Nuclear engineers enjoy some of the highest starting salaries of all college graduates. Typically a bachelor’s degree in engineering or nuclear engineering is required to start, though some research positions require a masters degree. Continuing education is also important as technology is constantly changing. Employment of nuclear engineers is expected to grow at an average rate with good job opportunities overall.
Nature of the Work for Nuclear Engineer
Nuclear engineers use mathematics and science to develop economical solutions to technical problems. Their work brings commercial applications and scientific discoveries together to meet consumer and social needs.
Some nuclear engineers develop new products considering several factors along the way. They may specify functional requirements, design and test components, integrate components to produce a final design and evaluate effectiveness, safety, reliability and cost.
Beyond design and development, many nuclear engineers work in maintenance, production or testing. They may supervise production in factories to determine why a component fails or test products to make sure they live up to quality standards. At the supervisory level, nuclear engineers may be in charge of entire projects or major components.
Nuclear engineers use computers to produce and analyze designs, simulate and test operation, generate specifications, monitor quality and control efficiency. Nanotechnology is also bring new principles to the design process for nuclear engineers.
Nuclear engineers research and develop instruments, systems and instrument to derive benefits from nuclear energy and radiation. Nuclear engineers develop, design, operate and monitor nuclear plants to generate power. Often, they work on the development of fusion energy or the nuclear fuel cycle, which is the production, handling and use of nuclear fuel including the safe disposal of waste produced when nuclear energy is generated. Some nuclear engineers specialize in the development of nuclear power for spacecraft or naval vessels, others work on discovering uses for radioactive materials in industrial or medical sectors, such as for equipment that can diagnose and treat medical problems.
Typically, nuclear engineers work in labs, industrial plants or office buildings. However, some may spend time outside at construction or production sites. Some nuclear engineers must travel extensively to worksites across the country or abroad.
A standard 40-hour workweek is typical, but at times, deadlines may bring extra pressure and in turn, longer hours for nuclear engineers.