Nuclear Engineers are responsible for applying principals of science and mathematics and their specific training to developing economic solutions and answers to any technical problem. Nuclear engineers aid in the development of new products or help maintain and oversee the successful operations or large scale power plants to provide energy resources. Nuclear engineers are required to go through extensive schooling and education before being able to begin employment with a prospective employer. Due to constant advances in the technology, nuclear engineers must participate in continuing education to ensure his or her industry knowledge is up to date. Nuclear engineers may work directly with radioactive material which poses a potentially dangerous risk.
The mean salary for a Nuclear Engineer ranges from $93,000 upwards to $115,000 annually including benefits such as medical and dental, as well as life insurance, 401k or retirement pension, and stock options where applicable. Because of fierce competition and high demand for Nuclear engineers, candidates are often offered a sign on bonus to begin working for a company. Bonuses depend on the amount of experience and expense of education of the prospective candidate. Location, as well as the nature of the employer can greatly impact annual earnings. Employers which require Nuclear Engineers to travel extensively may give extended paid time off while government agencies may offer a cost of living allowance and other benefits.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Nuclear engineers research and develop technologies related to the application of nuclear energy and radiation for use in medical purposes or for providing energy commodities and generate electrical power. Nuclear energy is used to power many things including homes and cities, and has been used as a power source for navy vessels such as aircraft carriers and submarines. Nuclear engineers may work in either a nuclear power plant or specially designed laboratory where they can work on the production, safe handling and safe disposal of nuclear energy sources. Other nuclear engineers may work in a medical laboratory setting in order to help develop and invent devices to help in the diagnosing and treatment of diseases.
While safety precautions are always put into place, nuclear engineers often risk exposure to radiation. Some may work outdoors at remote sites. Depending on the nature of the employer, extensive travel from site to site may be required. Other engineers work in an office environment setting and function primarily in an administrative role to make sure all safety precautions are met and any required record keeping is up to date.
Employment for Nuclear Engineers is expected to grow faster than average as the demands for individuals skilled in this technology increase. Because of the broad demands for nuclear engineers in various industries, specialized training may be required in addition to continuing education.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
Nuclear Engineers typically have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited 4-year university in Engineering, Nuclear Engineering, Math or related discipline. More often than not, companies will require a prospective candidate to hold an advanced graduate degree. Due to continuing advancement in technology, continuing education is often needed to ensure all skills and knowledge are up to date.
Most engineering programs at colleges and universities require intensive study in the scientific and mathematical disciplines. While programs are usually designed to be completed in four years, some students often take 5 or 6 years to complete due to the intensive rigorous curriculum and emphasis on difficult subjects such as advanced math and physics.
New hires usually work under the direct supervision of a supervisor in order to obtain on the job training. Engineers working directly for the US government as part of a state institution or research and development team must be US Citizens and are often required to complete extensive background checks in order to receive a security clearance, ensuring the candidate is stable and trustworthy to work with classified or top secret information. Candidates requiring a security clearance often work in the research and development of military aircraft and vehicles.
Candidates wishing to enter the Nuclear Engineering field must graduate from a school certified by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, or ABET. Proof of completion of programs from an ABET school is required for any engineer who seeks to become licensed in order to offer his or her services to the general public.
Engineers wishing to offer their services to the general public must receive a PE or Professional Engineer’s license. License requirements requires a degree from an accredited ABET school, plus additional on the job experience and the ability to pass a state regulated exam.
Other professional organizations include membership in the American Nuclear Society and the International Atomic Energy Agency. These organizations may publish periodicals outlining recent advances in the industry as well as publishing significant scientific studies.