensing once they have at least four years of work experience, passed the Professional Engineering exam and the Fundamentals of Engineering exam.