Nuclear engineers research and develop new processes, instruments and technologies to utilise nuclear energy and radiation. This includes working on advancements in medical imaging, cancer treatment and spacecraft propulsion. Nuclear engineers also design and monitor nuclear power plants and develop guidelines for waste disposal.
On call for emergencies
Nuclear engineers often work in power plants but also take jobs at scientific research institutions, manufacturing plants and the federal government. Depending on the industry, you may work in an office, lab or operational areas of a power plant or factory.
Most nuclear engineers work more than 40 hours a week. Power plant employees are on call for emergencies, and you may have to stay overtime to fix a safety issue.
Power plant and lab work can expose you to radiation, requiring the use of safety clothing and equipment.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
DVM / VMD degree
Entry-level jobs for nuclear engineers require a bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering from a school accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). The four years of study includes classroom, laboratory and field work. Most universities offer cooperative programmes with potential employers to give students practical experience while earning their degree.
Some schools offer a five-year programme that results in both a bachelor's and master's degree. PhD programmes are also available. Postgraduate degrees require completion of a supervised research study.
Nuclear engineers hired to work at a power plant must complete a training programme in safety procedures and regulations. This can take anywhere from six weeks to three months.
New nuclear engineers typically work under the direction of more experienced colleagues. As you gain knowledge and experience, you can earn more independence and land substantial roles on challenging projects. After four years, you can test for a professional engineering licence and have access to more leadership positions.
Specialisation and advanced degrees allow nuclear engineers to transition to academic and research jobs, as well as a career as a medical physicist.